When I started the Day 1 report I posed a question as to whether this was a series of race reports, or an experience exposé. Up until Day 3, that decision was pretty clear cut, this was about the sweet beeps of timing equipment and clutching your results slip close to your chest while trying to casually canvas your mates as to “How’d you go bro“.
However, Day 3 arrived and decided to change everything. For us amateurs at least, this was a day where ‘racing’ would take a distant back seat to a much bigger picture… A picture so Yuuuuge that not even an iPhone panoramic photo can capture it… A day so fucking big we really don’t even have more time for scene setting to be blunt, otherwise this post will crash the Dirty Server with its girth.
There’s an argument to be had that Day 2 was actually the ‘Queen’ day in the race, with the most KM’s raced and the greatest racing elevation drop, but I’d propose that Day 3 was actually the real queen, a notion that carried some weight when one looked at the trusty race bible – Trust me when I say you don’t want to lose this thing all week:
Was anyone actually ready to take on that sort of profile diagram? After the Day 2 antics I’d woken for the early Day 3 start feeling like I’d just been hit in the head by the cleaners broom in a Zurich underground club, to find myself wearing only a Specialized SWAT vest, the taste of rubber in my mouth and the faint scent of ruffies about me. Given we were seriously heading into the Andes this time, this felt ‘suboptimal’… That’s cuntspeak for “I’m going to get reamed by mother nature like I was Brandi Love’s bad stepson“, FYI – From a Google perspective that’s NSFW.
Once more it was into the now very second-hand looking truck fleet and off into fuck know’s where… But it was another case of taking the data we had received on estimated trip time and then doubling it. When they say it takes an hour to get there, that usually means it takes an hour to get to the insane off road track you’ll crawl up for another 1.5 hours. Craziness was on the breakfast menu:
As we started our gnar filled ascent towards outer space, a series of unnerving sights greeted us. To start with an army of cactus soldiers stared silently at us, laughing on the inside and delighted with the sacrifices that the Eurocar rental armada was bringing them:
Then a herd of Chilean Mountain Horse Donkey’s began laughing at us, hysterically, their weathered coats, large knowing eyes and sharp hooves indicating they knew where we were going and that it wasn’t going to be kind to our soft middle aged asses.
Its not every day you get an uplift to 3,000m, or even go up that high at all… This feat of logistics once again underlining the audacity, passion and sheer madness that the Monten Baik team have for immersing you in some, well, er, EPIC Chilean action. I’m not sure many people would have the machismo to bring 1 truck up here, let alone 30, its an experience in it’s own right:
Its a liaison Jim, but not as we know it
So forget the 2.5 hour drive to this point, that probably doesn’t even count as an entree to be honest, it was more of a light finger food situation. No, the whole banquet of insanity was about to be served up to us. Even though I had looked at the race bible and knew we had a total liaison of 11.2km’s with 885m to climb and 485m to descend before the first race stage, I still felt oddly naive about what exactly that would be like… Much like a Bill Clinton intern, I knew it was going to be a little crazy, but fuck me if I didn’t quite grasp what that really entailed.
Just so we’re clear on context so there’s no confusion – This was the very start of the liaison, straight off the trucks at 3,000m and in 30 degree heat…
Well, given we weren’t there to fuck spiders, the only way was literally up. And so began the great Andes Pacifico Death March… And I do mean march. It didn’t take long to work out that this was definitely going to be a one foot at a time scenario and I mean that in the actual sense of how I had to think about that shit instead of just walking up a hillside. The effects of altitude made themselves known from the first moment I picked up the Nomad 4 and lay it on my neck.
