Check out last year's Working Man's World Series here:Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3
Late in the fall, as I began to ponder what the coming year would bring, hometown homie Dave Trumpore reached out to me and said, "Hey would you be interested in going to Andes-Pacifico in late February?" I thought to myself for a quick second and immediately responded, "Absolutely". Middle of February in Vermont can make for some dark times, especially if you have an undying passion for riding. Vermont winters bring short days, made even shorter by working inside with no windows 8-5, heavy snow at times, loads of grey skies and bitter cold temps. It's usually about the second week of February when a 5-7 day cold snap of consistent temps below 0° Fahrenheit drags you into a misery that can only be cured by a warm breeze on your face as you burn down a rugged mountainside. But hey, all that snow makes for good fat biking right? Sorry folks, doesn't matter how sweet Eddie Masters makes it look, riding mountain bikes for me is all about sinking your tires into unfrozen soil. So, when given the opportunity to escape winter for a week exploring new trails and meeting new members of our ever expanding yet small bike community, it was a no brainer.
Just like any good trip should start, Dave and I got scooped up from the Santiago Airport after our redeye flights, assembled bikes, had a bite to eat and headed to the hills for some gold.
Just under a year after embarking on a full EWS racing season, I have returned back to where it all began in Santiago, Chile. Last year I was able to experience something I am primarily an audience for and there is no doubt the EWS was a phenomenal experience. Its addicting in a way, but at the same time can be a point of mild stress and anxiety. It is the highest intensity of competition in the world when it comes to Enduro racing. Life as full time engineer, or whatever you are out there, whether it be a full time bike mechanic, accountant, chef, husband or mother, means you have to carefully select your adventures with the limited windows of free time you have throughout your busy year. As much as I would love to race another few years of EWS, I also want to explore other events and obscure riding destinations for reasons other than purely EWS racing.
To balance a complete season of EWS racing with work last year meant I did not have much time to spare at each venue to relax and explore. With fewer events planned this year, I wanted to make them less of a hustle and more of a leisurely experience. This would mimic what most people call "vacation" or "holiday". Not to mention flying from anywhere in the northern half of the states in February is always a roll of the dice with weather delays or cancellations. We touched down on Thursday the 14th and had until 5:00 pm on Monday the 18th to do as we pleased.
The days seemed pleasantly long coming from the dark and cold days of the northern hemisphere. However, from high noon until 5:00 pm was generally hot enough to fry an egg on your car hood down in the Santiago valley. This made for ideal time to casually seek out some local food (I highly recommend anywhere with empanadas or fresh fruit, surely better than anything you will find in North America or Europe). The midday hours were also great for bike adjustments, siestas and picking up a few last items for the race. The east side of Santiago is home to a neighborhood known as Lo Barnechea and is a hub for not only mountain biking, but all forms of adventure that the towering Andes just outside the city limits provide. We found many other riders in the days leading up to the event around this neighborhood, on the local trails of Las Varas and Durazno or browsing about the epic outdoor sports small appropriately named "Mallsport".
Should any reader be interested in doing Andes Pacifico (which you all should be!), I highly recommend the early arrival and days of leisure before the event to maximize the experience. If you are from the Northern Hemisphere like myself, there is a good chance winter has made riding a challenge and acclimating to the loose Chilean antigrip soil is reason enough to venture down early. In addition to these important facts, I spoke last year about how small the EWS community felt at each event. Even a major tourism center like Whistler, was easy to isolate the other racers strolling through the village. I was amazed that Santiago, a city of 5.6 million, seemed so small in the days leading up to the event. Every trail ride, every stroll around Mallsport or the Lo Barnechea neighborhood had us interacting with other riders doing the same. Many locals would inquire, "Hola, are you here for Andes Pacifico!?" as if we had a sign on our chest. There is a special riding culture in Chile and whether you are an avid rider or not, the people of Chile love mountain biking and they all know Andes Pacifico. They are both excited and honored to greet and host the riders that come to visit their home.
Felipe Vasquez is arguably the most well known legend of the Chilean mountain bike scene and his reputation extends well into the global communities as well. He has been referred to by many as the unofficial Mayor of Santiago, and if I’m wrong, he will be now. Dave and I sparked a relationship with Felipe over the course of 10 years traveling to Chile for numerous events. Felipe along with his wife and 2 kids are among the most genuine and gracious hosts I have met anywhere in my travels. They are exceptional people, but more importantly, representative of nearly all the welcoming and enthusiastic Chilean cyclists. In fact, Francisco Poblete, a spectator who I shared an uplift with at the EWS last year saw that I was coming back to Chile for this event and reached out to say, "Anything you need help with in Chile, let me know!". This community is special and anyone who visits will quickly realize this. When you come to visit, you are family. Their homes become yours, complete with family dinners, dishes, laundry, shopping, playing with the kids, cats and dogs. Life carries on as normal and you become a part of it. There is also no better person to know out on the trails than Felipe. He brought us around to a couple of the many locations in and around the city limits to ride the best Santiago has to offer. For such a large city, it is quite impressive how many great rides begin with a pedal right from the doorstep. While we are on the topic, Felipe and MJ have even AGREED to an invitation up to Vermont so that Dave and I may repay the hospitality, photo story to follow!
