Cuba's digital destination
by Ricardo Alberto Pérez
A few days ago a real feat of audacity and will concluded in the westernmost part of Cuba. I am referring to the first edition of the Titan Tropic MTB which took place from December 5 to 10. This mountain bike marathon has miraculously moved its usual setting from the sands of Morocco, the site of the Titan Desert, to the fascinating province of Pinar del Río, celebrated the world over for its tobacco plantations.
This biking event welcomed renowned Mountain Bike athletes such as Diego Alejandro Tamayo from Colombia, Luis Leao Pinto from Portugal and Ibón Zugasti from Spain. Also, spectators included fans from all of Cuba and other parts of the world.
There’s no doubt that the circuit chosen here in Cuba was spectacular: the diversity of the terrain in Pinar del Rio Province brings together a rich array of landscapes, flora and fauna. We should highlight the points chosen for each stage and the goals at their conclusion. I refer exactly to Las Terrazas, Soroa, El Valle de Viñales, and Cayo Jutía, all veritable paradises for anyone who loves ecology and enjoys the challenge of overcoming the environmental complexities.
The first stage ended at Las Terrazas, a site that follows the banks of the San Juan River in the Sierra del Rosario. The second stage concluded in Soroa, a legendary spot because of its wonderful orchid garden with over 20,000 specimens from 700 different species of orchids, thirty of which are endemic to Cuba. The third stretch led to the Viñales Valley, studded with impressive isolated, steep-sided hills called mogotes and the diversity of its soil that makes it possible for very unique vegetation. The fourth stage took place throughout Viñales and the fifth stage led the participants to Cayo Jutía, a small paradise-like key where endemic bird species and transparent Caribbean waters provide the perfect setting.
We should also point out that the diversity of weather conditions during the competition added yet another complication besides the terrain. It was extremely rainy and the high humidity had the competitors doing their utmost to call on all their skills in order to finish each stage.
December 5 was an unofficial Prologue of sorts for the event, taking 33 kilometers through the various routes in Havana. The next day, the official start took off from Havana, along 88 kilometers of the first stage to Las Terrazas; Diego Alejandro Tamayo from Colombia was the winner. He also won the second stage that stretched along 82 kilometers between Las Terrazas and Soroa.
The third stage covers 118 kilometers and took competitors straight to San Vicente Farm. Spanish athlete José Luis Carrasco dominated this stretch even though Tamayo again came out the winner.
The fourth stage through the Viñales Valley covered 73 kilometers and Carrasco and Diego Alejandro Tamayo again came in together. The fifth and final stage over 68 kilometers between Viñales and Cayo Jutía was won by another Colombian, Roberto Bour with Tamayo coming in second and being crowed the overall champ.
In the separate women’s race, from the second stage young Cuban athlete Olga Anabel Echenique dominated and won the third stage and, in spite of suffering a bike breakdown, she rallied and came in second thereby holding on to her number one spot. Olga Anabel won the fifth stage, overwhelmed both by her victory and the extraordinary beauty of Cayo Jutía.
Back in Havana, during the awards ceremony that took place on December 11, some of the participants appeared to be exhausted while others were full of vigor as always. In any case, everyone felt transformed somehow because they had had a very positive experience, one that would remain for a long time in their memories.