Words by Martha Gill
Photos by Jonatha Jünge ( @jonathaj )
I’ve always wanted to visit South America, and with the announcement at the end of last year that the first two Enduro World Series rounds would be in Chile and Colombia, I couldn’t wait to board the 15 hour flight! I’d only heard good things about the Andes Pacifico race, and I really enjoy these week long stage day style races, so thought why not go out to Chile a bit earlier to get involved!
I met up with local Chilean and fellow EWS racer, Florencia Espineira, and we headed to the first camp in a place called Antawaya, that felt like the middle of nowhere. After a welcoming talk and brief of the week ahead, we had dinner then set up our camp beds under an awesome sky of stars.
Day 1 began with a long off road drive in the morning, followed by a 7km ride/hike a bike to the top of Stage 1. We were treated with amazing views of the Andes before dropping in to the first stage. It was a super fast, flat out trail with only the unpredictable dusty corners to slow you down. The locals call this dusty terrain ‘antigrip’, it was difficult to navigate at first but I soon started to get the hang of where the grip could be found. A more technical stage followed with rock gardens and tight turns, dropping us out with a short pedal back to the camp. We ended the day with a refreshing dip in the river and some seriously good food!
The next day I woke to realise the extent of my sunburn and had to apply copious amounts of after sun! We packed our bags up ready to move camp and started the day with an hours hike, which really got the calves burning. The first stage had an impressive 1125m of vertical descent, it was a tough 20 minute trail with a mixture of pedalling and super techy sections. The arm pump was real by the end! After a well deserved lunch stop we drove 2 hours on a dirt road before dropping in to 4 more stages with short transitions. They were unreal, seriously fun tracks and I was beginning to find some flow.
Day 3 was the longest and hardest for sure, another long 3 hour drive kicked off the day followed by a huge transition to the first stage. We reached the highest point of the whole week at 3550m, I could definitely feel the altitude with a slight headache before dropping in. It was totally worth it though, we were treated with a great view of the incredible mountain range and the highest peak in the Andes, Aconcagua. Yet again the 3 stages of the day were amazing tracks, fast, techy, and lots of antigrip! We finished the day in true camping style with a brief but refreshing shower from a cold hose.
The penultimate day came around and I could feel the previous days starting to catch up on me. Waking up feeling tired but ready for the final push in the last two days. It showed on the trails too, I started to make a few more mistakes, shoulder barging some trees, overcooking corners, and having close scrapes with many bushes. A quick dip in the pool at the campsite and a good massage were required that evening before an early night’s sleep.
The final day arrived, and we headed towards the coast. We rode in the clouds for a good part of the day, which made a nice cooler change to the usual blistering heat. I felt surprisingly good, probably the excitement of getting through the last day and completing the epic week of riding. The terrain had slightly changed as we got closer to the sea, there was a bit more grip but it was so hard to push on as corners were so blind. I trudged up the final gruelling climb of the race, powered by brownies and bananas from the lunch stop, reaching the top with only the final two stages and a cloud inversion to pass through before reaching the finish line… and before we knew it we were blasting down the road pulling triumphant wheelies heading to the beach camp in Cachagua.
Everyone involved in the organisation of the Andes Pacifico did an amazing job, from the trail markers and marshals to the cooks and drivers. I’d like to say a massive thank you to them for creating such an amazing event, and one hundred percent recommend it to anyone considering going! I’m delighted to walk away with coming 2nd in the open women’s category, behind the pinned Florencia. It was a tough week, but I had a great time. I also managed to come away unscathed and with no mechanicals or punctures, which is always an added bonus.
They said it would be an experience of a lifetime, and it certainly was! It was more than just a race for me though, it was an amazing adventure and challenge with awesome trails like I’ve never ridden before, I also met so many great people to share the experience with along the way. After the podium there was only one thing left to do, celebrate by sampling the local drink, pisco. As they say, no pisco no disco!