Welcome to the lovely island nation of Trinidad & Tobago!
I’m here for a ten-stage race that’s part of their celebration of their 50th anniversary of independence from Britain - it’s called “The Unity Race”. Pretty rad stuff! CCRT teammate Cesar Grajales and I got an invite from a contact, figured we didn’t have anything else going on…and went for it. Being able to see places I never would’ve been able to before is a huge reason I race bikes at the level I do, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity! Thanks to PetroTrini (our composite team’s sponsor) and Roger Farrell (our manager) for the chance to race is in order, as well as to Reynolds for hooking up some race hoops last minute.
Anyway, T&T (as colloquially known) is an interesting place. Fairly wealthy by Carib standards thanks to a fossil-fuel boom, it’s a melting pot of culture, language, food, and customs thanks to being passed around by a few colonial powers, emancipation of African slaves, and the indentured servitude of East Indians in the 1800s. The people here are incredibly friendly, and the way of life is decidedly laid back. We’re learning that the islands run on “Trinitime” - you can pretty much count on everything starting at least thirty minutes after the stated time, and that’s perfectly okay. The dialect of English spoken here is sweetly melodic with some Creole spice thrown in.
Our first day here involved a mellow ride around the capital, Port of Spain, with some of my temporary teammates and a few other teams here from all over the world. Recently relaxed regulation and newfound wealth has led to mass-importation of cheap, relatively new (used) Japanese cars that can no longer pass stringent Japanese registration inspection for purchase by most of the populace of T&T. This, coupled with ridiculously cheap fuel prices, has lead to nightmare traffic problems. However, drivers are, in reflection of the concept of Trinitime, friendly as hell to cyclists. Traffic is a flowing amoeba with few discernable rules, but nobody is in a rush to get anywhere, making everyone rather agreeable. Nobody seems to ride for transportation, and I’ve only seen a single cyclist here not for the race - making us something of a novelty to motorists. Traffic follows British patterns, leading to this ugly American getting a little confused in the roundabouts, along with occasionally riding my bike on the wrong side of the road. Emile Abraham, T&T’s native cycling son, successfully negotiated the purchase of Cokes for everyone at a local market after we figured out that not everywhere in the world bows to the great American Dollar (see above).
After the quick ride, we went to meet some of the government officials responsible for the race in downtown Port of Spain. Modern office buildings, most belonging to the government, are a reflection of the petroboom. Positivity is definitely the vibe from everyone here! T&T is very proud of its ability to maintain a peaceful, democratic state with so many ethnic and cultural groups. The nationalism on display is one proud of its internal accomplishments, unlike the variety often encountered in the US.
Enough babbling for now. Expect a prologue/first stage report tomorrow after a few Guinness Foreign Extras. It’s like Guinness…BUT GOOD.