We lost a great stage race in late October. It did not go out with a bang, more like a whimper and, sadly, a criterium. There was not a single obituary in the cycling press, it died with little fanfare.
The Vuelta a Chihuahua, the week long stage race named after the region and city and diminutive yappy dog, is no more. Adios, Chihuahua. After a run of four years, organizers could no longer afford to put on the big show, instead opting this year for a criterium. Like going from a fantastic all-you-can eat Mexican feast to a basket of stale chips and jarred salsa. Mucho pathetic.
Previous winners of what we liked to call the race of the toy dog included top riders and big names like Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla. Last year the Chihuahua was animated by the presence of disgraced and formerly Great Dane Michael Rasmussen.
Contrasts were out-size and always hilarious at the Chihuahua with the Dane nicknamed the Chicken taking part in the Chihuahua. Twisted Spoke had adopted the Chi-race like a rescue dog last year and covered every stage.
We had fun writing about the winners, losers, local history, the impromptu lingerie show, the possible connection to yappy Taco Bell commercials and famous locals like Anthony Quinn and Pancho Villa. This year we’d even hoped to trick the family and slip out the house for the week to catch the Chihuahua in action.
We have no idea what happened to the little creature. We guessed a lack of dinero but perhaps it was a combination of things: low fan support, fear of drug wars and drive-by shootings taking out the peloton. I truly wish I knew and could rectify.
There are plenty of odd-ball and great races in Latin America but you couldn’t beat the rugged scenary of the stage routes, the power of tequila, the glorious taste of the tacos or the silliness of the chihuahua. The race had all the elements for profound greatness. Sure, it’s wasn’t the Dauphine or Paris-Nice but the Mexican beer was cold and it wasn’t Italy, France or Spain.
Which also brings up the question of whether the UCI should have done more to support this stage race. One thing the governing body of the sport has done a fairly good job at (there’s a shock) is bringing professional cycling to places like Malaysia, India, Qatar and Oman.
But given the number of Spanish speaking riders in the peloton and interest in South America and Mexico for bike racing, it seems like a little extra financial aid might have been in order. Even one of Lance Armstrong’s two donations to president Pat ‘hot air” McQuaid might have done the trick.
While the oil rich sheiks of Qatar and Oman might pay well for the odd spectacle of lycra clad aerobic freaks on $15,000 bikes, the future of cycling in a scorching hot car country with cheap gas and an excess of sand dunes isn’t that great. It’s always an amusing picture to get Tom Boonen and a camel in the same photo frame, but that’s about where the story ends. Mexico made a whole lot more sense.
Even last year the organizers of the Vuelta a Chihuahua were spewing crazy loco talk of hosting the UCI world Championship races in the near future. They made noise about planning a bid, putting the Chihuahua smack in the middle of the cycling map. Those dreams are so much cheap Mexican weed now. Good for ripping the tourists but nothing to build a foundation on.
We’ll miss the Race of the Yapping Toy Dog. You could claim the crit was a success with Ivan Basso skipping the Giro presentation to ride and Alexander “why apologize” Vinokourov taking the win but it was one day versus seven and that in our book was a huge loss.
We mourn the death of the insane little dog barking for attention.