At least there was a conglomerate of Good Cunt’s on this mountain side to share the insanity with as we trudged forward. In today’s Profile in Good Cuntishness – Part 1, this was personified by the three lads from Trans Cascadia, Nic, Alex and Tommy. Pretty much permanently stoked, eye wateringly fast and generally rad dudes always up for a rap about anything, these are the kind of golden units that you hope to meet on a bike race. Additional bonus they all rolled Santa Cruz’s and Shimano obviously:
Not that I needed any more data points on my performance at altitude from Day 1, but I was in the middle of confirming that I am indeed a giant slab of cunt above 3,000m, plus I’m not great at carrying my bike, which was turning out to be a poor combo. I won’t be getting an invite to be Chris Ball’s sherpa any time soon, but fuck me if my fishing hat wasn’t dominating…
Every time we got over a brow or a false summit, guess what – There was more pain being dished out than you’d find at your crazy aunties amateur S&M group’s monthly get together. Also just a reminder, this wasn’t one of those situations where it was getting cooler the higher we got, I was finally being vindicated in my theory that the closer to the sun we climbed, the hotter it got. Fuck you science.
It was now clear to most of us amateurs what this was and what we had secretly considered for the last few hours – If Godzilla fucked King Kong doggy/monster style, then this liaison would be its insane offspring, except, well, it was also Mars:
To put some data on this that will hopefully bring to life how fucking massive this muthafucka was, when we finally crested the first climb of the liaison we had travelled 2.5kms in 2.5 hours, or as Chris Ball would call it: “A nice warm up“. Real… Fucking… Talk. I may not be a mathlete, but even I know that’s some crazy shit. Within our group we summarised that the Everest bid was clearly off the table.
Ok, so we’re now at 3,520m, which isn’t far off Mount Cook height and its 27 degrees or so, which is basically like being at the fucking beach… I was starting to feel like I’d been gang banged by a herd of handsome Alpacas, except with less oxygen.
Profile’s in Good Cuntishness Part 2 – You’ll be pleased to know that this hardship didn’t impose on my PRO stalking form at all, taking the opportunity to ambush a gaggle of resting professionals for absolutely the one thing they were all hoping for – Over zealous customer photos… Even the Mountain Horse Donkeys knew this was wrong while Mark Scott has PTSD flashbacks to Madeira. Even though he was battling for the win and I was dribbling and slurring my words, Mark is always up for a chat and a photo, even if you appear to be twice his size.
What we faced next was the personification of the whole Frying Pan to Fire scenario. Many of us got semi excited at the thought of the a downhill at last, but it quickly became apparent there were two significant issues. Firstly, and I’m being authentic for a moment, this was possibly the worst section of descending liaison I’ve ever struck in a race, to say it sucked is being diplomatic, this was the good bit before I turned the camera off in disgust:
It was loose and deep to the point of being more sketchy than the race stages and a lot of us had to pull up to discuss WTF was going on? Shit got so weird that Adrian started to speak to me in Welsh, which was alarming as I had spent 2.5 days thinking he was Scottish.
If you can get through a 5 day race without a tantrum then power to you… I can’t and it was this total fuckhead of a descent that final lit my fuse. The only thing about losing your shit up here and yelling a collection of swear words in a useless emotional display is that the Andes just soaks up all your despair and keeps on doing its thing, which of course is just generally being massive, insane and patient. It doesn’t care about your feelings…
The second problem with going down was of course that it led directly to the push back up. At the bottom of the descent my mind was blown that we weren’t even really halfway into this liaison and as we began to push back up, I started to consider the very real prospect that I was going to run out of food and water.
Ok, so I will be honest and say that at this point as I really struggled to walk for more than 2 minutes without stopping that I actually started to think that someone had made a mistake… Did they actually mean to make it this, yes, EPIC? Had someone gone rogue with the course setting? We naturally assume Race Organisers have it dialled all of the time right? But I did stop and wonder if this was actually a slight fuck up. Did that make me weak? Did that mean I was unworthy? Did they get Nino Shurter to scout the route on an eBike? I mean fuck, even the locals weren’t providing much encouragement:
Intel reports suggested that this was the first time this route had been used in the race, which I guess made us fat ENDURO guinea pigs. Did they really mean it to be this hard? When I wasn’t muttering “What the fuck” like a crazy person, I was genuinely stunned by the incredible vistas, I mean seriously? Holy fucking SHIT:
I assume that this is referred to as ‘Character building’, which is cuntspeak for “This is some marginal shit and if it goes sideways and a helicopter is needed, then that shit is on you dawg” If you’re wondering why I have so many photos that sort of look the same, the simple explanation is that I had to stop every 50m to avoid having a stroke. If you’re also wondering why I’m going on about this so much, the doctors said it would help with the PTSD if I screamed all my inside voices out into the MTB Internet echo chamber.
