I can’t recall a time I’ve been frothing more to try and get a race report out… It’s got a 2014 type vibe to it, when I could sit endlessly for hours and just smash out content. Ah, the good old days before my mind was turned to mush by the mindless combo of an iPhone and all the shit it rots the brain with.
The fact I’m frothing over my keyboard is a testament to the overall radness of Andes Pacifico, but to be transparent, that’s retrospective love talking there. By the time day 2 rolled around and I hauled myself off the creaking camp stretcher with 5 hours sleep this time and a deep blood lust to commit Roostericide on the nearest cock I could hunt down (Alas I lost that race to Julie, a part timer at that. Abysmal), I still wasn’t fully head over heels in love with the AP.
No, on Day 2 I was still trying to figure this Chilean puzzle out, it was an odd phase to be in with only two stages down, the anticipation of another 14 to come was intriguing to say the least. It wasn’t really until the last half of stage 2 on Day 1 that things felt like they’d gotten rolling, so I’m pretty sure everyone wanted more.
But don’t fucking worry about that, we were about to be force fed like unwitting ENDURO geese, with more gnar and stories than my keyboard pecking fingers know what to do with. In fact, Day 2 was so big that by the end of it, there was a general agreement that it actually felt like two separate days. Not only was it the only day with 5 race stages and a whopping 21.9km’s of racing to be had, plus a muthafucken camp transfer, but it also contained the most insane transfer I can ever remember doing in a race.
Please be forewarned here – Big day = Monster frothing post, so usual coffee & pastry rules apply. Given its such a big day, enough with me fucking about trying to do intricate scene setting, let’s get to the jam. Indeed it was an early start for the first transfer as the fleet of soon to be fingerbanged Eurocar rentals assembled.
Little did we know when we rolled out of camp early that morning, it would be a good 15 or 16 hours until we saw our tents again. If we weren’t so finger banged we may have had faux outrage at such a thought, but we just smiled and filed out for the day like little ENDURO piggies to the anti-grip slaughter.
The first real Portage presents itself
I may be about as useful as Nigel Farage when it comes to doing accurate maths, but even I knew when I looked at the race bible that going up 600m vert in 4.6km’s with 75m down thrown in was going to mean our down tubes would be massaging our necks at some stage. It was indeed time to portage this shit. Good thing then it was 28 degrees and another bluebird Chilean day. To be noted, if you want to participate in a dry race with a guarantee of no rain, then this muthafucka is for you.
The #SwissMissile was really enjoying his brand new 510 shoes, which were having a good time by breaking themselves in and devouring his cheese tasting ankle flesh, which reminds me to stick a Dirty tip in your face: Don’t come here with brand new shoes and also don’t come here with old shoes. You need to goldilocks the fuck up on the shoe front… Relatively new, but nicely broken in and no signs of cunting out. Despite the foot torture, my jokes about boarding school hazing and light casual sodomy kept him entertained…
First thing in the morning this was indeed a tough gig, but given I felt 50% less of a Zombie fuckbag than I did on Day 1, it actually felt reasonably invigorating. According to the Garmin we encountered gradients of 44%, which is enough to make anyone strike an ENDURO fashion pose at the mere mention of an iPhone camera being unlocked.
Today’s profile in good cuntishness focuses on one of the Ambassadors of Radness from the Santa Cruz crew, none other than Ratboy! Actually, calling him a GC feel like a tremendous understatement – I would challenge anyone to find a more authentically rad and chilled out dude to hang with at a bike race… I’m doing my best to finish this paragraph without sounding like more of a stalker than my file at Pon Holdings HQ indicates, but the Rat is one classic dude to be around at a race. Always cruising, always up for a rap and massively stoked to be riding a bike – If ‘Cool’ had an ambassador, this would be it:
You can tell it was still early in the week because A) I’m smiling like a muppet which doesn’t have a speaking part B) My trusty fishing hat hasn’t turned the colour of a dead rodent and C) I’m still climbing with my kneepads on. This photo serves no real purpose other than to remind me how I spent zero time preparing for carrying my bike up mountains, in 2019, don’t be like me.
