One of my goals for 2016 is to write race recaps in a vaguely timely fashion. Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile probably remember that all of my race reports from last year started with some excuse about “waiting to gain perspective on the event.” And before last year, I refused to do race recaps at all, because I thought they were the scourge of the devil, but I also swore I would never use Snapchat or have long hair, and well, here we are.
Of course, the problem with writing a race report the day after a five day race is that the overwhelming emotion is TIRED. In order to not dwell on that over the course of this entire post, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat — I’M TIRED. I’m wrecked. I’m exhausted. I actually slept through the post race disco party (like, in a tent that was literally in the middle of a disco party) that’s how tired. But it’s been a good tired, not a miserable tired, and overall, this week was one of the most awesome bike racing experiences of my life to date.
So here’s a day-by-day highlight reel. Plus some photos.
Day 1: La Parva Ski Resort outside of Santiago, Chile. Epicly beautiful Andean mountain vistas, epicly sketchy Andean trails. They call the terrain here “antigrip” for a reason. It’s basically like riding through a combination of deep gravel and super fine sandy dust stuff, and when you use your brakes, you speed up. The fourth and final stage of this day was definitely the trickiest. The locals called it a “festival de la curva” which was a bit of an understatement, as “curve” implies something a tad softer than what was actually going on, which was steep switchbacks with no catch berms and infinite potential of pitching yourself off a cliff. About 5,000 of them. So, yeah, festival, my ass. Pleased to say I rode every turn and only got stuck in a bush once, although I was doing a bit more foot out, strider bike, seat-bouncing than I care to admit.
Day 2: Farellones. Another day of wicked, sketchball Andean terrain. One of these trails I had raced in a local Enduro race here in 2014 and I am pleased to say that this time I made it down without crying. In fact, I didn’t even fall off once, which basically makes it a 10 fold improvement. On this day we traded the festival de la curva for the festival of the off-camber-clinging-to-the-side-of-mountain-and-hoping-you-don’t-die, which was equally festive, let me tell you. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though I came unglued on the third, newly cut and disgustingly off-camber stage about a bajillion times.
Day 3: Cajón del Maipo. The last day in the Andes. Things started to be a *little* tamer today, although the third stage had more sniper baby heads than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life. It took all my energy to remember to look ahead and not at every little rock that was getting in my way. The Defcon handled this terrain marvelously, especially when I relaxed and was able to let go of the brakes a little bit. I started to feel more comfortable on this day, and started racing a bit more aggressively. I even caught some dudes on a pedally section, so that’s always fun. Also, the race promoters met us at the end of the last day with baskets and baskets of empanadas, which is pretty much the best way to end a rough day of riding. (As a aside, if you want to lose weight, pick a different race. I could write an entire post about how delicious and ample the food was, but this is not that kind of blog, so back to bikes.)
Day 4: Santa Cruz. Chile’s beautiful (but hot) wine country. Two long stages with even longer hike-a-bike sections and 90 degree weather. I’m not the hugest fan of hiking or hot weather, so this wasn’t the easiest day for me, but I managed to stay in a pretty good mood by going slow, taking breaks and eating a lot of food. (By the way, those three things may actually be the key to happiness in life. Bike racing is full of insights.) The stages were awesome, fast and finally the dirt had some grip. I had two cleans run, minus a little detour off the trail on the first stage and a plunge into a rut on the second. There was a jump over the rut in question, but not being a huge fan of hitting jumps that I’ve never seen the other side of, I opted for indecision and slammed on the brakes at the last minute, which was a bad plan. Indecision kills, kids. Turns out it didn’t matter that much, because the second stage ended up being cancelled after one rider crashed into the course tape and half the field behind him got lost. That’s one thing I love about races like this — you just really never know what will happen next.
Day 5: Matanzas. Finally, to the coast. This day took us up, down and around the rolling coastal hills until we finally descended straight to the beach on the 7th and final stage of the day. Getting that first glimpse of the ocean was an incredible feeling of relief and accomplishment. These stages were calmer than what we had had in days past, but still challenging in their own way. You had to focus to make sure you didn’t miss any corners and go veering off course, and the odd rut or off camber ledge kept things super interesting all the way to the very end. We didn’t end up finishing the day until 8:30 pm, but luckily the race crew had choripan on the grill waiting for us. The chori was just an appetizer — a full on Chilean parilla followed. Lamb ribs, beef steaks, chicken. I ate so much meat it’s pretty amazing I didn’t turn into a cow. The parilla combined with two beers (we were getting wild), meant I struggled to stay awake for the award ceremony, which didn’t happen until midnight. And then the party started and despite my best intentions of celebrating, I found myself magnetically drawn to my tent, where I fell asleep on a deflated air mattress to the sound of 1000 decibel Chilean dance music and slept for the next 9 hours. It was great.
All in all, Andes Pacifico was an incredible experience and I feel that I raced well. I ended up 7th, which I’m super pleased with, although honestly I didn’t pay much attention to the results over the course of the race. This was definitely a race, but it was more about the experience, the people, the magic of being high in the mountains and riding your bike fast. I’m already hoping to come back next year!