The 300 entries for the last enduro race in Chile were snapped up very quickly! 2 weeks prior to the event, which was held by the Montenbaik guys, the race was sold out. There was an air of expectation surrounding the event, especially since EWS director Chris Ball flew over to see how things were done! It was important that the event went well as Nevados de Chillán will be the first stage of the 2014 EWS series.
I’m not sure how much is known about Chile, but I can honestly say that it’s a beautiful country with lots and lots and LOTS of mountains. On one side you have the Andes and on the other you have endless coastline. You also have the Costa Mountain Range, which is where Puchuncaví is located. The event’s HQ was set up in the middle of the mountain, overlooking the three singletrack stages cutting through a bush forest made mostly from hawthorn, commonly found in the central regions.
The spot chosen for the event was great. Everything was very well organized with lots of portable toilets for the public, however they were little used with most people preferring to help water the plants instead. The staff were very helpful in giving advice as well as providing food and water.
Shortly after we arrived, the heat started to pick up and the semi-packed dirt began to loosen up, a lot. Everybody commented that there was absolutely no grip, not much of a shocker since we are quite accustomed to it during spring and summer when there is no rain. The MTB season here is actually during our winter. One day before the race, Chris Ball published a picture on his Instagram of what the #antigrip looked like. He wasn’t exaggerating either, it was like powder on most of the track and some sections were just sand.
Montenbaik have three race formats, one is Damas Light, for newbie women. The Enduro 2 is made up of Juniors and mostly weekend warriors, whilst the Enduro 1 is for pros and expert riders. The Damas light is the shortest layout, with only two climbs. The Enduro 2 is a little shorter than the Enduro 1 with one less climb.
After the talk about the course, the first climb began, everyone was chatting amongst themselves and it was a very friendly environment. The most commented topic was again the antigrip – Chris Ball had made a fad here– that relentlessly caused the back wheel to slide on the climbs, even though I ran a 2.4 Maxxis Ardent. The second most commented topic was that almost nobody actually got to test the track.
We got to the start of the special stage called Ojeda, the longest of the 3 stages, when the organization announced a nasty crash involving one of the girls from the Enduro 2. She crashed very hard into a sandy corner on the track. Luckily she received help pretty quickly, a big plus for the organization. The singletrack was great, it started with loose grip, nothing too difficult, a very fast section up until the sandy curves and then it ended in a huge rock garden. The second link was literally hell, almost 9 kilometers of steep mountain roads, first on mirror-like asphalt then on dirt, and all this with 30ºC and a climb of 683 meters.
The second special stage called Switchback was well named, lots of curves on the antigrip, but with no surprises, just curves and some steep sections. On the third link, which was a little less than 8 kms, a lot of riders began to give up due to cramps, crashes, malfunctions and bad tempers.
Now here comes the only bad thing about the events organization, the hydration post ran out of water! Maybe they didn’t consider that it was going to get that hot, especially in a coastal town, and it’s not even summer yet. But hey, this is Enduro, not a family running event, so man/woman up!
The final special stage was called Moto, a short track that looked really promising. You could almost see the entire singletrack, as it passed very closely to the uphill road. This was the only trail with jumps and roots, but as soon as I started downhilling I punctured the front wheel, and that was it, at least for me anyway. I had to take the long walk down.
The Enduro 1 finished about an hour after the Enduro 2 and then the show started. The pros were chilling with the rest of the mortals, everyone was happy, music started playing, times where being compared, beers were handed out and a lot of empanadas (much like a calzone, but different) were given to everyone.
On the day after the race, the Montebaik guys were already working on the Nevados de Chillán course for the opening day of the Enduro World Series in April. Hopefully the antigrip will cease by then and give way to a harder packed dirt, but that depends on how hot the summer will be. With luck we’ll get our usual March rains.
Words: Matías Zamora | Photos: Montenbaik, Claudio Olguin