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Home Foreign races reports Tour de Guyane 2009
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Diary from Guyane part4

Today’s stage of the race, the longest one with its 167km leading from Macouria to Mana was a very difficult one for me personaly.

The closer you get to the Surinam border, the less humid the climate is, but temperature rises unbearably – it was up to 38C in shade later in the afternoon. Also the rough asphalt made in a way so as to sustain the extreme weather conditions is very uncomfortable for riding. Saddletubes and seddles don’t absorb much of the vibrations. The further you get from the capital, the worse the road conditions get in general – roads get narrower, with holes and other defects what implies, riders need to be more cautious when riding what consumes their energy as well. Peloton was riding fast after the start, but riders of Guadeloupe had all under control during the whole stage. In the past 30km, quite a big group of 30 riders broke-away. We had 3 riders in the group – Geert, Daniel and Mike with me being disconnected from the group at last by other riders, so I stayed in the peloton after all. The break-away broke up just before the finish line, so a sole rider, a French Florent Gothier crossed the finish line by himself and took the stage victory. Daniel Korevaar from our team finished 10th and ensured at last some good result for our team. I finished in the peloton with a loss of cca 6minutes to the winner, in 54th position. Mana is a really small village in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing to see and not much to do either. It’s not surrounded by a jungle as the majority of the country, only by a sparse bush. I got to learn from local teachers that the majority of the inhabitants is even today formed mostly by local tribes, Surinams and other cross-breeds living mostly in the bush. Majority of people come to town only to bring the kids to school or to buy something in small local shops. There’s plenty of people who crossed the border illegally and are therefore afraid to allow their children to go to school. The teacher is not always successful in explaining they want to teach everyone, irrespective of their legal relation to the country. It’s free for everyone, it’s a way of ensuring the people living in the country are literate. No one really knows how many people live in the bush. Considering the massive area of French Guyane, it’s surprising there’s only some 130.000 permanent citizens. There’s an extra 30.000 of temporary inhabitants, mostly members of the French Legion, ensuring a control in the region, especially the surroundings of Kourou space station. The amount of people living in the jungle and in the bush is hard to tell, hard even to guess. On a picture in one of the classrooms I reckognized the snake I saw the other day – it was most likely Boa. I also noticed big animals resembling to buffalos or some kind of antelopes far away in the distance today. A big herd of them, but really too far to reckognize what it was.

Mana is famous for its near-by beaches where the giant turtles lay eggs. They are easily noticable due to their extra-big size and slow motions. Easy to take pictures too. No time to visit the beach this time though, we take a shower, have our lunch and get transported to a border town St.Laurent du Maroni where we are to stay for 2 nights. This city has been renowned for its jails on the isles just off the shore. The book and movie Butterfly (Le Papillon) related to this place and made the town and jail world-famous. French prisoners were sent from this town to a prison on a near-by isle. We go for a short trip later in the day – we take a boat and cross the border to Surinam. It costs 3€ to cross the river and you can stand on Surinam soil in 5 minutes. Our ‘driver’ in the boat keeps saying something about having a permision in our passports from the local police office, he doesn’t want to get himself in any trouble. We ignore his request and embark. On the Surinam shore we get greeted by chinese shops carrying all types of products – food, shoes, drug store and even car spare parts. We were a bit frightened after our landing, as we got surrounded by whole bunch of people. Local people are really very nice and frienly as we find out while taking a drink with them in a local pub. My Dutch team-mates have no problems talking to the locals as Surinam used to be a Dutch colony, everybody speaks fluent Dutch. We take a small boat to get back to Guyane later on. Boat owner is a bit worried of the customs officers, so we land slightly off the port. We are a bit worried he might drive us to a remote area and rob us, but he only laughs at our fears and lands not far from the official port.

There’s a demanding program awaiting us the following day. Two half stages. A 142km long one in a hilly terrain and a 7km long individual time trial. As we have no good placings and results so far, it is about time to kick it off.

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