When Valentina Macheda and Manuel Ducci decided to go to the Chilean start of the Enduro World Series, they called Alex Lupato and as photographer, Matt Wragg. What they experienced you can read here: After a winter of dreaming about this trip, finally we arrived in Chile for the EWS! You always think the moment of departure is a long way away, but only a moment later you find yourself telling the stories from the trip… But we’ll start at the beginning.
For me and Manuel this was our first race overseas like this, so we decided to leave a week before the race to get over the travel and to get used to the altitude. We set of with fellow Italian racer, Alex Lupato, and photographer, Matt Wragg.
The journey was a long one. We left Nice for Madrid, then took a 15 hour flight from there to Santiago de Chile. We lucked out on the flights, leaving in the middle of the night, which meant we got a good sleep on the plane. Landing we had to find our 1,000 bags, then leaving the airport we saw hundreds of rental companies, tour operators and taxis touting for business. Amongst them was a sign the simply said: “Vale Macheda.” It was so funny to see my name on a card like that! The others were all jealous of me.
From Santiago we headed straight to La Parva where they were holding an enduro race that weekend hosted by Montenbaik – the same people who were running the EWS race. The road up to the village was incredible – a series of 40 switchbacks that climbed you up to 2,700m up. Where we stayed was so beautiful and you could see trails everywhere. It was so arid up there, with so many cati.
From our hotel we decided to headed out for a short ride to stretch our legs, but at that altitude we found ourselves getting exhausted so quickly, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced, so we headed back to the hotel to eat and sleep. Training for the race started the very next day and we could try our first Andean descents.
From the village the chairlift took you right the way up to 3,500m, it was unbelievable. It was also very cold! Chile is in Autumn right now, so it was freezing up there. Looking down towards the valley the lines of the trails seemed endless, although that would be all-too-soon lost because of how tough they were.
Chileans like fast trails, super fast trails… What was amazing was how sandy it was, I’ve never seen anything like it. Practicing the three stages we realised how important it was to get used to this kind of terrain as it is so different to back home in Italy. I managed to have a big over the bars in practice and hurt my neck, but fortunately it passed as I rode.
At the race in La Parva the level was so high. Many of the top riders were there, so it was a good chance to seen how our pace was for the EWS the week after. It was a very relaxed race, so we could enjoy the riding too. I punctured on the second stage, so that was my race over. Manuel and Alex had a good race, but with just one day of practice, we felt like we had arrived too late to get used to the conditions – both the terrain and the altitude, so it was just some good training for them. Matt took the chance to shoot the race.
While the race was good, what we really wanted to do was just go riding, so the next day we headed out with the bikes and grabbed some photos in the evening before we left for Nevados de Chillan. It would have been a crime not to!
Nevados was five hours south in the car. On driving up the valley we realised how different this place was going to be to La Parva – there were thick, lush trees growing all the way up the valley. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park! Our cabin looked like something out of that film too!
For the EWS race, the format was two days of practice and 2 days of racing. But, for the practice the times we could practice each track were restricted, so we could only practice certain stages at certain times. Because of this we were only able to do a single run of each track before racing started. Many of the trails were only accessible on foot – there was no chairlift and the terrain was too step to ride, so you had to hike with your bike on your shoulder.
The 6 special stages had very different sections, four were almost pure downhill, real high-speed stuff, and the other two were quite pedally, but with great flow. In the race I didn’t feel too tired, we have trained for much longer races, but the difficult thing was to remember your lines for each section after one practice run. To ride safely, but at the limit, was tough, especially in all the sand them. I feel like we could have finished further up the results sheet, but it was a big learning experience for us, racing outside Europe for the first time.
Like every trip, to learn and take away the amazing experiences is the most important thing. We have understood a lot, how we will do things differently next time, how we will prepare for the races, so many things! Looking back on the trip the thing that stays with me was the smile of the face of virtually everyone we met, the stunning, red Autumn leaves, the beautiful sunsest unlike anything I have seen in my life… Thank you to Chile and my companions for such an amazing adventure!
Words: Valentina Macheda | Pictures: Matt Wragg