And so begun the daily process of me arriving at the first stage of the day feeling like it was lunch time and also fairly desperate to unleash turdzilla… Yes, this was a theme that would soon become business as usual as the logistics of this event started to crystallise. But enough about walking and bowel movements, you’re here for the racing and inappropriateness.
Stage 3 – Santuario: 7.1km’s with 1,125m drop
He loves me – Stage 3 had something interesting in store for us: The biggest vertical drop of the week at 1,125m and it was also the second equal longest stage of the week. You’d be correct in concluding that they don’t believe in the concept of easing into things here in Chile, why wade out gingerly when you can dive off the rocks into an unknown depth of water? Hola muthafuckas!
After a 2.5 hour hike and giggle session, we picked up pretty much where we left off at the end of Day 1, blind racing down a surface that if you’re being kind you’d call it ‘Moon dust’ in nature, but more realistically it was a quarry pretending to be a mountain bike trail, please take the time to squint into this slightly out of focus Go PRO screen grab to get my drift (pun intended):
A new feature that Day 2 introduced was the ‘Traverse of Death’, which seemed to permeate most of the stages. It had a simple and consistent recipe of terror: Fast entry, narrow, off camber and then garnished with a light dusting of the finest Anti-Grip, served to you on a platter of high consequence exposure. For those who left camp with a stubborn stool on board, this was guaranteed to generate some movements, especially when your back wheel started to slide uncomfortably close to the point of no return:
Next up – Behold the terror of running wide at a speed slightly higher than you’d like to find yourself on track to meet up with one of your top 3 riding fears: Indiscriminate loose rubble. I have to call it rubble as its not really gnar, nor is it gravel, but most importantly its not affixed to anything meaningful – Kind of like your last remaining unmarried friend who’s decided to take up Bickram yoga this week, just because.
We’re not even halfway through the first stage of the day yet and already it was signalling it was quite a classic, alarmingly it hadn’t yet felt like we’d dropped that much vert. This screen shot is included for both artistic purposes, check out the contrast, but also as a reminder that I’m not pedalling at this point as I’m completely spun out, instead tucked and muttering a variety of ones favourite curses under the panting.
In case you were getting bored, the only thing we had to fear was fear itself – Lies, we actually had the second half to tune us right the fuck up. After idiotic heroic sprinting up the midway point climb, this beast jacked up the gnar and really started to plunge towards the valley. Add in multiple line choices, some immovable gnar and cactus trees the size of buildings waiting for you to make poor decisions and it was clearly very ON:
Ok, so it was clear this cunt was wild, no question, I’m thinking about as wild as you’d want a stage to be while blind racing, and that was before we got to the switchbacks. As we can see here from the off-camber gnar entrance, the #SwissMissile practices the approved “Holy fuck this cunt is actually turning right” switchback management protocol:
I need to choose my words carefully here, but the length of this thing was also wearing me out… Alarming. I eventually succumbed to its plentiful Anti-Grip when my Maxx-Grip DHF finally said “We’re not paid for this shit bro” and let go as I tried to skim across the top of a large rock lovingly coated in Anti-Grip approved moon dust, with predictable results.
Its not an everyday thing racing a mental 20 minute plus stage, which may help to explain why I’m sitting down here like a pregnant donkey, you know shit is real when you sit down on a retracted dropper post mid stage to pedal it like a clown bike, but in my defence I had passed 16 people, so the ENDURO load had not been blown in vain.
This was one of those stages you got to the end of realising that you’d just ridden something next level, but so brutalised it was going to take you some time to digest that shit and get the feeling back in your hands. Even my attempted fist-a-thon at the end met with little enthusiasm from others as arm pump ruined the Fistevities. To the stopwatch please:
- Mark Scott – 15.12 for 2nd overall
- Dirty Nomad – 23.13 for 44th overall and 9th in Masters
The difference more than a couple of hours of sleep makes! A semi respectable result of sorts, but the maths & data geeks out there will be quick to recognise that this was well off the usual 46 second per KM deficit to Mr Scott, confirming his superiority in, well, all aspects… Would be reasonable to deduce he is one fit muthafucka.
