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Mike & Mary diary: Off road in Chile

Getting stopped by the police in Chile is pretty common, though the style of pullover here is different than in the [United] States. No cruisers stashed behind the hedge waiting to chase you down hot pursuit style. In Chile it is all about the random checkpoint. You see (a group of) police standing on the sides of the road, slow down as you enter the gauntlet and either drive right on through or they wave you in for a little chat. It seems totally random whom they decide to pull over but one sure way to increase your odds for selection is to drive fast and pass a city bus on a single lane street while swerving drastically to avoid a cavernous pothole and most importantly all within view of the checkpoint. In our case all papers were in order and we were not doing anything terribly wrong so the pullover was just a minor delay and we were off, still on schedule to make it to our race on time.

We were excited when we finally found the race venue as this was our first experience racing in Chile and we couldn't wait to check out the scene. Just to the east of the city of Concepcion we came upon a city park set on a hill so steep that it effectively stopped the urban sprawl. It was actually big and steep enough to host a downhill race that same weekend. We found ourselves surrounded by giant trees as we wound our way our way up the steep cobble drive into the center of the park and breathed a sigh of relief as we came upon the familiar scene of the bike race. And a cool scene it was, Race Director Juan Pablo Santiagos (of Santiagos Productions, and his slim crew of staff put on a great event! Racers, family and fans were in good supply and the media presence brought nothing less than four professional videographers who documented the races. We were pleasantly shocked that these film crews attend all the national level races and develop high quality presentations that are featured on Chilean television.

The day was blazing hot. Luckily the majority of the course was on tight shaded singletrack and provided some shelter from the heat and feeling of being right in the city . The majority of the track was quite fun with challenging singletrack segments linked together by steep fireroad climbing to give equal advantage to skill and fitness. One beef would have to be that the juniors, masters, pro women and men all raced simultaneously–making for some tricky and potentially dangerous passing situations, though repeating phrases like "pista por favor" (track please) or "a tu derecha" (on your right) was good for my Spanish practice.

I battled it out with two of the top Chilean riders for the majority of the eight laps of the race. I momentarily regretted focusing the majority of my recent riding on my base training for next year as the longer/ slower hours have taken a bit away from my race day punch. Still I ended up second and I was happy with my performance since these Chilean guys rode really strong and it was a good tight race for the top three spots. I had the opportunity to pass Mary during our coinciding races and it was fun to watch her for a moment as she was on her way to decimating the slim pro women's field and making lots of masters and juniors question their fitness along the way. Unfortunately she didn't block for me like I was hoping she might.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.