Bike Racing in Chiriqui

We got so lucky today!! There have been bike races going on all week in the area, but I didn’t know exactly when and where so it was total luck today that we got to see the last stage of the race.

We were biking south and about to cross the Pan-American highway when we noticed a vehicle coming down the highway with lights and sirens, followed by a couple other vehicles and then, a whole group of bicycle racers!!

We continued on our way, happy to have seen them, and headed to the south part of town to visit a friend. When we arrived at the main road in south David, we again heard the vehicle with lights and sirens. Could it be the racers again? Yes indeed, and we were waiting to cross the very street they were coming down!

We were so excited to be right there on the race route! I’m so used to my dirt bike with its noisy tires, but when these bikes passed us they were silent – no tire noise, no sounds of metal, no heavy breathing, nothing, just silence as they flew by us.

Little did I know we weren’t finished yet. As we headed home I saw a crowd at the Parque de Madres (Park of Mothers) so we went to check it out. They were holding the final ceremonies for the winners!

The race is called La Vuelta International a Chiriqui 2014, and it has been happening every year for 34 years. When I learned the name from the stage backdrop I was able to look up some information. This is no small or easy race!! I saw cyclists mentioned from Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Another article said that at least six countries would be represented.

The event lasts 10 days with a different stage on each day for a total of 1069.8 kilometers.

  1. The first day was time trials from David to Boquerón, another town up the road. If I am reading the results correctly the winner came in with a time of 36.31 for 31.1 km.
  2. Day 2 – 132.8 km- David, Dolega, Porterillos, Dolega, Concepcion, David. One time I made it to Dolega and thought I was something because it is almost all uphill and there are a couple killer hills between here and there. Porterillos is probably twice as far and high as Dolega. It looks like the winning time was 3:14:24
  3. 80 kilometers – a circut through Concepcion and Bugaba, so this would have been fairly flat, at least compared to the day before. Winning time 2:02:17
  4. 127 km – David to Boquete which is again up in the mountains. I have a dream of biking this route! It is about twice as far as my big ride to the beach, and it’s almost all uphill. The winning time was 2:56:32  This is about 50 minutes less than it took me to go half that distance on mostly flat roads. Joel happened to be driving to Boquete that day and saw them going uphill, and said they were powering up at very impressive speeds. I can only imagine how fast they were coming back down!
  5. 134 km, David – Cerro Punta – David. Winning time 3:38:13. I have driven this route and our little Hyundai struggles to make it up there. Never in my wildest dreams and if I was 40 years younger would I imagine biking this route! This is serious uphill climbing to one of the highest towns in the province.
  6. 138 km from David to the Costa Rica border and back, fairly flat, must have felt like a day off after yesterday. Winning time 3:00:41. So, this is about the same distance as yesterday, and they were able to climb serious mountains taking only 38 minutes longer than traveling on fairly flat roads? How fast do they power up those mountains??
  7. 154 km – David, Conception, Los Planes, David.  According to my map this route goes west, and then east of David and uphill, but not like the mountain routes of a few days ago. Time 3:55:38
  8. 132 km from David to the Costa Rica border and back again. Apparently the route was modified because of some road construction, so it is slightly shorter than day #6. 2:59:14
  9. 25.1 km up and down the highway, individual time trials, fastest time 39.7
  10. 84 km – 12 laps of a circuit around David (so this is what we saw today).  At this point there are no times posted on the websites.

I am so excited to have seen these men, and to think how strong they must be to have done all these races! I am excited and inspired. I didn’t see any women participating though, which I think is unfortunate.

Now that I know what to google, I am going to mark my calendar so I can watch more of this next year.

I got my information from Mundo_Panama, La Estrella, and the Claro Blog. Claro is one of the big cell phone providers in Panama and apparently a big sponsor of the race.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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10 Responses to Bike Racing in Chiriqui

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    I had to make a run into David yesterday morning and it took nearly an hour and a half! That’s because the east-bound lanes of the Interamericana were blocked off for the bike racers doing the time trials. The start/finish line was at the Chiriqui Mall. When I got done with my tasks I caught the bus back and there was no problem. Ride took 25 minutes. The other day when I went in to David, Thursday, they had all the inflatable stuff in your pics at the Parcque de Madres.


    • Really! Today they were pedaling down the Interamericana and nothing was blocked off. It would be nice of they could block off one lane for them but I’m sure that would be logistically impossible, given the distance. Or, if they are just doing time trials block off the road to La Barqueta or some other less traveled road, not the main artery to everywhere.


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    re: speeds…I’m a big fan of the Tour de France. I love watching the countryside passing by with all the chateaux and the small towns. I lived over there for nearly three years. I know that on some of the descents on Le Tour the riders sometimes hit speed of over 70 mph on those little thin tires!!! Quite a few have died in crashes coming down those hills. The last one that I know about was in ’92 and that’s why they make them wear helmets these days. Of course, I have my doubts as the how effective one of those helmets would be when you wipe out at 70+ mph (that’s MILES per hour, not KILOMETERS)


    • 70 mph??? Good heavens! People get killed in cars at that speed. I can’t imagine doing that on a bike. A helmet might help your head, but I don’t know what would be left of the rest of you. I’ve been up to maybe 35 mph a few times and that felt plenty crazy enough.


  3. Hugo Ernst says:

    Interesting article, I’ve driven most of those roads when vacationing around David, the road to Volcan, and Cera Punta must have been interesting, with the hills, and curves, both directions.


  4. dfishell says:

    Ii was stuck in the traffic going into David for 45 minutes! Made me late for my appointment in Boquete…I wish I knew about this bike race ahead of time and I could have left earlier.


  5. Allison Sherman says:

    So interesting! Thanks for taking the time to do the research. Loved the details!


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