There was a downside to this mental stage of radness, I had somehow managed to cook my Saint brakes to fuck thanks to my pussy assed Dad braking*, meaning the rest of the day was going to be as noisy as it was sketchy.
*A term first coined by the legend that is Matt Letch of Trans Provence folklore, he outlined to us that when you get fingered or just generally terrified, you tend to brake a modern ENDURO bike like it was your dad riding it, which is too say way too much and in all the wrong places.
The herd commences the great migration
The one thing that will strike you early on about Andes Pacifico is that the logistics are fucking cray. I’m not just talking about the 30+ pick up trucks, or that there are more support staff than riders, granted those are part of the story, but ultimately this is about the mental terrain and locations the AP crew takes you. We hadn’t really scratched the surface yet, but on Day 2 we were about to get the Masterclass on what this crazy mission was all about.
Normally a vehicle transfer in a race isn’t worthy a mention; load up the van or truck, head up the road blah blah. But this shit was not normal, not by a long way. I did try quite hard to take photos that captured how fucking gnarly this transfer was, but nothing really does it justice. There’s something invigorating about having a total stranger drive you up an Alpaca track that has drops off the side several hundreds of metres down. Check out the lead truck to get a feel for the fact this shit was getting real:
You know shit is getting serious when the convoy has to queue up for trucks to individually tackle sections of the track, I don’t think you can call it a road, this was not really a place you could rock a van or car to be blunt. Here’s a hot tip – For those into the power of thought, when riding in a pick up truck on the road of doom directly from an Indiana Jones movie, don’t be the cunt that sits in the back wondering about the chances/liklihood of a flat tire…
I invoked the usual Dirty Nomad flat tire protocol, standing around taking photos while someone who’s not mechanically retarded like myself fixes things. To be fair, once Mark explained to the driver I didn’t even know how to change a pair of brake pads on my bike, he politely but firmly refused my offers of assistance. I therefore reverted to dropping “Grassy-Arse” every time his sweat beaded face looked up at us and the circling Condors, who had assumed we were the latest sacrifice that the highway to hell had to offer.
As the Mountain Biking Taliban unit filed past us with horns being thrown out the windows, we were soon left at the rear of the column with any dreams of getting to the summit first vaporised. It also dawned on us that this was one serious fucking place to be hanging out with a significant vehicle issue… Not that there was a problem, but we did feel swallowed up by the vastness of this crazy landscape. Here I was massaging my white knuckles (To be noted, I’m not what you would ordinarily call a nervous passenger) while surveying the vastness of the Andes, thinking that it couldn’t get more mega than this. Little did I know that Day 2 was a mere warm up for what was to come next… But more on that later.
Bearing in mind this was ‘only’ a 29km transfer, it wasn’t far off 3 hours in total between when we rolled out of Stage 3 and arrived at the summit to line up for stage 4. Which is probably a good time to remind prospective racers in 2019 that this, like most multi day races, requires a good dose of ‘go with the flow’ vibe about it, patience is key.
There’s no rushing this shit, and the timetable is as malleable as my parenting resolve so you need to be ready for what may feel like a long haul at times. This isn’t your strict EWS timing format by any measure – Which is something I was about to find out didn’t exactly work well with my weaknesses. Massive shout out and respect to the Monten Baik team and all the drivers for nailing some insane logistics without a glitch, its impressive shit.
Now stand back and watch as I turn into a fucking gimp yoyo for the next 4 stages as we drop 2,000m, am I young enough to holler “Yeooooow“?
Stage 4 – Raja Motores: 3.3kms with 420m drop
He Hates me – I think Stage 4 was the first time it occurred to me what one of the biggest challenges of this race was, for me at least, which was something I never got on top of all week.
Like an overworked Russian airliner, I generally go best running hot, which is to say back to back stages with minimal down time. If you’re like me and have a laborious and problematic start up sequence, then this race will challenge you. By the time I dropped into Stage 4 it had been close to 3.5 hours of chilling and shit talking, making me as wooden as a Chilean mountain dildo. Add into the mix a combo of deep shale and lots of pedalling and in summary, it did not go well.
