It is always a good time to travel to Chile and be a part of the Red Bull Cerro Abajo. This year was an extra special year for the race and I managed to track down head race organizer, Victor Heresmann to give me the low down on the race. Here is what he had to say:
2017 marks the 15th anniversary of a race that started out as a publicity stunt for a Bike magazine and then took on a life of its own, and what a life it has been. We realized it was fitting we do something special for this anniversary, but what? The answer was very simple, just improve everything; the course, the spectator experience, the impact for the neighbors, and of course, the grin on the racers faces. And so, down that rabbit hole, we went. Boy did it take us to some weird places, from talking to the police commander into fielding undercover agents to stop drugs and booze being sold on the course, something that the neighbors were understandably very upset about, to “slightly modifying” two houses in order to check off the "riders on roof" and "through a house" items on our to-do list.
Pre-race riders meeting
The pizza at the pre-race riders meeting was world class.
An unknown rider launches out of the house for the first time during practice.
Bernard Kerr launching out of the house, low in the saddle to scrub the gap and then brake to make the dirt corner back onto the street below. Looks easy right?.
We also measured fire engines in order to be absolutely sure our ramps wouldn’t be in the way in an eventual emergency, as wildfires were raging all over the country during the months prior to the race and put us in severe jeopardy of being shut down completely. Then we learned that the container jump feature is the lowest safe point in case of a tsunami, who knew?
Bernard Kerr, full style and pop out of the container on his final run.
For the course, we decided to go with a faster-is-better approach. We modified stairs to increase doubling of sets, took out some guard rails, increased the size of some lips here and there, and made some of the landings a lot bigger to allow for higher speed and distance. We held an undercover training session on Saturday to avoid crowds, this was very appreciated by the riders who got to familiarize themselves with the stairs and the house feature.
Getting the rhythm of the stair sections was crucial for keeping speed. Some sets could be doubled up, it was just a matter of remembering which was which in your race run!
Crushing in the rhythm of the stairs.
The features that used to be the big ones of the course were now definitely not as we had two features that spanned over 10 meters.
Chilean rider Ignacio Rojo is the only competitor that has competed in every single one of the 15 Cerro Abajo Urban DH races in Valparaiso. Here he gets full moto over the 40+ foot bus gap.
Felipe Argurto is one of the fastest riders in Chile right now. He's young and on top of his game. He had the biggest air and best style by far on the bus gap. Here he sends his way into the top ten.
Holding it together over the bus with the harbour of Valparaiso below.
Argentina's Mauricio Flores jumps over the massive bus gap with style.
Mauricio Acuna, high off the wall ride, on his way to 4th place.
Logan Binggeli charging the urban jungle of Valparaiso to a 7th place finish this year.
In general, everything was bigger this year. This drop off the wall has been in earlier editions of the race but this year it was bigger and it seemed to me that the run in was nastier. Full speed off of the street, a flat take-off on broken concrete and loose dead grass.
On race day, riders take off from inside a house into the very steep streets of the upper slopes of the Cerro Alegre. This is a course that we try to keep as similar to a dirt course as possible, with around 250m of drop and 1.8km in length, and an average speed that mimics a regular course.
The drop off the Plaza Bismark.
Bernard Kerr styles on the wall ride to gap. Most riders avoided the gap but others found a way to make it flow perfectly.
And the crowds go wild!
Chilean Pedro Ferreira hitting the wall ride gap high, heading towards his third place podium spot. As you can see in this photo, the gap from the wall ride to the landing is not small.
Tucking the cobblestone.
Tomas Slavik sends it over the wall ride gap as the kids look on with awe.
Frenchman Hebert Ambroise keeping his speed around the corner in prep for the giant bus gap.
Full crack off the wall ride. This is how it's done.
Getting high on the wall ride
Bamn, out of the sea can.
Tomas Slavik blasts over the container gap on his final run.
We had a killer day with huge crowds and bright sun, thankfully no ambulance riders or dog incidents this year and when the dust settled, Tomas Slavik had bested the competition after coming really close years prior, second was Bernard Kerr with a huge debut here, and third was Pedro Ferreira who was a very welcome sight back on the podium. Sadly this course takes its prisoners and we had a few crack riders lose their shot at glory due to bike failures such as Bernardo Cruz and Brage Vestavik, all of them we hope will be back for another shot at the crown of Red Bull Valparaíso Cerro Abajo in 2018 when they will have to deal with not only the reigning champion but also with the previous one, Johannes Fischbach who had to sit out this time due to a bad collarbone.
Tomas Slavik jumps on stage for an interview seconds after taking the win.
• 1st: Tomas Slavik 00:02:48.480
• 2nd: Bernard Kerr 00:02:50.560
• 3rd: Pedro Ferreira 00:02:52.520
See you on the stairs next year! – Victor Heresmann
Words: Victor Heresmann
Photos: John Wellburn