CAYO JUTÍAS, Pinar del Río.— Diego Alejandro Tamayo and Marlies Mejías were the absolute champions of the second edition of the Titan Tropic, a mountain biking marathon that concluded on December 8 with the victory in the last stage for Cubans Yoandy Freire and Olga Echenique, to seal the gold for the local teams, also securing their spot on the general podium.
On December 5, hundreds of mountain bikers left the spectacular mogotes of Viñales behind, as they entered leafy forests, passed by a functioning mine, and finished by pedaling across the causeway that leads to the idyllic setting of Cayo Jutías. The competition was made even more challenging by the morning humidity and heat of Pinar del Río.
Tamayo and Marlies, with notable advantages during qualification, began by setting the pace, but without over tiring themselves, despite those who were keen to “hurry” the race. The greatest suspense surrounded the designation of the overall second places, which remained a mystery until the cyclists finally appeared on the sands of the key.
The first to cross the finish line was Yoandy Freire (2:12.05) from Sancti Spíritus, followed by Álvaro Soca (also Cuban, 20 seconds later) and Colombian Tamayo (21 seconds later). Freire undoubtedly emerged as the great revelation of the men’s event, finishing among the top five in each stage despite not making the national team for the past two years.
“It was a great team effort and the prize is huge, because Soca is the Under-23 champion, and as Roberto Bou got a puncture, I managed to erase the almost four minutes disadvantage to reach overall second place. Winning the stage and coming in behind Tamayo is fabulous, I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Freire stated, finishing 39 seconds ahead of the young Bou.
Meanwhile, Olga Echenique (2:42.05) from Matanzas claimed victory in the final stage of the women’s competition, with a one second advantage over Marlies, who took the overall title, accompanied on the podium by Spain’s Nuria Picas and Olga herself.
“They say nothing is perfect, and I’m no exception to the rule. That Olga, a Cuban, has won the stage, is the main thing now, and the important thing is for us to secure all the wins. I am happy with what I did and I thank all the people who gave me the opportunity to compete here,” Marlies noted on finishing.
“I still can’t believe I have won the Titan Tropic, it’s huge, a new world that opens up to me and hopefully with more good results,” the cyclist from Artemisa added, noting that she would find it hard to be separated from her mountain bike.
The fatigue after pedaling more than 400 kilometers over four days was evident among those who completed the demanding course. Two-time winner Diego Tamayo assured that it had not been easy: “We cyclists experience real difficulties on the bicycle and after four days, the fatigue is tremendous. Until I passed the finish line I was not sure about anything, because the race got more complicated in each of the stages.
“I kept calm, relying on my experience and good condition, thus I managed to overcome the different obstacles that appeared along the way,” Tamayo stated after taking a dip to celebrate his success, a further step forward in his sports career.
“I talked to Freire in the morning and told him that Cuba deserved a victory. I’m not selfish, I came to take the title and I had almost achieved it. I then tried to ensure that the race played out in such a way that the Cubans could pass to the front to secure a win for this great country, which is experiencing a difficult moment. I believe it is a way to honor that great Comandante you have in Fidel,” the Colombian added, after having completed the circuit of 68 kilometers between Vinales and Cayo Jutias.
With his arms raised high, the cyclist who has lived in Zaragoza for the past 15 years celebrated his victory, well earned having raced the entire time without a team. “At various times I thought that with Tomás Bellés with three men and Cuba with another strong group, everything was going to be much more difficult for me, but I found myself to be in good condition, and I focused on the idea that my main rival is myself,” he concluded.
Winners by category. Elite: Diego Tamayo (COL-12:24.43); Women’s: Marlies Mejías (CUB-15: 04.35); Senior: Tinker Juárez (12:42-34); Under-23: Álvaro Soca (CUB-12:44.44).