| || |
Ladies and gentlemen please fasten your seatbelt, immediately taking off to Santiago de Chile. On every Enduro World Series, I will carry you in my luggage and you'll get to live the race with us. You will have a rider perspective and live the adventure with the Rocky Mountain- Urge bp Rally Team.
EWS Chile Round 1: Inside the Rally Team
Alex, Flo and I were the first to jump on this adventure two weeks before the first round of the Enduro World Series. If I am saying adventure, it is because we have never been to South America. I have never been outside of Europe indeed, that is why we can call these two weeks an adventure and you are going to understand why. After a 15 hours flight, we arrived in Santiago. The airport there is a jungle where drivers are trying to catch every passenger. It is very messy. In the middle of this crowd, we eventually see Orlando our driver holding a signboard with “Mr.Cure” written on. When you are young in Chile, the problem is that you cannot rent a car, but the advantages are the discoveries and people you meet on the road. Orlando drives us to our first destination: La Parva, where we will race one round of the Montenbaik series on Saturday.
As soon as we arrive there the change of scenery is total! La Parva is a resort located at more than 2800meters. To reach it, you must take a road with 44 corners that gives a deep insight of how Chile is heterogeneous, from the wealthy center of Santiago to poor shelters. The more you go up the more the landscape is arid with cactus that you don’t even want to brush against. During autumn, there are only workers in La Parva rushing before the opening of the resort for the winter season. The least we can say is that our arrival here is noticed, they gaze us, smile to us and greet us. This week we stay in a little accommodation and take our meals at the only open restaurant, which is the workers canteen.
Our first ride there was very difficult on this loose and soft ground. There is no grip and we lose our front wheel in corners more than ten times, combined with the high altitude and the wild dogs that were always following us and stayed on our way, the first ride was definitely a hard one. After this tough adaptation, we finally got used to these conditions.
During the week, we started the practice for the Montenbaik and switch into race mode, always in a positive atmosphere. Two fast, very fast stages that start almost at the top at 3500meters and one long stage that starts at La Parva and goes down the valley toward Santiago, and these three stages offer an incredible view over the Pacific Andes. La Parva’s race is excellent training before the first round of the Enduro World Series at Nevados de Chillan. Florian finishes third behind Jerome Clementz and Nicolas Lau. Alex takes the 7th place which is a good sign for next weekend and eventually, I finish 2nd behind Anne-Caroline Chausson. This week in La Parva is beneficial both technically and physically. We have learned how to ride fast without grip and how to deal with the loose ground. After spending one week at an altitude where you are breathless even when climbing stairs, believe me you feel much stronger. Besides the training and the great results we had there, the landscapes have blown our minds away! These sharp and arid mountains are home to a welcoming Chilean people. The cooks in the canteen, the people in charge of the lifts, our concierge Titi, they all have made everything they could to make our week here the most pleasant possible. It is a lesson, giving without expectations. This could be the Chileans state of mind.
On Monday we hit the road to Nevados de Chilan. And what a long trip! After 2 hours in a shuttle from La Parva to Santiago, 3 hours waiting our next bus, we finally got on a bus that goes to Chillan. Well, that’s what we thought. The bus stops after one hour and drops us in the middle of nowhere with our luggage, bike travels and tickets but we are still smiling. I have told you it was an adventure and it is. We eventually got on the right bus and 5hours later, we are in Chillan. A last shuttle organized by the manager of our accommodation in Nevados ECOBOX and here we are!
The next day we ride and see for the first time Nevados de Chillan. We can’t stop smiling as we look around and see these landscape. From the top and its volcano covered by snow, to the red and orange leaves of small trees and to a huge forest very dense, we are definitely not disappointed. This place is spectacular. All the riders are now here and we can feel the pressure growing, but more than this everyone looks excited to discover the trails.
On Wednesday our Canadian team mate Jesse, our mechanics Nicolas, our cameraman Gaetan and our team manager Lilian join us. All the team is reunited, the race is in a few days and the pressure keeps growing but our motivation and determination do too.
