So it has finally begun, the special stages have been opened for practice and racers have been hitting the trails hard, working up to speed and finding the fastest lines. Opening rounds are always special, the racing will be explosive with everyone hungry for a win after a long winter! As the rounds roll on riders will fall into their natural stride, but all will be looking to make a statement on this opening round.
So, the race will unfold in the Nevados de Chillan, under the looming shadow of one of the most active volcanoes in the region. Riders will battle it out under the peaks of Cerro Blanco, Volcan Viejo and Volcan Nuevo, all over 3000m tall! The Nevados de Chillan Bike Park has become the epicentre of Mountain Biking in Chile and South America and taking in the epic views, you can see why! The team behind the race are sure to have a tough race planned for the opening round of the Enduro World Series, taking riders far from the bike park and over old singletrack cut by cowboys and hikers.
The resort is now buzzing with teams, mechanics and racers, and looking around it is clear that there is a really strong riding community in Chile, all the locals have brought their friends and families and seemed super stoked to be hosting the event! The weather is perfect for riding, around 22 degrees, but still frosty and cold in the shade, however, a few riders have been caught out with the sun and altitude leaving plenty of red faces around the pits. Most racers are staying off the fiery local alcohol, but the tradition diet of chicken and rice is the perfect preparation for a weekend of hard work!
We caught up with the Cube Action Teams latest signing, Scottish Racer Scott Laughland to find out what the town is like from a racers perspective and to get some word on stages 1-3.
Scott: It has been really good fun riding in Chile, we have been having some good times in the bike park, but it was great to finally start checking out the stages yesterday, they opened the first days course so we could head up and ride 1-3. Stage One is called Dakar and you are taken to the top by two old chair lifts. The sandy top section is just crazy, I have never seen so many people sliding the wrong way and breaking tape! It’s fast with plenty of switchbacks, weight distribution is key here to keep high in the moon dust, you definitely don’t want to dig in! After that you are into a sweet set of switchbacks that are all perfectly built by the bike park team, before dropping into some natural trails to take you back to the bottom. It is going to be a tough stage to race on and easy to lose time if you get caught out at the top!
Then it is a 1 hour hike back up to the top of Stage 2. It’s a tough hike, initially starting up a dirt road, but soon you leave the surfaced track and head up the flank of the volcano where the ash and sand is incredibly difficult to walk on. You sink in and it’s quite steep, it will be a good test of stamina on race day! Once at the top of stage 2 there is an old refuge, this marks the top of the stage and its a cool point to regroup and get set for the stage ahead, and what a stage it is!
Dropping down through tightly knitted bushes with fast turns you open up into a flat section for 30 seconds, a quick pedal and your into the good stuff! It’s fast and steep, the ground is grippy (Scott runs a Schwalbe Magic Mary on the front and a Hans Dampf on the rear) and you can really push in the terrain. The further you go the more technical it gets, lots of linking switch backs and tricky sections where carrying speed is a must. It lasts for around 9 minutes and is the shortest 9 mins you’ll ever ride. Find the flow and your laughing the whole way! The whole stage takes around 13 minutes I would guess, it’s a true EWS trail!
Stage 3 is very fast, rocky and open up at the top! This is where you can really let it go, easily reaching speeds of around 50kmph, it feels super fast after the technical stages before. The surface is loose and sandy so you have to stay on your game and keep focused. You then drop into the bike park trails and are greeted with perfectly shaped berms and jumps that take you grinning all the way into the finish.
The Cube Action Team are back on the hill today practicing stages 4-6. It is going to be a big weekend for all the racers and we will be bringing you news from Chile as the weekend unfolds. The Enduro World Series is back!
Words: Trev Worsey / Scott Laughland Photos: Cube Action Team