It was also a reminder that this is a race perhaps best suited to those with an XC background as opposed to DH… Which is to say, there’s a reasonable amount of pedalling in this gig, don’t rock up here and expect to freewheel through the Andean epicness. While I cultivated an inner tantrum about my in-stage performance, at least it gave good photo.
One can also rightly assume that many goats were sodomised to bring us a trail like this, the below screen grab not only another poster child for riding through terrain looser than your bi-sexual cousin, but also highlighting that classic AP landscape where you look up and instinctively think one thing:
Stage 4 was a bit of a dickhead to be honest and not great if you like vegetation, so we won’t dwell on it. I knew I had ridden like a drunk muppet before I arrived at the end and rode into a moshpit of fuckwittery…
A shit load of moon dust and a horrendously cold start, not to mention an inability to adapt saw a predictable slide backwards in the timekeepers book:
- Mark Scott – 5.14 for 5th overall
- Dirty Nomad – 7.27 for 56th overall and 15th in Masters
Stage 5 – Bumps: 6kms with 620m drop
He Loves me – Stage 5 start was only 1.5km’s from the end of 4, which meant we arrived not only with the turbine spooled up, but also with a minimal queue to drop in. After the messiness of 4, I was keen to keep this shit rolling.
Admittedly I was bemused at the start of stage 5, or should that be confused? We’d really trekked all the fucking way up here for what felt like a bit of a ‘Meh’ trail in stage 4? Peering off into the distance, there was no real clues as to whether or not number 5 was alive… Only one way to find out:
Holy fuck – This thing was wild! It appeared to consist of super high speed marginal as fuck ruts, encouraging you to carry as much speed into the little pinch climb which was giving you the finger on the horizon. Those that remained pinned obviously banking a massive upside on the flipside… Those that sanity braked having to burn matches to get the job done:
We’d been given the heads up that this stage was called ‘Bumps’ thanks to the whoops sections that local Moto riders had carved into the terrain. Allegedly some people were hitting these at 60kph, which given my collarbones are still intact I clearly didn’t. The Go PRO flatten these right out, but trust me when I say they were eye brow raising when you hit them at speed – Especially if you have no idea how to double anything, ever:
While ‘bumps’ had a high octane vibe about it, it also hid the 3rd most climbing for a stage all week, mostly served up to us in the manner described above where the more you held your nerve, the less effort had to be dispensed. Given I was already a race car in the motherfucking red, it didn’t seem to be too much of a chore. Besides, it was a stunning view to be frank…
Stage 5 finished off its general awesomeness with some solid gnar and a high speed gas to the line, where I arrived hot on the heels of the #SwissMissile, who of course was well drilled on what needed to be done at the end of another 13 minutes of wild racing in Anti-Grip conditions:
Hey presto, much like a Richie Rude mood swing I was back into my mildly more respectable slot from the start of the day, the question being however, was a pattern emerging?
- Mark Scott – 9.49 for 2nd overall
- Dirty Nomad – 13.20 for 44th overall and 9th in Masters
Stage 6 – Moto: 1.3kms with 235m drop
He Hates me – The shortest stage of the week, thank fuck, as for me this one was a shitmobile. I tried to get some solidarity around this point, but some people really seemed to enjoy it, weirdos. Again it was the issue of a lot of sitting around between stages (mainly due to the timing set up), with a full cold start required again, which meant that by the time things got going, the show was all over on this mini stage. This thing was such a dickhead, it gets one screen grab only. Sucked cunt:
I also don’t get out of bed for less than 400m of elevation drop in a stage, hence a predictable schlonging in the results followed as I yo-yoed back down into pool-ball in the mouth territory.
- Mark Scott – 2.09 for 4th overall
- Dirty Nomad – 3.19 for 49th overall and 13th in Masters
Stage 7 – Penon-Chicureo: 4.2kms with 725m drop
He fucking Loves me – Given it was getting on to closer to 7.30pm or so and with stage 6 being a bag of fucks, it was time to keep the turbo spooled up, get pushy with the queue and get stuck into the final knife fight on what was turning into a legendary day. Given the up and down nature of the stages, this one was scheduled to not eat a dog’s ass, which based on the 725m vert drop and shorter length seemed likely.
