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Trans Andes stage 1 blog: Feels good to pedal

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There were nice options for lunch at the Thermus Menetue spa.

There were nice options for lunch at the Thermus Menetue spa.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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There was a good spread at the end of the stage, including gluten free options, too.

There was a good spread at the end of the stage, including gluten free options, too.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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There was confusion about the downhill at 27km. This helped Rebecca and Jen as Jenny had flatted earlier and the two were playing catch up.

There was confusion about the downhill at 27km. This helped Rebecca and Jen as Jenny had flatted earlier and the two were playing catch up.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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Rebecca and Jenny (Team Las Dioasas) at the start of stage one in Pucon, Chile.

Rebecca and Jenny (Team Las Dioasas) at the start of stage one in Pucon, Chile.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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Rebecca Rusch does some stage one bike maintenance

Rebecca Rusch does some stage one bike maintenance
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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The atmosphere around the campsite was relaxing.

The atmosphere around the campsite was relaxing.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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Eight-time European Xterra Champ Renata Bucher and Jenny Smith soaking and pretending to train via swimming.

Eight-time European Xterra Champ Renata Bucher and Jenny Smith soaking and pretending to train via swimming.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)
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Rebecca Rusch and Renata Bucher at the thermal spa after stage one.

Rebecca Rusch and Renata Bucher at the thermal spa after stage one.
(Image credit: Jennifer Smith)

Midway through today's stage - the first one in the Trans Andes Challenge - Rebecca said to me, "It feels good to pedal."

"I know," I replied.

Right then, I was both amused and felt confirmation that it's going to be a good race.

Of course she likes to pedal! Rebecca (Rusch) is the three-time 24-hour Solo World Champion. And me? Well this is pretty much my favorite thing to do. Experiencing the world from my bike, being treated to incredible beauty, stunning views, a mixture of hard, varied, technical, riding - all during a time that is usually winter for me. It doesn't get much better.

Or at least that's how I felt until the last 5km when the 90-degree Fahrenheit weather and approximately 80-degree difference from the temperature (where Smith lives - ed.) in Gunnison, Colorado, combined with the Coca Cola I drank at the last food zone, caused turmoil within my stomach.

I was holding out for the finish line. It's always that way though. Day one in the heat is the hardest, and the finish line is the best.

The opening stage was 64km on paper, and had an elevation delta of 1,276 meters. Rebecca's odometer told a different story though. We rode 67 km, were eighth overall and the first women's team, finishing in four hours, 21 minutes (including the neutral start), and we climbed 1,406 meters.

The climbing and elevation change varied for the different teams. Poor markings at a junction 27km into the race had several of the top teams extremely confused. For example, Mary McConneloug and Michael Broderick descended, climbed, descended another route, then climbed out before descending the right way and going on to take the stage overall win by 30 seconds from the second placed team, a men's team.

For Michael and Mary in their first-ever stage race, the win was exciting and both changed their goals from getting some solid riding and trying their hand at stage racing to contending for the overall race win.

Now we are getting into the swing of the event, washing clothes, drying gear, organizing our food and bikes for tomorrow, relaxing a little, The campsite is at the Thermus.

It is really stunning here. The race is very mellow, yet well organized. The food is exceptional. Stay tuned as in the next blog post, I'll write about food, wine and camp life.

Tomorrow, is stage 2 with 100km distance and a proposed 2,800m of climbing. According to Juan Pablo, the race director, we'll like it because it's faster.

Yet, I wonder how much climbing there will really be? The map shows 3000 feet of climbing at kilometer 50. Followed by a 25km descent.

Tomorrow... no Coca Cola for me!

Jenny Smith