On Thursday, it is time for the practices of the stages we race on Saturday. We need to ride the transfers as there are no lifts or even roads that lead to the start. After a long hike in volcanic dust which looks like walking on the moon, we are at the top of stage two on the edge of a forest with red leaves. I don’t need a lot of words to describe this stage apart from awesome, rad, unbelievable! Soft dirt that grips, sand parts, rocky sections, a steep part and from the top to the bottom several kind of conditions that were all so good to ride. Everything riders ever wanted. Nevertheless, Alex, Flo, Jesse and I realize that we are going to suffer on this stage as it is physically tough. Then, we practice the stage one which is almost all the way down in the sand. It is slippery and requires a lot of control. We finish this practice day on the stage 3 which is fast and rocky at the top, then once you enter the forest it is soft dirt with a lot of grip, finally we ride the bike park until the finish line. It is fast, very fast, even more than this!
On Friday, we practice the Sundays stages. To get to stage 4 we have to hike and carrying our bikes. Well, ok they hike up carry their bikes and I push mine. The start of stage 4 is near hot springs that have turned yellow due to the sulfur. This stage is winding with some technical parts in the woods. Then, we practice the stage 5, which is named “Olimpico” and it is aptly named! As physical as it is technical, this stage needs to be ridden fully clear-headed. Eventually, we practice the stage 6. Cling, it is going to be wild! We start in the snow on the volcano and ride fast sections surrounded by large volcanic rocks which are the remains of volcanic eruptions. The second part is once again in the soft dirt, in the woods with such a grip! Then, we ride a very steep part where no mistake is allowed and finally we head to the finish line through rocky sections. Back in the pit, our mechanics prepare our bikes and adjust the final settings. We pass the bike control and get our bikes marked with stickers. The start list is now official. We are ready, motivated as ever and ready to start racing.
Saturday: Day One
I am the first one to jump off the stage of the start following by Jesse, Alex and Florian. Flo is already at the front posts signing a second place on the stage 1 and doing this he confirms his excellent results of La Parva. Alex crashes but still finishes 17th. Jesse, after a long winter couldn’t race before this first round, and needs time to get into race mode, he is 34th.
Place your bets, the race is in full swing! On stage 2, Florian takes the third place followed by Alex who finishes 4th and feels more confident. It is difficult for Jesse to find the right pace, but he still finishes 37th.
The last stage of the day, the third one is the fastest of the weekend. Flo finishes 5th and takes the third place of this first day of race behind Jared Graves and Jerome Clementz. Alex finishes stage 3 in 14th place and concludes this first with the 8th rank. Our Canadian Jesse is 36th on this Saturday, a bit disappointed but looking forward to tomorrow to get better results. In the womens category, I finished fifth on each stage and ended up this day at the fifth position, ready to give my best to keep it on Sunday. Sunday: Day Two
We start in the same order as the day before and head to the stage 4. Florian finishes this one at the 9th position saying he had a little crash. You can watch the video of his crash on the Urge Bike Products’s Facebook page. We may not have the same idea of what a “small” crash is. After this massive crash that costs him precious seconds, Florian stays focused and calm. He knows that the day is still long and shows a strong self-control for his age. Alex finishes 10th and knows that he can do better. Jesse is motivated and gets better results. He finishes this stage at the 35th place.
Now, we go to stage 5. This stage puts most of us under a lot of pressure. We all have in mind that in this kind of physical stage, seconds go away rapidly. Florian stays in his good pace and finishes 5th just after Alex. His 4th place allows him to grab back seconds in the overall classification. Jesse gets his best result of the weekend, finishing 22nd and showing that he had a strong off season of physical preparation. I also have my best result of the weekend in the womens category finishing 4th after pushing really hard for it.
What will remain of this first round is that the race is never over before the finish line of the last stage. At the start of the stage 6, Flo is 4th behind Martin Maes who has a few seconds advance. Florian makes a clear run, staying focused all the way down. Now, we wait for the final racers. The screen finally shows the results. He did it! All the team is smiling, happy and proud of him. Flo finishes third overall behind Jerome Clementz and Jared Graves. This is his first ever Enduro World Series podium. Alex also has a strong result ending the weekend in 7th position. Jesse after improving his results of the Saturday finishes 31st and is looking forward to Scotland. I finish my weekend 5th, glad to see the results of my off- season preparation and with a large smile on my face after riding in this incredible place.
As we say a well built team is a team that wins. Chile reinforced team and assistance cohesion. Proud of our results and values we are happy to share this race report with you. We are passionate and hard workers, here is an insight of how we prepare and race the Enduro World Series. My last words are for our sponsors and partners that support us. Thank you to believe in us and make it happen. Finally, thank you to everyone for the great support! The young guns of the Rocky-mountain Urge bp are thankful and ready to give their best this season.
photos credit matt wragg