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Brasil Ride mountain bike stage race blog

The start of another day of racing in Brasil

Race reflections

Jenny & Brian Smith
November 26, 2010, 17:42 GMT,
November 26, 2010, 17:52 GMT

Brian & Jenny Smith say they'd go back

It's amazing what you can put your body through when you are participating in true passion. Racing with your wife for the first time over six days and 36,000 vertical feet is bound to push a button or two.

Riding and sleeping in rain for nearly five days straight can really mess with one's psyche as well as his bike. By day 6, my body was numb to the pain and fatigue and was running on auto pilot. I was really wishing the bike was capable of the same.

By Friday afternoon following stage 6, my bike and body were hammered and ready for some good down time. Enter Salvador beaches, 27 degrees Celsius and blue bird. Other than the hotel room still lingering with the wet tent funk, life was looking up.

That night, Jenny and I both woke with colds. We walked the coastline our last day and took in the local scene including heaps of hand-line fishermen trying to catch dinner after work.

Our return trip was uneventful, with the exception of our lingering colds. Speaking of cold, it was negative five degrees Fahrenheit in Gunnison this morning, with a high of 20. We were happy to be inside with Thanksgiving dinner on the menu.

Jenny and I were glad to have the competition that required our "A" game every day. Fellow Xterra athlete Renata Bucher with Zaboo bikes from Switzerland pushed Jenny to ride near her max at the start of every day. Sonya and Jeff of Topeak-Ergon were always strong finishing within three minutes on the hardest day and battling major mechanicals for a top three overall.

A huge thanks to all the support that was provided to make the event happen and succeed despite the extremely adverse conditions. As a first-year event, Jenny and I were very impressed with the organization and execution of each stage. Shimano provided amazing neutral support and worked around the clock for a week straight.

We hope to make a return trip and take on a new Brazilian adventure soon.

Thanks for reading.

Brian Smith

Brian and Jenny Smith in the green mixed teams leader's jersey

The Grand Finale

Jenny & Brian Smith
November 21, 2010, 12:35 GMT,
November 23, 2010, 16:28 GMT

The final day in Brazil

We woke to rain. Again. There has been a distinct theme of wet during this race.

I didn’t want to ride. It was the only time during the six days that I really wasn’t into it, and it was pretty justified.

The course was a mostly flat 100km of dirt farming roads, intermixed with about 4km of singletrack. We rode three loops in a clover-leaf loop pattern.

It was pouring rain, and we rode in a mix of mud, sand, water sometimes higher than our bottom brackets. Our bikes had been holding on by a thread after five days of wet and rain, and the final day destroyed them. We all rode with brakes rubbing. I lost my rear pads at about kilometer 10. At an aid station I looked at them and saw the pads worn through to the point the clips where twisted around and caught. We had mud soaked glasses and mud soaked eyeballs. Attitude is everything and mine needed a good kick in the pants!

We were caught at 20km to go by Sonia and Jeff and I am so grateful. Her good energy pulled my bottom lip off my snot-ridden chin and our world got better again.

Renata and Damian had a great day and took the stage win. I was psyched for them. Brian and I took the overall mixed team win.

Our pulleys, bearings, chains, pads, cables, bushings and most moving parts of our bikes need replacing and some serious love, but some great things happened out on course.

Brian and I both rode Bontrager XR 0 tires and we were so impressed with them. They outperformed all our expectations in all conditions. They were amazing. Grippy in mud, ideal on the road, excellent traction climbing, we didn’t have any flat tires. They get our 600km all-conditions seal of approval.

This event was a true test of equipment. Both of our bikes, Brian’s Giant Anthem XTC and my Trek Top fuel, held out very well. It is only our headset bearings and bottom bracket bearings that noticeably need replacing. Our fox shocks were problem free. Brian’s Mavic SLR wheels held up perfectly. We both use SRAM drivetrains and our shifting was good, even when the pulleys and pads had gone.

I would do the race again in a flash, although I would double cross my fingers for less rain and I wouldn't bring as nice of a bike. It hurt me to destroy my expensive race bike.

