1996 was my make or break year in cycling. I was single for the first time in a long time. I had worked the fall and winter and saved up some cash. I had given up on spring racing campaigns in Europe and decided focus on the “Fresca Cup” which was a national race series for riders without pro contracts. My strategy was to race as many of these races as I could, place well in them, and finish somewhere in the top 10 overall. It was an ambitious goal and one that I thought would help me to secure a pro contract.
The tenth stage the 38th Vuelta a Guatemala, 140 kilometers from Guatemala City to Sololá, went nearly from the gun. There was a brief détente during the ceremonial rollout from the capital city, but once we hit the Interamerican Highway, it was full-bore toward Antigua and the major climb of the day. This early in the race and with no descent to follow, the climb would be decisive.
I was desperate. It was already late October, I had been racing since February and I still needed a solid result to secure a contract for the coming year. This far into the race, I was running out of chances.
The past ten days had been a cluster fuck of tired legs, dehydration, crashes, exploding derailleurs, bike changes and long, lonely chases far behind the race just to make the time cut. Any G.C. hopes were long gone.
Things has started well. On the first day in Avenida de las Americas, a dense, busy shopping district in Guatemala City, I had placed 7th in the prologue criterium and climbed onto the podium in front the crowd.
But then things began to unravel.