The Chilean Andes mountains are well known as one of the best places in the world for Mountain Biking. The Santa Cruz Andes Pacifico is an enduro competition that lasts five days with liaisons and special stages transversing the Chilean geography. The mission is to show Chile and the ancestral single tracks made by Indians and the cowboys from de Andes to the Pacific Ocean.
4th time at Andes Pacifico
It is my 4th time here in Chile. And so far, I have always been on the podium. So, I am back with big expectations. But Andes Pacifico is more than a race. Meeting all the other riders means a lot of fun and usually we get only the best food with a lot of local products.
Acclimation ride in Santiago. Despite being a 6.5 million inhabitant city, Santiago has some good riding options very close to the city. You can actually start riding in the city. The heat is impressive, especially in those sunny and exposed climbs. Riding safe also means to protect the skin in such sunny regions. Luckily, this year SCB provided some very nice and useful hats.
The Andes in that area are very very dry. It only rains a few times during summer time.
The race starts at 3.600 m on a hill below the giant Cerro El Plomo with an altitude of 5.424 m. The Santiago region is a huge basin that is located in between 2 mountain ridges, the Andes on the East, and the coastal range on the west. The coastal is protecting the Santiago basin from the humidity of the Pacific Ocean. This is one explanation for why the region is so dry and why we bikers call the terrain the “Anti-grip”. Everything here is different compared to what we have in Europe. It’s loose, slippery, hard to slow down,… After few participations you kind of get used to it but still the first ride here is rough.
Santa Cruz bicycles organises a pre-race ride for all the guys who will race on the next days. It’s a good way for everyone to feel the terrain and get acclimatized to Chilean summer weather.
Loading trucks and joining the Andes for the first camp. Take your tent, make the final adjustments on your bike
Starting the adventure in the dry and high Andes above the ski resort of La Parva. From here you can also see the big pollution cloud of Santiago, where almost half of the population of Chile lives.
Today we have three long and fast stages. 3.088 m of timed descent which is an impressive amount for only 3 stages. For a first race in 2019, it’s hard to keep fast all the way down. There are very fast and rocky sections, so your arms get pumped very quickly. The Chilean riders are very fast on those first stages. Finishing the day in 6th position despite I won stage 3 which makes me very happy!
The camp in Antawaya is awesome, riders go for a swim in the river after the race, the kitchen team brings the best food you can imagine. There is a free beer truck, sponsored by Kross Cerveceria
Day 2 in the Andes, starting the day with a 600m climb/push to access Santuario, a proper Enduro Stage, long physical, very technical and good fun. The terrain is very loose, and it is difficult to predict where the trail goes. So, you better ride under your limits. Otherwise, you will potentially visit some bushes, or worse some cactus. Those are not really friendly.
After stage one, we get food in a nice spot above the city. Then we have a long shuttle to access the four last stages of the day. Those are moto tracks, which means it is pretty straight and fast. This was also a physically very demanding day.
It started with a pick-up shuttle and then a long hike a bike to access high plates in the middle of nowhere. I love these high plates; it feels like a real adventure. We’ve been able to see the summit of the American continent: the Aconcagua, with an altitude of 6.962 m. It feels weird to see glaciers in such a dry environment. Skeletons of dead cows and horses are guiding you along the trail.
We have three stages at the menu today. We start the day pretty late, because the first stage only starts at 3pm. Very fast and straight trails on the top of the mountain. The speed is very important, and it’s hard to know if you should push harder and take more risk. Last and third stage of the day was harder, steeper, and full of rolling stones.
Regarding the race results, I’m catching up some times and places. At the end of the day I finished 2nd, which means a 3rd place in total.
Day 4 and 5:
As we are getting closer to the Pacific, the mountains are smaller and a bit greener. Long pick-up transfer in the morning to reach the coastal range. There are still decent hills and enough altitude for proper enduro stages. There are more bushes and trees on the side of the trails. The ocean brings some moisture, this allows vegetation to grow.
The race is great, Romain Paulhan is leading by 8sec, in front of Pedro Bruns the fastest Chilean. Pedro trained hard all winter and really wants the win. The day has been shortened, so there are only two stages. Pedro wanted the win so much, that he pushed really hard again and shortened the disadvantage on Romain. Well done, because those trails are not easy to be raced. The last stage has some long traverses with blind corners, off cambers or very narrow paths, so the risk is high to get off the bank and loose time. He was impressive and took the advantage on Romain. I completed the podium behind these 2 guns which makes me happy. I had no regrets since I rode safe, clean and had a lot of fun all week.
I cannot be happier. It was such a great week riding bike and eating fantastic food!
Muchas gracias to the MontenBaik crew and all these guys and girls who make it real.
Text: François Bailly-Maitre
- Gary Perkin for Santa Cruz Bicycles
- Jonatha Junge for AndesPacifico