The casual days have come to an end, the bike is dialed in. It's time to finally pack up and head to the first camp. In most settings, I consider myself having a shy and reserved demeanor, especially around new people. My most expressive state is on a bicycle and in that setting I become most alive. Arriving at the camp as riders begin to trickle in, it felt a bit awkward like that first day of school with all new classmates. There are a few well known professional riders that you might recognize, but for the most part there are heaps of unfamiliar new faces and languages. Many people came in groups, all the more intimidating for a mild introvert like myself, but after a minute or two of glancing around, I realized that all I needed to do was sit down and start talking about bikes. There is no doubt that every person at this event loves to ride a mountain bike. They are all present to experience an exceptional journey with their love, the bike (and maybe a significant other too). This was something we could all bond over instantly. Conversations quickly spiraled into each persons unique story of how their passion brought them to Andes Pacifico. Some are life long affinities with 2 wheels, some are only 2 years strong, but burn like a fire, while others are there to give there best crack at a race and some just to ride great trails in a foreign place. Some riders have attended one if not multiple of the 6 consecutive Andes Pacifico events. Those with experience tell tales of what to expect in the days ahead as we share beers before dinner.
If you are not familiar, this is a 5 day blind (meaning no practice runs) enduro stage race, starting high in the Andes mountains above Santiago, ending on the beach of the Pacific. That evening at the first post dinner briefing, the 5 day course map was unveiled. The map was a huge canvas spanning 4 x 4 square meters and although the world looked small in print up there on stage, it was evident that we were all in for 5 long days in the mountains.
Now for a quick bike check for my Andes Pacifico rig with some highlights for maximizing the unique soil and long descents here in the Chilean Andes. Having raced in this region before, I had some good indication on what bike setup was going to work as an ally versus an enemy. Most people have heard of the infamous anti-grip soil in Chile, but with 11 of the 17 stages having 700-1200 meters of descending as well, it will not only be important to increase traction but also lighten the load on the hands. The major advantages in bike set up all pair quite nicely. The quickest and mostly commonly used method to better traction here in the Andes is dropping tire pressure. I would normally run my tires at 22-25 psi depending on the conditions, but for this race I dropped my pressure to 18-20 psi. This not only increases the grip, but also damps the vibration on the hands for those long descents. I know what you are thinking, "18 psi!!! You must have had too much pisco and knocked your noggin!", but that's where the Vittoria Air-Liners come into play. This enabled me to run lower pressure without rolling tires or allowing the plethora of rocks to pinch my rim. As you will find out, 17 stages, heaps of rocks and high speeds with no flats! The next modification, similar to the first, less volume spacers and lower pressure in the suspension. I pulled a spacer from the fork and dropped pressure from 75 psi to 70 psi in the front and 205 psi to 190 psi in the rear. I also backed the compression off to essentially fully open, to soften the load and maximize grip. There may be a higher risk of bottoming out the suspension, but the advantage over the span of terrain is well worth it. The final modification, a custom frame wrap to protect my frame during all the shuttle rides complete with a very important "Andes Pacifico Checklist". Here are all the details laid out below.
Rider info: 6'0", 180 pounds
Frame: YETI SB150, 29, Large, Turq Series Carbon, Lifetime Warranty
Fork: Fox Factory 36 GRIP2, 1 orange volume spacer, 70 PSI
High Speed Rebound: 2 clicks from closed
Low Speed Rebound: 2 clicks from closed
High Speed Compression: 18 clicks from closed
Low Speed Compression: 15 clicks from closed
Rear shock: Fox Float X2, stock spacers, 190 PSI
High Speed Rebound: 15 clicks from closed
Low Speed Rebound: 14 clicks from closed
High Speed Compression: 14 clicks from closed
Low Speed Compression: 15 clicks from closed
Tires: Vittoria Martello Enduro 2.35 Front and Rear (with Graphene 2.0 and 4C)
Wheels: Vittoria Deamion Plus (35mm wide)
Flat Prevention: Vittoria Air-Liner Front and Rear
Shifter: Box Components .one. 11 speed Twin Shifter
Derailleur: Box Components .one. 11 speed
Cassette: Box Components .two. 11-46t
Bars: Box Components .one. DH Carbon handlebar cut to 760 MM wide 30mm rise
Stem: Box Components Cusp Stem 45 MM length 20 mm spacer under stem
Grips: Box Components .one. Grips
Brakes: Shimano XT with 203mm rotors Front and Rear
Cranks: Raceface Turbine 175 mm with 34 tooth Raceface Cinch chainring
Chain Guide: MRP AMG v2
Seat post: Fox Transfer
Saddle: WTB Yeti Edition
Next up, the race begins...
Learn more about the Andes Pacifico Enduro here
. Registration for 2020 is now open!