Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
The thirty fourth “Vuelta a Cuba”, a cross country cycling race from Baracoa to Habana Vieja is underway featuring over one hundred cyclists from five countries divided into fourteen local squads.
The competition began in the easternmost city of Baracoa Cuba and participants covered 1,780 kilometers in thirteen stages.
The first leg of the event was 153 kilometers running from Baracoa to Guantanamo to include the mountainous regions of Vivero and Alto de Cotilla. There were sprints in Imias, San Antonio del Sur and Yateritas.
Cuba’s main squad was led by Raul Granjel and Arnold Alcolea who were runners up 2008 “Vuelta a Cuba” cycling tour.
Cuban Pedro Pablo Perez, who has won the “vuelta a Cuba” on several occasions was absent this year since he is still recovering from injuries he suffered in a car accident last July.
Foreign teams include Venezuela, Mexico, Germany and Canada cyclists.
Venezuelan Manuel Medina and Colombian Gregorio Ladino returned to ride again in this 2009 cycling event in Cuba. Before the race started, Medina who was the sixth in the Vuelta al Tachira and mountain champion of that tour, said his team mates José Alarcón and Franklin Chacón could win this international cycling event.
The Vuelta a Cuba tours were re-launched in 2000. This year marks the forty fifth anniversary of its beginning.
Early predictions had Cubans Raúl Granjel, Arnold Alcolea and Yasmani Martínez as the best chances of making it to the finish line first.
Canadian Keuen Lacambe won the first leg of this year’s Vuelta a Cuba cycling competition which ran between Baracoa and Guantanamo.
Lacambe, from the Planet Energy team, crossed the finish line ahead of Alien Garcia of Ciego de Avila and another Cuban, Yasmani Martinez, who led in the under-23 category. The Canadians appeared highly competitive with a squad including Bruno Langlois, a Canadian route champion, and Ryan Roth, runner-up individual time trials in his country.
Earlier in the day a persistent light rain baptized the cyclists before the climb to the La Farola viaduct, Manuel “El Gato” Medina (Venezuela) won the first mountain goals of Palma Clara and Alto de Cotilla, without the expected opposition of Colombian Gregorio Ladino (Tecos) who wasn’t among the leaders after winning all the mountain stages at last year’s competition.
Back on the flats, the battle centered among the sprinters, with the best being Lizardo Benitez of Guantanamo, who won the intermediate finishes at Imias and San Antonio del Sur.
The second leg of the Vuelta a Cuba was a 111-kilometer stretch between Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, with intermediate finish lines at La Maya, Songo and the July 26 School City.
Leaders at the beginning of the second leg
Individuals: 1- Keuen Lacambe (Planet Energy, 3:50:11 hours); 2- Alien Garcia (Ciego de Avila, 3:50:15); 3- Yasmani Martinez (Cuba, 3:50:17).
Mountain: 1- Manuel Medina (VEN), 15 points); 2- Raul Granjel (CUBA, 8); 3- Arnold Alcolea (CUBA, 7).
Sprint: 1- Llizard Benitez (CUBA 10 points); 2- Adriel Jiménez (Pinar del Rio) and Yordanis Crespo (ISCF) both with 6 points.
By Team: 1- Cuba (11:31:03), 2- Habana (11:31:09) and 3- Venezuela (11:31:12). (Taken from Granma daily).
Lacambe won the first let with a finish in Cienfuegos city in the morning and the second there to Santa Clara city. He won this 60-kilometer circuit in 1:29.09 hours time and was trailed by Cubans Yunier Alonso and Jan Carlos Arias. Cubans Adriel Jiménez and Alien García along with Canadian Albert Gilbert crossed the finish line next.
In the afternoon, he won the second leg of 65 kilometers to Santa Clara in 1:46.13 hours time. Noslen Funes and Yunier Alonso came in second and third.
Agustín Martínez from Villa Clara Cuba and Funes won the intermediate sprints in Cruces and Ranchuelo respectively.
The cycling race in Cuba continues on to the tenth stage that runs from the central Villa Clara province to Cardenas city in Matanzas which is a 185 kilometer leg with intermediate sprints in Santo Domingo, Colón and Jovellanos.
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