Havana - "Show me your skin now!" - CycleBlaze

Havana

Urban riding & Cuban generosity

The kids had found Havana to be overwhelming, loud and stressful up to this point and were having a difficult time adjusting. What could speed the process more than an evening urban ride in a foreign city?! Across town, Leandro had a shop at his father's apartment where he offered to make some final adjustments to our iron steeds, including adding a rack to mine. 

As a father one of my jobs is to make my children miserable so it was with great satisfaction that I advised them them of our need to ride across Havana in the 30+ degree heat and probably get lost in the process. 

We did indeed get lost and struggled to translate our need for directions to Leandro's dad's place ("Don't you know Leandro, from Havana, the elite cyclist??!!") but we eventually made it. And by "we made it", I mean that Leandro found us wandering aimlessly on a nearby street. 

Leandro (right) and friends in his shop.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesYou know those optical illusions where different people can see different things in a picture? I stared at this one for a long time, wondering what violin or dulcimer backs were doing in the shop. Do you see it?

Sorry for the stupid comment!
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6 months ago

The following day was the qualification race to select the riders to represent Cuba at the 2022 Pan-American Road Cycling Champions that were to be help in Argentina in May. Leandro was a favourite to qualify as one of the top 4 finishers, as were a number of his teammates. Nevertheless, here he was, on the eve on one of his most important competitive events of the year, in his shop helping prepare our bikes for our subsequent tour. This was indicative of the generosity we were to encounter throughout our stay in Cuba. 

Our evening was topped off by a stunning sunset ride back to our hostal in Centro Havana. 

Havana sunset ride
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Ultimately, Leandro qualified, but not without first coming under some stress. Prior to arriving in Cuba, knowing that bike parts and supplies are hard to come by there, we offered to bring Leandro some things. He was in need of a new chain for his race bike so we brought a couple for him. Of course, the night before his race he was helping us instead of replacing his chain. And yes, you guessed it, his chain snapped during the following day's race!! Oh shit! We ruined his chances to represent Cuba at the Pan-Am Championships!!! What have we done??!?!?

Fortunately for him (and for our guilty consciences), he was able to get a spare bike from the team car and 'chase' back to the peloton before eventually finishing 3rd and qualifying for the team. Huzzah! Phew! Crisis averted! 

* in rather unfortunate news, Leandro tells me that just days before the Pan-Am Championships, Cuban officials announced that they would not send a men's team to Argentina due to lack of funds. A massive disappointment for this tremendous ambassador for his country. Sadly, in a country crippled by the US embargo, the pandemic and a repressive government we came to understand how this is kind of disappointment is all too familiar for the Cuban people.

Today's ride: 14 km (9 miles)
Total: 14 km (9 miles)

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