Moncada Day Cycle Challenge

Autumn 2002

By Rod Lawson

Chain gang!

Rod Lawson writes about the CSC Moncada Day Cycle Challenge

On 26th July 2002, 19 people struggled through Havana airport with their luggage, casting glances at each others legs to assess muscles, and stomachs to assess fitness. Each dragged a large cardboard box in addition to their usual luggage.

They were met outside by a jolly giant. What was going on? The boxes contained bicycles, and the giant meeting them was Simon Bull, organizer of the Moncada Day Cycle Challenge.

During the overnight stay in Havana, we met the backup team, which included a doctor, a mechanic and an English-speaking guide. The pattern of distribution of route maps for the following day, with a detailed briefing on how to avoid getting lost, was established. In fact, many of the group were used to this process, having previously cycled in Cuba on tours organized by Simon; the record was held by John, on his 5th visit.

The first day eased us in gently to start with, but the heat was intense and the humidity high. Whilst the route had started flat, later there was a nasty sting in the tail. We began to understand why this was called a ‘challenge’, as most of the group were reduced to walking. However, this made the swimming pool at our hotel all the more welcome, and we managed to summon up just enough energy for a little salsa al fresco later on.

The following days followed a similar pattern. We made early starts to avoid the fiercest sun of the day, rattling off the first miles, before settling into a more sedate pace later on. The scenery was superb, culminating in the lush greenery and uniquely shaped mountains of Viñales, before our route turned back to end in San Diego de los Baños. As its name suggests, these contained sulphur baths in which we submerged ourselves and soaked away our sweat and aches and pains from the road.

Along the way we also had the privilege of attending a CDR meeting. Following the more serious presentations, we were entertained by song and dance displays, before the rum began to flow and the dancing began in earnest. Our journey also took us to the beach at Cayo Jutías, and into the impressive cave complex in Viñales.

However, the highlight of the trip was reserved for the end. Our reason for undertaking the challenge was to raise money for the William Soler hospital. This paediatric hospital is the foremost in Havana, offering high quality specialist care for those from the city and beyond. As so often in Cuba, the hospital appeared well run by professional staff. However, they were hampered by the lack of materials to work with, and emphasized to us the problems that the US blockade imposed on them. We were pleased to donate a large quantity of drugs to treat asthma, and were proud to be asked to go forward one at a time to be presented with our certificates. These recorded our completion of the challenge and thanked us for our solidarity with the Cuban people.

For details of next cycle rides to Cuba Contact CSC office

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