But of all the shots that I took, this is the one that for some reason best captures the suffering that most of the amateurs were now encapsulated in:
Adrian (seen here in red with his head down in the classic Day 3 pose) and I had just spent some time collapsed on the rocks in the background, contemplating the next phase of grovel pushing and hoping we’d get to see our families again. Those rocks only look a few minutes away and the gradient looks like something you’d easily spin up, maybe not even in first gear. However, at this height and with this heat, the environment makes those thoughts pure fake news. In reality we were walking perhaps 10 or 20 metres at a time, stopping, saying fuck and then considering which was the next marker that we could aim for.
If it appears that I’m moaning louder than a fake orgaism, then that’s mainly due to both my self loathing that I did essentially no prep for this kind of mission, and to impress on you dear reader that if you decide to partake in this event in future editions that you’re forewarned at what awaits. On reflection I’m not sure what I could have done to prepare for this day, other than become sexually repressed and joined a hiking club. No matter what prep could have been done, nothing could prepare one for the fucking insane views up here:
If your life usually consists of Netflix and cyber wanking on the Pinkbike comments sections, then me talking about how hard it was up here may not come across at all… Somewhere in the background of the above pic is the highest mountain in South America at around 6,900m, so for those that really wanted to “Get into the Andes man“, here it was in spades cunts, get some.
As I sat in the above rock pile, which looked like the same place R2D2 went to get sexually assaulted by gremlins in Star Wars, I had to consider one very reasonable question which was ping ponging around my head like a bad Thai trip with every dull thud of my altitude induced headache:
Was this the hardest thing I had ever done?
As I sit here now in my hairy ass hugging silky boxer shorts and try to recall the utter hammering I was receiving at the time from this mountain, I can categorically say that yes, I think perhaps it was. Ok, so Trans Provence in its entirety was probably harder including some crazy days, and EWS is always fucking hard no matter what… But this was something… different.
I think comparisons cheapen the experiences, but this liaison felt like it belonged in its own category which I hadn’t struck before. Maybe I’m missing some other big days, but if we want to split hairs then I can fall back on this being the hardest 11.2km’s of my life at least. And it still wasn’t over:
So in small mercies, at least we could kind of ride the last section to the start, but that still rounded out with it being a 4.5 hour liaison since we had stepped out of the trucks. 3.5 litres of Electrolyte drink had disappeared from my Camelbak and one altitude headache had taken up residence in my cranium. Lucky then we had some shade to chill out in:
To highlight the pacific ocean in distance between Master amateurs and PRO’s, as my parched lips spewed out the dialogue that this was indeed one of the hardest physical escapades I had ever encountered, Jesse Melamed, looking like a Canadian squirrel on meth, enthusiastically sung out “Actually dude I thought that was pretty mellow“, my dead eyes just stared at his beaming baby face, secretly hoping that ‘mellow’ was millennial speak for saying this was harder than trying to defuse a tactical nuclear device that had 45 seconds left on the clock whilst receiving a rim job. As I left any vestigates of sanity leave my body, the #SwissMissile had already beaten me to insanity:
If you’re feeling exhausted by this point in the post then fucken HELLO, that’s obviously the point… It was now approx 7 hours since I had loaded myself into the truck to leave camp and I had yet to hear the beep of a timing chip indicating another ENDURO fingering was about to commence. I did complain recently that I had lost my Hardcore, so clearly this was the cycling gods paying me out on that shit, with interest rates not seen since the 1980’s.
Oh yes – There was a race too
Ok, so I agree it almost feels like an afterthought at this point, but we did have a race to do and after 7 hours we still had 21.6km’s of racing to get through, or about the same distance as the whole of Day 2 still to be done. 3 monster stages licked their anti-grip lips at the thought of having their way with some very broken amateurs.