The organization was exceptional, the food was excellent and the riding was fantastic, while the aid stations were adequate and the amenities were appropriate. Mario Roma and his team did a very good job.

I think the only glitch was racing us full course on the last day and maybe there could be more medical aid on course too.

I liked racing mixed team with Brian as he is solid and even keeled. He stayed strong and motivated. He knows me well and doesn’t put up with my rubbish. It was good. I hope I get to do it again.

Now how to get our dirty dirty wet clothes dry in time to fly home? Good thing Brasil allows 70 pounds of baggage...

Thanks to all our friends and fellow competitors racing, it was "more than a race, it was a stage in our lives!" Good times.


Jenny Smith

Incredible food after stage 5.

Back on the road again

Jenny & Brian Smith
November 21, 2010, 10:30 GMT,
November 23, 2010, 16:25 GMT

Through the storm to Mucege

Stage five of the Claro Brasil ride took us 132km from Rio Da Contas back to Mucege again. I think we were all keen to pack up our sodden camps and clothes and get back to Mucuge.

I know I was hoping for dry weather there. My neck was pretty stiff to be honest but thanks to a muscle relaxant, Paul Romero’s magic arnica spray, Hawaiian algae anti-inflammatory pills and a massage, I was much better than the day before and good to go.

We started the race with a 27km downhill jeep road. I felt quite sketched by the big group of riders descending. I rode conservatively and drifted back through the field as we went down. I could see Brian ahead and he’d keep checking and slowing for me. At the bottom we formed a pack of about a dozen or so riders which we slowly whittled down to five through 50km. Renata Bucher, Damian and a solo rider Mattias.

I have known Renata for a long time. I love her relaxed happy personality and have a great deal of respect for her athleticism. We have raced each other at least 30 times in MTB, Xterra and endurance racing. However I’ve never even been for a social ride with Renata. On stage five we laughed about this. Next year we will go for a ride together!

We broke away from Damian and Renata about 80km in. In my head, I was climbing with a friend Susan D. I was thinking about her and trying to pull effort out of myself.

It is an interesting dynamic with Brian as I am the one saying "slow down, come back, I can’t keep up". It feels like whining. (It sounds like whining). Do I really need to slow down? Can I keep up?

I heard the guys teasing Brian in the shower the day before. "Brian, Brian"…. Laughter… Portuguese. It’s true. That is what I sound like.
The action came at 110km. We’d just climbed up to the final aid station in extreme heat. So we doused ourselves with water and got going.

Within five minutes, the sky became thick black and we rode straight into a torrential downpour and thunder and lightning. It was terrifying! Counting two seconds between lightning and thunder we put heads down, bottoms up, and rode flooded water and sand roads home. Again!

In Mucuge, the power was out and it was pouring rain. Cold shower, wet tent. Good times people, good times.

We had an amazing lunch at a local house, served right from their kitchen. This was a good time. The food was been so good here, at the race and in the towns.

Sonia and Jeff of Topeak /Ergon were second on the stage, putting in another very strong ride. They invited me to stay in their room that night as my sleeping bag got soaked in transit. I love my friends!

Thanks for reading

Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith tackles a river crossing.

Pain instead of the rain

Cycling News
November 18, 2010, 16:50 GMT,
November 19, 2010, 2:27 GMT

Brian and Jenny fight on in the Brasil Ride

We have been racing in the rain for three days straight now. It hadn’t rained for a whole year here in Rio de Contas and it seems the rain gods are making up for lost time. Jenny and I race for five to eight hours then shower, wash all of our brown cycling clothes, eat a huge meal for lunch, clean and fix bikes, do massages for each other, eat another huge meal about three hours later then try to sleep in our wet tent while everyone is snoring and wake up at 5:00 am. Then repeat it all again. Everything smells, is wet and doesn’t dry. We have to make a decision about what to wear each day: clean and wet or dirty and dry. The things we do for fun!

Today was a 7:00 am start and for the first time since the prologue we didn’t start in the rain. The pace was high from the gun and Jenny pushed herself to 85% for the first hour and we still lost the front pack and the lead mixed team. By 90 minutes, we caught the first mixed team and were on our way to extend our lead. Once we established ourselves and started to gain confidence the problems started.

