— Fanny Tayver Marín (@FannyT_LN) December 25, 2015
For Canada’s Anton Varabei, the experience of the 2015 holiday season has been considerably warmer than other Canadians can say, even in places where it’s felt startlingly like April. Competing in the colours of Ride for the Planet Cycling Project, the 30-year-old Canadian rider recently finished the Vuelta Kolbi a Costa Rica in the top 10 of points classification, after a dramatic second stage win.
To hear Varabei describe it, the experience of competing amid the sweltering, sweaty Central American conditions would have been intense no matter what time of year it happened, Christmas or otherwise.
“It’s hot and humid,” Varabei said, speaking with Canadian Cycling Magazine. “It was really difficult to race hard at first, then [I] slowly started to adapt. Aside from that it’s a really fun race with tons of fans and great atmosphere. The Vuelta is a big deal for Costa Ricans; it’s all over the news, papers, TV and radio. I love it!”
It’s a stirring testament to the experience of the race, given the circumstances of stage 2 that preceded our conversation with Varabei while the race was ongoing.
That stage, notably, was made interesting by a crash near its conclusion, one that had the effect of leveling the field in a somewhat chaotic manner. Still, Varabei was able to seize victory from the clutches of what was very nearly catastrophe. “I got away on a relatively flat stage with one other guy after surviving few hard hills early in the race,” Varabei recalled. “At first I was nervous that just two of us might not be enough to hold off the peloton for 120 km, but luckily the gap ballooned quickly.” At that point, Varabei explained, it was clear that the win would come down to a contest between two competitors, at least if things had gone more smoothly.
That, of course, was before the race clearly had other plans.
— Anton Varabei (@AntonVarabei) December 26, 2015
“Disaster struck,” Varabei said, “and we both collided with slow moving motos ahead of us in the corner with about 600 metres to go. Definitely gave me a near-heart attack as I was confident I’d be able to beat him at the finish sprint, but instead, now it was a scramble to see who can get back on the bike first.” Remembering another win at the San Dimas Stage Race that ended in a similar manner, when the Quebec-based rider collided with a photographers across the line, he wondered about what the next big win might bring.
His competition this year, notably, carried the distinction of happening under a new banner, with the Garneau-Quebecor rider rolling out in the colours of Ride for the Planet—a squad, he says, that has a very particular mission. “It’s still in its early stages of development,” Varabei explained, “but its mission is to be an active actor for environmental issues by connecting good initiatives, non-profits and companies working with those issues, as well as promoting healthy and eco-friendly habits to the population, and engaging it through events and fundraising initiatives by providing the tools to do so.”
After competing during a tropical Christmas season—an experience Varabei described as “definitely quite odd,” having seen decorated Christmas trees in 30-degree weather throughout the course of the stage race—Varabei is now looking ahead to the 2016 season, something he plans to dedicate to other, more local pursuits. “I will still be doing some of the big NRC/UCI races,” he said, “but my focus will shift a little bit more on the crit scene with a local team, however, with a group of guys that I’m looking forward to racing with and keep chasing those wins.”
“More details to be announced in the new year!”