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Trans Andes Blog: Post-race reflections from the top women's team

By:
Daniel Simms
Published:
February 02, 2010, 20:28 GMT,
Updated:
February 02, 2010, 20:56 GMT
Race:
Trans Andes

Rusch, Smith recall the highs and lows of six days in the Patagonian wilderness

The women's field only had two teams, but our goal was to have a strong showing among the mostly male field and encourage other female riders to take part next year.

The women's field only had two teams, but our goal was to have a strong showing among the mostly male field and encourage other female riders to take part next year.

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Rebecca Rusch and Jenny Smith both shared their thoughts here in this final Trans Andes blog. The pair finished as the top women's team and was regularly mixing up among the top end of the field though they don't quite know how they finished in the end.

Reflections from Jenny Smith

Hindsight is often 20-20. You see patterns that emerge and realise, yeah, I could have done that! But it would take the adventure out of life, too, if you were prepared and knew the answers prior to starting. I guess the value of experience is to be able to predict somewhat and be prepared for things.

Would I reccomend the Trans Andes MTB challenge to friends and fellow athletes? In a flash. The experience of a stage race is something special and memorable. You cannot expect to race for six days anywhere and not be affected by the experience. That effect, I think, is what appeals to people. Everyone racing has their reason for racing and everyone has their own story.

I have raced stage races solo and in a team. I prefer the team format. It provides support and is safer to me, more motivating, more fun. It is a shared experience.

Rebecca Rusch and I, had a blind date on this adventure, and for my part, it worked out. We are great teammates, I would love to race with her again. We had a dynamic of support, trust and reliability. All three are important in endurance events.

My recommendation for the current Trans Andes event would come with a little hesitation. I personally wouldn't do it as my first-ever stage race. It was a bit much of an adventure for that. The communication difficulties and organisation in a foreign country made it very challenging at times.

The race organisers are working on improving some safety-related and logistical aspects. It is their goal to build the event as an international destination event. When they do improve on some areas, it will be an event to put on your list.

The scenery, geography, routes, riding and venues are incredible. The raw, wild beauty strikes hard and touches deep. It is an incredibly special and dramatic part of the world.

On stage six, our final stage, we crossed over the Andes into Argentina. The ride was up there in my top three rides of my life. This is why I ride my bike. To experience this kind of beauty and feeling of freedom. A 26km descent off the top of the World is hard to beat!

Enjoy yourselves my friends.

Reflections from Rebecca Rusch

The adventure of the Trans Andes stage race has come to a close. Jenny has left to head back to Colorado, and I have been chilling in a cozy cabin in San Martin de los Andes with the Specialized dealer and his friends. The damp stench is finally washed out of my clothes and sleeping bag, and the Era is all tuned up and shiny again.

I'm relishing in long, hot showers and casual mornings when I can eat my food at a relaxed pace. The six days in the Patagonian wilderness were a fantastic experience, and the riding was the best I've done in a multi-day stage race. The organization really did serve up some of the best trails they have to offer.

In contrast to the thousands of racers in the Cape Epic, the small, multi-national field in this race made for a homey feeling around camp and the ability to get to know some very interesting people from around the world. We all bonded in our suffering and compared stories each night at camp.

Jenny and I got through the week with a pretty clean slate. Jenny had a flat on day one and a mechanical problem with her hub on day five, but nothing that was race ending. We both went through a set of brake pads each and did the changes and maintenance on our own.

Well, we did have a little help from Mike Broderick, our camp neighbor! We each had one rough day physically, but this was also nothing that was race ending. For early season miles, we were both really happy with how our legs performed and how quickly we slipped into pedaling again.

I was really happy that Jenny and I ended up being compatible race partners and camping companions. I can relate to her Kiwi sense of humor, and we both have the racing maturity to get through multiple day events. It takes a lot of planning, patience, teamwork and self-preservation to come out the other end of one of these events unscathed.

I am a little scathed from a high speed gravel crash on day six, but otherwise all that remains from the race are some great memories and hopefully some killer fitness.

We both went into this race with the intention of some awesome early season training and a bit of adventure. We got both. Although some of the route information seemed inaccurate, courses changed during the event and my odometer died on day five, we rode somewhere around 500km this week and an estimated 30,000ft of climbing in approximately 25 hours of racing. Not bad for six days of training in January!

I have no idea how we finished in the overall rankings. The race results that are posted do not add up, so it's difficult to tell. I can tell you that only 18 teams finished day five, including us, so technically less than half the field completed the whole course. It was not an easy task, and I feel really good about our achievement.

The Virgo in me would really love to see accurate race results and exact mileages and be able to compare our performance against the other athletes, but I'm practicing my patience and just chalking it up to a great travel and training experience.

Like Jenny, I would recommend this race, but would caution anyone interested to come with the intention of being self sufficient with bike maintenance, camping comforts, route finding and bring plenty of travel and race experience. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world and getting to see it on your bike is the best way to travel.

Thanks for reading and tuning in!

I have two more weeks here of training and racing. The next stop is the Tour de la Patagonia, a three-day stage race in this same area.

Author
Trans Andes Challenge: Rebecca Rusch & Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith and Rebecca Rusch have teamed up up to race the 2010 Trans Andes mountain bike stage race. Smith, 36 hails from Westport, New Zealand, but has called Gunnison, Colorado, home for the past 10 years. The 41-year-old Rusch, winner of last year's Leadville 100, resides in Ketchum, Idaho. The pair is racing under the team name La Diosas, which means "The Goddesses", and both are contesting this mountain bike stage race for the first time. The race also marks their first time racing together as teammates. Rusch is the winner of the 2009 Leadville 100 and a three-time 24-hour solo World Champion. Smith placed top-five at two continental Xterra championships last year and has previously raced events like the Cape Epic. Follow the adventures of the two women as they take on the Trans Andes Challenge.

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