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Pain instead of the rain

Jenny Smith tackles a river crossing.

Jenny Smith tackles a river crossing. (Image credit: Jason Sumner)

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.

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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.