I went over the bars on a technical section but recovered quickly with no issues. About 10 minutes later, Jenny was screaming from behind and was pinned under her bike. I expected the weight of the bike was the cause of her pain until I removed her bike and found a two-foot stump under her. Jenny had apparently decided to massage her neck with a stump in the middle of the race.

She was in so much pain I thought the race was over. To her credit, she pulled through and rode away without much complaining. Another half hour down the trail, Jenny got her chain wound in the front derailleur which took a few minutes to untangle. Our lead at that point was large enough that we weren’t caught.

After the second water station, I saw a two-foot lizard run off the road then a tarantula in the street of the next town. The scenery and wildlife continues to amaze us with every stage.

The sun finally came out as we hike-a-biked a 500-foot climb. I was wishing for the rain to return as it approached 35 degrees Celsius. We rode a flat jeep road at 20+ mph with the rising heat trying to keep pace with a top men’s team and Jenny was again at her limit. I continued to feed Jenny to the last aid station before our final ascent, 1500 feet in about two miles. Near the summit there was a creek that poured into the road creating a small waterfall. I rode under it and nearly wiped out as the rocks were covered in algae but it was worth the risk.

We finished the day in five hours 33 minutes, about 10 minutes ahead of the second mixed team. Jenny was inspected by the medical personnel and cleared to continue with ibuprofen, massage and rest. We each got a one-hour massage and were treated with wine at dinner and offered a bed with Paul Romero and Karen Lundgren.

Life is good and the race continues.

Brian and Jenny Smith in the green mixed teams leader's jersey

What a birthday!

Jenny & Brian Smith
November 18, 2010, 16:30 GMT,
November 19, 2010, 2:29 GMT

Brian celebrates with over seven hours on the bike

Each year I invite about 20 keen riders to join me on my birthday ride on the White Rim. On Monday, I spent the day on my bike in Brazil with 300 international riders. The route consisted of almost 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. Not a bad substitute in my eyes.

Jenny and I had a good prologue the day before and we wore the mixed teams green leader’s jersey. Green is my favorite color. So before the day even started I was grinning ear to ear despite the grey clouds and full night of rain prior to the 6am start. We started with about 40km of paved and dirt roads where the pace was close to 25mph at the front. Jenny was at her limit keeping up with the top men’s teams.

For some reason, we decided to bypass aid station one to keep pace with the top teams who were trying to drop the other mixed competitors. This decision left us quite dehydrated with only two bottles each for about 60km.

To make matters worse I broke my chain at a creek crossing. I managed to make a quick fix thanks to a Connex link I got from Rock and Roll Sports and was under way in about two minutes. We then had to chase the leading teams for about an hour before we saw the front again. After about 60km, we got singletrack/jungle with rain. We had to hike-a-bike in knee deep mud, rock ledges and rushing creeks while getting rained on. A true Brazilian adventure ride!

The last water station was about 25km from the finish but we still had a 1800-foot climb ahead of us and we had already ridden/hiked for six hours. I had a rooster that attempted to outrun me at 15mph then tried to fly at the same speed before wrecking in the bushes.

There was also a flattened toad in the road about the size of my head. About a mile later we saw a run-a-way horse with a mouth full of grass and its rope still tied to it running down the road. After this I started to bonk. False flats on wet muddy roads for 10km leading to the last climb and Jenny was leaving me for dead. I chugged about five gels in a flask and returned to life. But by the time we topped the climb I almost threw up, so it was a bad idea. I heard Jenny dry heaving behind me and I knew we had to finish this stage ASAP.

We rolled into Rio de Contas after seven hours and 42 minutes. That was by far the most suffering I have ever done on my birthday. I was so smashed I had a beer, was in bed by nine and had to write this blog on Tuesday. Jeff Kerkove and Sonya Looney of Topeak/Ergon, also from Colorado, had the race of the day chasing us down and finishing less than three minutes back.

That’s all for now but the suffering must continue. Keep posted for more updates.

