Cycling and El Salvador were made for each other. El Salvador has a terrain made for cycling, luscious mountain climbs, stunning vistas, rolling landscapes, wind-swept coastal roads and to top it off, if there’s one thing cyclists love, its coffee! And El Salvador just happens to grow a lot of coffee: Back in the 80’s coffee production accounted for 50% of the country’s GDP. The only problem is El Salvador is a long way from cycling’s European heartland, making it difficult for many cash-strapped women’s teams planning their race calendar to justify making an appearance.
Grand Prix de Oriente, is a one-day, 99km race held on the eve of the Vuelta El Salvador stage race. El Salvador is making a major contribution to the women’s race calendar with no less than 3 races in the coming weeks. It’s appropriate, although I believe coincidental that the finish for GP Oriente is in Berlin. A city which has long been at the forefront of women’s equality in El Salvador having elected the nation’s first female Mayor back in 1950. Berlin might seem an odd name for the finishing city, given its Central American location. The name came from one of the municipality’s founding members, a German who settled in the region after allegedly surviving a shipwreck off the Salvadorian coast.
The early kilometres head along a rolling landscape between the south eastern city limits of San Salvador and the northern waters edge of Lago di Ilopango. At around the 42km mark it’s downhill for the next 32km with the elevation dropping by almost 650m to 37m above sea level in San Lorenzo before the ascent to Berlin, climbing 990m over the final 25km.
Prize money for the event is more of a token gesture than an incentive to win. Finishing first should cover the hotel bill for the winner but for those finishing outside the top 10 it’s unlikely to cover their mini bar bill.