Excuse me while I summarise the actual racing bit here, the reason I’m doing that is because this should really be a podcast, but also by the time I dropped in to Stage 8, I didn’t really feel like I was racing any more… Other than to the desperately needed lunch & water stop. If you’ve been exhausted by this opening word diarrhoea gusher, then as John McClane once rightly said: Welcome to the party pal.
Stage 8 – Copin Alto: 7.7km’s with a 920m drop
The longest stage of the whole race with the third biggest vertical drop <<Horrified Emoji>>, so some pretty fucking BIG data points to consider when getting counted down into the stage, especially given we had lost bits of our souls getting up there most of the day.
Good thing then I felt about as animated as a used condom you just accidentally stood on with bare feet in the picnic area while you watch the kids eating the grass. Actually, I was even more cunted than that, but hopefully you get the picture. With a mouth drier than a shaved camel scrotum, it was time to… Get it done? Fuck whatever.
Actually Stage 8 was pretty simple really – The top was so fucking fast it pointed and laughed profusely at my 30 x 11 gearing, rolling around on the floor telling its friends on the Group chat that some cunt turned up with such ridiculous gearing and was then also too rooted to tuck into an aerodynamic position.
54kph doesn’t sound that impressive as a top speed, but when its on top of gravel a quarry would be proud of and your inner spirit animal is actually dead from dehydration, it does feel quite fast (FYI – Mark Scott hit 67kph around the same location… Da Fuck?). Luckily for me PROtographer Gary Perkin was on point to capture this sequence of me wishing for the first time ever that I had 820mm wide bars:
I’m also the guy that dropped in the fastest stage all week, with the most epic scenery and terrain and didn’t turn his Go PRO on until all the amazing shit was over… But in a Suicide Squad move I did manage to flick it on as we got lower down and stuck into the gnar flavoured butt plug zone. After the Mach 5 top section, this was a rocky shake up that would have impressed even a dysfunctional White House:
Weirdly, like new relationship sex, it was over faster than I expected… That 7.7km’s vaporising quicker than my will to live on the hike up the Mountain. I think even the #SwissMissile was horrified at the weakness of my fisting:
So there were results as well… I’m not sure I can recall rolling into a race stage with a splitting headache and out of water, but apparently its the platform for a cunty outcome, this result perplexing as I didn’t feel that slow, but was:
- Mark Scott – 9.44 for 5th overall (yes, quite sharp for 7.7km’s no?)
- Dirty Nomad – 13.52 for 53rd overall and 14th in Masters
Because things we’re mental enough already, the advertised lunch stop at the end of Stage 8 actually didn’t exist… The only time all week the race bible didn’t align with reality. I didn’t give a fuck about lunch, but I was about to die of dehydration. It had gotten so bad I canvassed feedback on the possible side effects from letting a Marmot give you a golden shower for hydration purposes, my desperate plan dashed when someone pointed out we weren’t in the French alps… Word?! Full plot loss.
Profile’s in Good Cuntishness Part 3 – The #SwissMissile could see I was about to move into full reactor melt down territory, so given he doesn’t drink water because its not cheese, he transferred 50% of his precious remaining half a litre to me… Which I then drank in one gulp like a rabid cunt. Note to self, I’m the first one in the group to die if ever lost in the wilderness.
Stage 9 – Copin Bajo: 7.1km’s with a 695m drop
If Stage 8 felt shorter and faster than it should have, then Stage 9 was more than happy to step up and reverse that vibe. Aided by the second most volume of climbing in a stage all week, it was pretty unanimous that this stage felt incredible long and even longer than advertised. It felt like a precursor to my future in Marathon XC racing:
Given we had come into this stage hot, like roast chicken hot, and it was all that stood between me and luke warm coke, I was in full climb smashing mode to get through this beast. This included me going full gas on every climb mistakenly thinking it was the last one. Not everyone was as enthusiastic:
Scientists also confirmed that it contained the most pedal strikes in ENDURO history, which I can absolutely validate, probably because I was finger banged, but a lot of the time you had to choose between trying to pedal, or just give that shit up to tuck and pump this fucker. I’m pretty sure my DX pedal cages made love to every rock available on this stage.