Mark disagreed however, what you can’t see here is that this was the second crash of the stage for him, with crash #1 removing the seat and leaving a very sharp scrotum removal device protruding from the top of his Fox Transfer post – It was either bravery or excessive keenness that saw him ride most the stage hovering over the razor metal prongs, kudos:
It didn’t take long to work out this was a rad stage, and I naturally allowed my mind to wander to the outstanding pattern that had emerged of a day that had stages in a sequence of Rad-Turd-Rad-Turd-Rad, my rat like brain drifting to blog drafts until it was jarred back into the moment by impending disaster at the hand of Rear D maiming rock formations. It was somewhere around here that Jon Cancellier performed arm surgery on himself if my memory serves me correctly, nasty business.
Once it dispensed with some nastiness up top, 5 then switched its attention to full on nitro shit, which had the distinct scent of braaaaaap about it. It was one of those trails that was as fast as you could manage – I attempted to oblige this madness, with only the occasional Mr Safety squeeze on my now screaming Saint callipers, and yes, for a moment I did wonder if I was on an African safari…
This thing was as cool as fuck – If you lived around these parts you’d probably want to throw a few pesos at a drunk guy to drive you up here to jam in as many runs as you could manage daily. The froth was high and the Nomad 4 was eating up everything in sight like the Amateur ENDURO race bike it really is. Indeed, what made a big part of the day super rad was the fact that I genuinely felt like I was on a machine designed exactly for this kind of craziness. Holy shit, we were having fun?! Unheard of.
Stoke factor after hitting that stage finish beep? Excessive to say the least… With the wild beast of stage 1 and the flat out fever of stage 5 the day had been bookended by fucking good times and with the crew assembled at the end of the run, it was time to commence self-congratulations:
Good sensations are one thing, having the Timing Bot nod its head in mildly bemused admiration in another – Best stage result for the week thus far and finally into the top half of the field for a stage… Cancel that Marathon XC career, blind stage racing is the new EWS.
- Mark Scott – 7.31 for 1st overall
- Dirty Nomad – 10.06 for 37th overall and 6th in Masters
For the data geeks, this had me going about 10 seconds per KM faster in the stage versus Mark than I would normally be in an EWS stage, so I shall take that shit and put it straight in the spank bank.
Daily result – A climb up 16 places from Day 1 to 44th overall for the day and 9th in Masters had a slight modicum of improvement about it, I even spent an extra 5 minutes at the big screen TV letting my inner results monkey furiously beat off.
Its not over until you fart in your tent
To expand on the theme I touched on earlier around crazy logistics, getting to the end of an AP day doesn’t necessarily mean its actually the end of the day. In this instance we got busy stuffing our faces road side with excellent snacks & coke put on by the race crew, before jumping back in our trusty shuttle for a 100km transfer to the next camp.
Generally this means getting to camp somewhere between 9.30pm to 10pm… I can’t really recall, I just remember the haze of having a million things to do before being able to crash out. Food, shower, gear for tomorrow, lame attempt to stretch, results wanking, half a beer, talking shit with rad cunts, massage, glass of red wine, farting in the dinner queue and pointing at The Tod when people started to dry retch – There’s a lot to pack into one of these evenings.
And then there’s the bike faffing… Given I’m lucky enough to be rolling a Nomad 4 with Reserve wheels, you’re only really looking at a chain lube to be honest, whilst people with cunted tires and wheels look over at you with a mix of envy/enve and frustration. However I had flame grilled my Saint brakes, so there was that small issue… Not to mention getting them sorted.
I think in the end I went to bed around 12.45am, with the worlds longest brake bleed entering its 3rd hour. Its a weird feeling creaking down onto a camp stretcher trying to recount a day that in its own right would normally be one of the biggest of the month, if not the year, in normal riding terms. 57 minutes of frantic and wild gnar had buzzed under my tires in the race stages for the day, which is almost an entire EWS weekend of racing volume. As I lay there trying to process it all and bathe in the memories of a banger, little did I know…
Tomorrow was going to be much bigger