Mary and I made the move out of wintry northern California way down south into the full summer of central Chile. We are kicking off the 2011 season with our fourth trip here, and it is once again proving to be a worthy place to hold our annual south American training camp.
Santiago, aka the place to get things done in Chile, captured our first few days though we were happy to spend some time with our friends getting acclimated to eating dinner at 11:00 pm and staying up past 2:00 am, as is the apparent local custom. Luckily the jet lag worked well enough in our favor to allow us to hang tougher than most of our friends' kids (under age 10).
After a few short days, we have come to realize that Santiago can be a great place to live and train from as a pro cyclist. The towering Andes start within the city limits and continue upward till their glaciers take on a cloud like majesty seemingly floating above the city's skyline. A few training rides with resident pro and Chilean super couple Chi Chi Garcia and Claus Plaut helped to reveal the offerings, and we happily found that a tremendous amount of land surrounding the city is steep, rad and open to mountain biking.
Once we got our car inspected and papers sorted we headed south west on a mix of dirt and pavement towards the coastal towns in the sixth region of Chile. Over the past years, we have been lured here by a mix of quiet and remote riding and surfing opportunities. Hundreds of kilometers of quiet dirt roads, solid climbing and all the horse-made single you care to pummel yourself on lays here dormant, calling out for development or in many cases it's first set of mountain bike tracks.
It's a rugged environment, beautiful and silent, dangerous enough to heighten the excitement, and it's all about getting us back to the basics of appreciating the simple life that we have the chance to live here for a few weeks.
The focus of our trip here is to take part in the third edition of the Trans Andes Challenge, a six-day mountain bike stage race in which Mary and I will be racing as a duo pro team. This style of racing offers an experience arguably more grand than any one day cross country or marathon race; this particular event is special for so many reasons.
Something about stacking days on end that push you to your limit is amazing and fun even as it is hard as hell. The sure outcome of a big experience that really leaves an impression is a draw enough to keep people coming back year after year for these types of events. The Trans Andes Challenge takes place in the lake district of Chile 850km south of the capital, in the Andes mountains around Pucon. Not too many places have such a grand backdrop for riding mountain bikes - endless fireroad-style paths ramble through a mix of farmed forests scattered with the odd exotic old growth beyond beauty sections around the flanks of snow rimmed lava spewing volcanos!
The Chilean training camp experience suits our outdoor styles very nicely. We are enjoying the chance to live simply and a bit on the rugged side while making sure to get in what we need each day to reach our upcoming seasonal racing goals on the World Cup cross country circuit.
Having our rolling base camp packed up with enough camping, surfing, biking, trekking, yoga and a limited amount of other high maintenance staples is a comfortable way to live for us and seems like the best way to train on a mental and physical level. Many of our best days here blend together into weeks of what feels like a giant adventure race, though happily with plenty of sleep between events.
The equipment logistics or packing absolutely everything we need is typically the most difficult part of traveling to remote areas to race and train for extended periods. We were hard pressed to choose the right equipment for our one and a half month journey. To not lack essentials is mandatory, but packing just enough not to be cumbersome in the day to day is the key.
One of our best techniques is paring down to two bikes, in our case our sweet custom built Seven Cycles 29er hardtails. To make sure we have all we need for the various conditions and training requirements, we have brought along a few extra sets of custom built Stan's Crest wheel sets along with a diverse assortment of Kenda Tires including mountain bike, cyclo-cross and road tires that allow us to effectively change the personality of the bikes and want for nothing more over a wide range of conditions. Additionally we retain the benefits, safety and reliability of SRAM's premium XX package with disc brakes and suspension that give us a better level of control and safety while keeping us more in tune with riding essentially the same bike that we race on. We are loving the versatility of our amazing machines!
The time has come to hit the road and make the 15-hour drive south for the race which begins on Monday, January 24 - just enough time to slip in a quick trip down the coast to surf a special wave (fingers crossed here) with my name on it and make good on some last minute race logistics.
Our preparations have been going well, along with the constant work of staying on top of all the aspects of running our team. We are excited with the anticipation of another season of international travel, World Cup racing and in the immediate, super excited for this upcoming stage race. We are ever grateful to have the support of our fantastic group our sponsors, family and friends for helping to keep this dream to be racing our bikes a reality!
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for race updates and stories form the south.
Wishing everyone health and happiness in this New Year!
Mike and Mary