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Rusch ready to start racing

Welcome to the race updates for the Trans Andes stage race from Rebecca Rusch (Specialized) and Jenny Smith (Trek). You may immediately wonder why athletes from dueling bike companies are racing together on a six-day adventure through Chile and Argentina. Well, we are here to experience a beautiful part of the world and for some great training away from our snowy winters at home. This is Rebecca writing this first entry. Jenny and I will alternate postings so you will get to follow the race from both our perspectives.

So far, our travels to get here have been a bit of planes, trains and automobiles experience. We left the US on different days and with different routing and virtually no communication once we left home. We even flew into different countries. Jenny arrived in Santiago, Chile, where she got stuck for the night with airline mechanicals. She waited over a day for a seat on a domestic flight to Temuco.

After getting bumped multiple times, she finally made that flight, then waited for a bus transfer from the race organization. She was lucky to connect with a friendly group of fellow racers from Costa Rica who were also trying to make their way to the start in Pucon. She ended up in the right town, but with no place to stay. She slept on the floor of a hostel in a shared sleeping bag with a stranger. Good thing she's a Kiwi and can handle that sort of ordeal.

At the same time, I went to Buenos Aires for some Specialized clinics and training rides before boarding another plane to Bariloche, a car ride to San Martin de los Andes and another car ride the next day to Pucon. The distances traveled were not huge, but the drives took forever due to inefficient passport controls between Chile and Argentina, road closures for an Ironman triathlon, construction and just the general relaxed pace in South America. I tried to just go with the flow and adapt to the pace of life here.

In my days in the area, I have not eaten dinner before 10:00 pm and despite my best efforts, I have not been in bed before midnight. Tonight, the night before the race, will be no exception. The race meeting ended at 10:00 pm and I am now writing this at 11:00 pm. I am actually excited to start the race so that I can get some sleep.

The vibe here is very relaxed compared to other stage races I have done. It's refreshing, but unusual considering the many kilometers of intense riding we have in front of us. There are only 50 teams in the race, but they come from 17 countries and the caliber of athlete is exceptional. There are a few World Cup cross country racers, Xterra pros, the legend Tom Ritchey, a couple of Olympians, a Brazilian National champion and a bunch of other super fit looking people I don't know yet.

I recognize people from the Cape Epic and from the Iron Biker in Brazil. One Brazilian friend even sent about 10 lbs. of Bananinha with a racer to deliver to me. It's my favorite race food that can only be found in Brazil. I'm sure there were excess baggage fees to get those here. In general, the group of athletes is relaxed, focused on enjoying the breath taking scenery and hanging out with each other. It is a race and I am sure everyone will pedal hard once the gun goes off, but the pre-race scene is shockingly and refreshingly casual.

Jenny and I are both coming off snow season and are getting on the bikes for the first time this year. We have the mutual goal of treating this as a training race. We will push for a good performance because we are both competitive by nature, but neither of us is missing the intensity and stress that usually accompany our peak season races.

Tomorrow's race start is a also a casual 9:30 am and we have 65km of river crossings, Arauacaria forest riding and crossing the Transvolanic Pass in Villarrica National Park.

Stay tuned to see how our first day of racing goes.

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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.