Actually, there were parts of stage 9 that I felt like I was riding a bike about as well as I’ve ridden it since cunting myself in 2015. Up 15 slots overall from the previous stage and only 28 seconds per KM slower than Mr Scott… Weirdness:
- Mark Scott – 12.37 for 2nd overall
- Dirty Nomad – 16.02 for 38th overall and 9th in Masters
Beam me up, perhaps today wasn’t a total racing right off…. Wait, hold my beer.
Stage 10 – Los Casacajos: 6.8km’s with 935m drop
Oh yay, the ‘shortest’ stage of the day and the second biggest vertical drop all week should have generated some good karma, but step aside as ding ding, here comes the shitmobile! I’m not sure if it was because we sat around for fucking ages at the top or if it was because this was the longest day in the history of ENDURO, but the fucking wheels fell off bigly on this one – Sliding well and truly into famous & patented DN Melt Down territory. Look into the eyes of fuckbaggery… We have found the enemy and he is hairy:
It was extra awesome as I had taken another stomach raping energy gel which I didn’t want, only to sit around at the top long enough for all its goodness to pass through my shattered chassis and exit me in a gas form which was so weaponised I almost deserved to have a UN Inspection team visit me. I was therefore less energised or enthusiastic about rolling in to find a giant rut filled with what appears to be demolition rubble. Yay:
I could use the cold start as an excuse again, but the reality was that I was fucking flogged out to be honest. Besides, camera bag or not, when you see GP unleashing the tripod, you know shit is getting wild up in this bitch:
Wait, there’s Dave Trumpore, he usually stands in fucking awkward places for photos…
So then, this wasn’t going so well and I could feel the familiar melt down waving at me from the sidelines wanting to come on and play. After blowing through yet another hairpin going in the wrong direction, I was finally gunned down by the #SwissMissile, with his aerodynamic upgrade kit installed, he was a dead ringer for a mid 90’s Jurgen Beneke:
From that point on it was just a flailing Andean dumpster fire as I ate Swiss dust and butchered a million flat turns, my sprint was gone and my competitive spirit had been eaten by Chilean Mountain donkeys. The sun was setting, like really actually going down, which was super handy:
I went out of the stage with a whimper as opposed to a bang, pissing away time in my best impersonation of a Moscow hooker. The sMissile’s face said it all when we were reunited at the finish:
Holy shit, it was over… I couldn’t even really get words out. Racing result aside, I was confused how my fitness had abandoned me, proof that I’m a specimen that’s best operated under 3,000m in altitude. Given it was my only real crash of the week, the result wasn’t as bad as it should have been – I can only surmise everyone must have been fucked:
- Mark Scott – 8.45 for 2nd overall
- Dirty Nomad – 12.29 for 43rd overall and 12th in Masters
Daily result – A weird one, 43rd for the day overall an improvement and 12th in Masters meant I had gone backwards age group wise, so clearly Day 3 brought out the best in the old cunts, present company excluded.
In my haze of altitude headache and self loathing, and not to mention desperation to get back to camp, I mistakenly got in the one truck we had been given the quiet word to avoid all week… Whilst I won’t name the truck number, it promptly lived up to its reputation by getting separated from the convoy and lost on the way back to camp, the driver then getting into an argument with Google maps. Awesome – An experience which somehow seemed to fit perfectly into a day of this magnitude.
Well done if you’ve made it to the end of this mammoth post… Apologies, but I had to make it this big to not only try to outline the size of the day, but also bathe everyone in the minutiae of the kind of day that doesn’t come along very often. I will now be able to spend time at future races annoyingly saying to people around me “Cunts, its not that hard, you should have done Day 3 on Andes Pacifico…” It was a day you didn’t want to miss from an experience perspective, but also a day you probably wouldn’t rush to repeat.
Back at camp I was still feeling shell shocked at how fucking hard Day 3 was… With 2 days still to cum, was I going to fold like an origami Nomad, or would my multi day stage race beast rise from the ashes of my Los Andes dumpster fire? The Chilean goat with the rapey vibe and bigger balls than me who lived outside my tent had some advice for me, which I either hallucinated hearing or it really did happen:
Thanks Greg Minnaar, that’s some fucking solid advice to take into Day 4… Stay tuned.