The rest of our time in New Zealand was incredible. Rotorua exceeded our expectations with great riding, great people and a surprising number of apple pies. We spent a good bit of time exploring the Whakarewarewa (pronounced fak-a-ree-wa-ree-wa) mountain bike park, right in the center of town, as well as some of the less-groomed trails of the surrounding areas. We spent a couple of days shooting with Graeme Murray and he did a great job of highlighting the incredible geography of the Rotorua area. I have to say, Ponga palms are some of the coolest trees ever!
From New Zealand, we headed back across the Atlantic to Chile. We met up with the third member of the Santa Fe Brewing – Pivot Cycles team, Sean Leader, and the three of us spent a couple of weeks in Santiago, riding with some of our Chilean friends and training for the first Enduro World Series.
It is autumn in Chile and when we got to Nevados de Chillan (the location of the EWS) the trees were already changing colors. It was beautiful and the trails were equally awesome. We spent Thursday and Friday pre-riding all six special stages (i.e. timed stages). The trails were an interesting mixture of rocky and loose up high, then soft and tacky as we descended toward the base. The transfer stages included chairlifts, some pedaling and quite a bit of hike-a-bike and after four days (two days of practice and two days of racing) I was pretty beat. My favorite stage was the third one, Candonga, because it had the most varied terrain. The top was fast and rocky, followed by a sandy section, then steep, grippy dirt, and finally a super-fast section with berms and big jumps. And all of this in just over four minutes!
Both Sean and I raced and overall had a very successful weekend. We both had a few small crashes, but walked away without any lasting injuries. We had no mechanicals, no flats, didn't miss any of our starts and got to test ourselves against the best Enduro racers in the world.
I finished 47th out of the 85 Elite Men who started (81 finishers). My time was 40:46.49, just over four minutes slower than the winning time of 36:41.31. My best stage finish was 39th on stage two and my worst was 64th on stage four.
Based on this weekend's race, every minute was worth about 10 spots. So if I want to be in the top three (which I do) I need to get 10% faster. So I'm now working on shaving off one second for every ten seconds of racing. Downhill training, here I come!
Syd deserves a huge thank-you for being support crew this weekend. She did a great job of sending us off on time on each stage, feeding us between stages, shuttling us during practice, taking photos and overall keeping us happy and upbeat. Without her, we would have been much more stressed between stages, not to mention hungrier!