24 February, 2009

Tour de la Patagonia

The StartI raced my first ever mountain bike stage race this past weekend, the Tour de la Patagonia. It was INCREDIBLE! The total riding distance was a bit over 210km (130 miles) and the total riding time was 8:45. We rode from San Martin de los Andes, Argentina to Chile, and back, over 3 days and spent 2 nights camping in some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Team Adventure StoreI admit that I was slightly surprised at how short the race was. I had been planning to spend something like 5 hours on my bike each day, but that didn't happen. It was more like racing 3 consecutive cross country races, which was great training. My teammate, Gustavo Munoz, a San Martin de los Andes local, is more of an adventure racer than a cross country mountain bike racer, while he can race for 3 consecutive days without stopping or sleeping, I was able to ride harder for the couple-hour stage each day. 
The race started in San Martin de  los Andes, Argentina, where Victoria and I are currently living, at 8:30AM on Friday, February 20th. It started with a 1 hr nuetral start that wound its way out of San Martin de los Andes and headed onto a dirt road towards Chile. The entire first day was dirt road and most of it was quite rough. I found that I consciously had to hold back to keep from dropping Gustavo, but we worked well together and had a good day. We finished the first day in 7th place after 3:07 (including the nuetral start).

We spent that night in a campground on the shore of Laguna Verde. It was beautiful. And it was really cool to be around so many bike people. There were somewhere around 200 teams, so 400 racers, as well as families and friends of the racers who came to hang out at the
Post-race Massage
 campground. Numerous shops from the area showed up with tents to help with mechanical issues, and there was even a (very intelligent) lady with a massage table charging for post-race massages. The lake was crystal clear and refreshingly cool. We hung out, ate, rinsed in the lake, and went to bed early.
The next morning, the race started at 8:15AM and we knew it was going to be the longest stage. We started off fast, and after the first (and only) long climb, we were in 5th place. Then started the toughest descent of the race. Not only was it brutally fast, it was also covered with loose, sharp rocks that took their toll on many. Unfortunately, we were included in those many. First Gustavo flatted. We stopped, changed his tire and only lost a couple of minutes. 5 minutes later, I double-flatted. I only had one tube, but he had an extra, so we threw them in and started to inflate them. But the valve broke on one of the tubes. And we had NO more tubes. So we started asking every racer who came by for a tube. The
The Ferry
problem was, we were stopped on a fast descent, so no one wanted to stop. Eventually, someone did stop, but another pair who had flatted in the same place ran over to him first and got his tube, so I was out of luck. Finally, Gustavo rode down a little further and was able to get a tube. He brought it back up, we put it in and headed off (after loosing about 30 minutes). We crossed into Chile and finished that stage strong, but our 30 minute break had cost us 10 places, and we finished 15th that day at 3:45, which put us in 9th overall. After finishing, we ate, relaxed and then some 300 racers (all of them that had finished at that point) boarded a ferry to cross Lago Pirihueico. Once on the other side, we crossed back into Argentina and had an additional 1 hr ride to get to the next campground. I was pretty tired by the end of all of this, but as the start the next day was not until 10:30, I stayed up a little bit and hung out with some other young racers I met from Buenos Aires (who ended up winning the Tour).
Turning onto singletrack
The last day started of fast, as usual, but quickly turned off onto singletrack for the first time during the race. This was, by far, my favorite part of the Tour. The singletrack climbed for a couple of miles, then descended on cool, fun, twisty beautiful trail. There were logs to jump over, sharp turns with a drop-off on one side, and the soil was perfect! After this, it went back to dirt road for the rest of the race. I pulled for Gustavo (blocked the wind for those non-cycling people) and we cruised along. We finished 7th in 1:40, but had lost too much time the day before to change our 9th place overall position. Out of 200+ teams though, I figure that wasn't too bad.
For anyone who is thinking of trying a mountain bike stage race, I highly recommend it. My only words of advice are: use Chamois Butt'r (or Vaseline) and remember sunscreen, a sun hat, and a bathing suit, which I forgot.
Here are some more pictures from the race:
The first stage campground
The first campground
The first stage finish
The first stage finish
Crystal clear water in Laguna Verde
Crystal clear water in Laguna Verde
Laguna Verde
Laguna Verde
Waiting for the ferry
Waiting for the ferry
2nd stage finish line
2nd stage finish line
Finishing the Tour de la Patagonia
Finishing the Tour de la Patagonia
If you would like to see all of my photos from the race, check out my Flickr album.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Macky!
This is so amazing. I'm so glad that you've been able to experience all these wonderful places in your travels over the past year! Seeing pictures and reading the stories I'm definitely putting a mountain bike stage race in the plans for 2010. I was thinking of doing the BC bike race for a bit this summer but I've had more injury hurdles to overcome and wouldn't be able to put more than 11 weeks of training into it which would include base so I'm not so sure. I also would like to meet up with you sometime soon after you come back so I can hear stories and get to hang out and ride with you! Anyway I'm going to go now and do a paper. Much love from VT & UVM!

- Jeff C