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Cuban wheels

The baseball stadium is full. Everybody from the small coastal city of Baracoa seems to have turned out for the opening ceremony of the 43rd Vuelta a Cuba, the island's answer to the Tour de France. In Soviet style, the riders are honoured for their presence, lauded by flag-waving children and cheered by the adoring crowd. Cycling is popular in Cuba, which utilises sport as one of the few ways to express itself to an international audience. For the local competitors, the privileges which come with victory are immense. If they are good enough to represent Cuba, it gives them the opportunity to travel abroad and gain both economically and socially. Although a fair number of foreigners participate in the race, they rarely win, instead languishing in the wake of another slim Cuban on a twenty-year-old Russian bike.
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