The town church in Mucuge, Brasil

Messages, music and racing the prologue

Jenny & Brian Smith
November 14, 2010, 20:15 GMT,
November 14, 2010, 21:55 GMT

Brian & Jenny get underway racing in the Brasil Ride

Last night in the Claro Brasil ride village, I had one of the best miscommunications. In the center of the village is an open air tent, bar and music area with bean bags, couches and flax mats. I was using a grid roller and stretching when one of the race doctors came over introduced himself, asked my name, where I was from.

He asked if he could give me a message. I was befuddled but thought okay?... ( racking my brains for what the message might be) We walked over for the message, and he said we can use the couch. I was still foggy - it must be a serious message if I have to sit on the couch. I did have medical forms in my bag required by the race that I hadn't faxed in.

Meanwhile Brian was laughing behind his book at me. Message. MASSAGE! Oh well, yes, of course I want a massage! It was great.

The Claro Brasil racing kicked off at noon today with a short and t.e.c.h.n.i.c.a.l 13km prologue around the town of Mucuge.

The course had three doubletrack and singletrack sections joined by pavement, road and the cobbled streets of the village. It was an excellent course of sand, round boulder rocks and slick rock. The riding was a bit like Fruita, Colorado, and Moab's Sovereign trail.

Everyone was super excited for the race to get underway and all morning the place had been buzzing with teams getting their bikes ready and warming up. A 40-minute race is a pretty intense way to start such a long event, and it created an exciting atmosphere in the town of Mucuge with local support and spectators.

Brian and I had pre-ridden the track yesterday and knew to expect a fast and furious race. We started in third off the line behind Sonya Looney and Jeff Kerkove of Topeak, Ergon, and they gave us a great carrot to chase. It took us a bit to get our pace dialed. I think to race short and furiously was hard for both of us, as I was trying to go as fast as possible, and it took Brian a bit to get used to what that pace was. But we got better as the race went, and I felt I was riding better technically, too.

We don't have the results yet, but were pretty happy with how it went.

Tomorrow, by contrast, is 139km. It'll be a completely different style of riding. The race is starting very early at 6:00 am. It is Sunday night here tonight, and we are hoping that means a quieter night in Mucuge.

Brasil is known for its music and the weekend proved that to be true. Friday night and Saturday rocked with music from a town party that got louder and louder until 3:00 am. It sounded great but was a bit on the brutal side for us racers sleeping in the tents.

Tomorrow is Brian's birthday, so wish us luck as we celebrate Claro Brasil in riding style!

Thanks for reading.

Jenny Smith

Brasil Ride mountain bike stage race blog

Husband and wife Brian and Jenny Smith are racing their first mountain bike stage race together as a team at the Claro Brasil ride on November 14-19. The 600km, six-day stage race is held in the northeast Bahia region of Brasil and is six hours inland from the city Salvador. The event is between and around two towns, Mucuge and Rio de Contas in the Chapada Diamantina, National Park.

The two, who live in Gunnison, Colorado, have been married for 10 years. Jenny is a New Zealander, who competes in Xterra off-road triathlon and elite mountain biking events. In 2010, she finished fourth at the USA Xterra championships and was a member of the New Zealand team for the UCI mountain bike world championships. She also won the Xterra Amazon and finished first, with Rebecca Rusch in the TransAndes mountain bike stage race.

Brian is a two-time USA Triathlon winter triathlon champion, two-time winter Xterra world champion and one of America's top off-road cyclists and triathletes. He tore his pectoralis tendon in may, requiring surgery and a summer of rehab.

Both have been to Brasil before: Brian three times for Xterra Brasil events and Jenny for Xterra Amazon. However, this is their first time going together as well as the first time each will race as part of a mixed team in a stage race.

Jenny races for Trek Racing Co-op and Trek's women's brand. She is also sponsored by Bontrgaer, SRAM, Rudy project, Pearl Izumi, Squirt lube and ESI grips. Brian is backed by Rock and Roll Sports Gunnison, Giant, SRAM, Mavic and Rudy Project.

Follow Brian and Jenny's blog describing their experience throughout the race.