And so it begins. We arrived into Chile and Corral greeted us being a very small village. life consists here by fishing and timber operations. Rough dirt 4×4 roads lead us to all the stages and the jungle where the courses were freshly built and hasn’t seen any bikes before. This was going to be a unique race.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 1

To avoid a 20 minute ferry ride each day as well as the queues to make it onto the ferry between Nieblie and Corral we booked accommodation around the coast 20 mins and inland on a dirt road for 20 mins. Staying in igloo shaped canvas tents, this ecolodge was our home for the week. It was really cool to be so remote but with solar power and no internet connection we were really off the grid as well.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 2

With 6 stages over two days of racing and a new procedure for this event of no shuttles allowed for practice days I saw it important to try use my time on the days before practice to walk all the courses. This would mean my legs weren’t going to be fresh but I saw it as more value in knowing what to expect for the one practice run only we would get. The courses were a mixture of really flat and steep and loose so setting up the bike was a real challenge. You needed the grip of a mud tire but the rolling of a semi slick so you really had to choose which way you would go. Being the first race of the season I choose the grip over speed approach and kept my tire pressure a bit lower of 23psi and 26psi. With two days of practice and then race we were to be pedalling 200km over 4 days with roughly 6500 vertical meters to climb. Long hot climbs over the practice day also meant carrying both glasses and goggles to get a bit of relief from not just the light but also the cars which dusted us out each time they passed.   I also chose to keep the power meter on my bike for practice and the race so I could keep my power in a manageable range on the climbs to protect my legs. This is usually making sure I’m under 300 watts on the steep sections and mid 200 when ever possible.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 3

I found with my riding lately I have gotten back most of my speed but not found my race limits yet so I saw this a lot in the first day of racing here. First stage was a battle of too fast and mistakes then too slow and braking. This led to a few off track moments for me and a feeling like I needed a repeat.

Stage 2 was the other end of the scale. I wanted to have a clean run without going off track but riding well within my limits I was disappointed at the finish and knew I had a lot more in the tank.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 4

For stage 3 we had a neutral zone and this was the first time in a stage we would race then hit the neutral for 2 mins 45 then start again into the stage. Confusing where we started again I began racing again to discover I was still in the neutral. Restating my stage again now with tired legs I was angry but needed to chill out a little bit to regain my legs. Then It began the fast section  and was feeling great until I got a bit off line and hit a small stump with my front wheel. I crashed so hard I didn’t even know I had hit the ground. Finishing out the stage trying to make up time I was also riding the limit once more and the feeling was good but my stage was already done.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 5

Overnight I was sitting in 24th overall, it’s a starting point for me and something to work with. My goal now was to ride 3 clean stages and at least start the year in the top 20.

Day two and this was going to be a better day. Overnight I added 2 more volume spacers to my shock and the feeling was better. I had raced the day before in both trail mode and open mode so today I was racing just in the open position.

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 6

Stage 4 was basically formed from cows pulling logs down the hill. It was like being in a bobsled course. A much better start to the day, a solid run without any big mistakes.

Stage 5 was a physical stage up top and tight corners almost too tight to get around in one motion. In the stage we all had a crazy experience of nearly hitting a cow which had wandered onto the course. Definitely not your average venue!!

Justin Leov's Diary Action Shot 7

The last stage was a good way to finish. It emptied the tank up top with some flat rough straights up top then went so fast you felt like you were on a Moto. Another stage in the bag. Achieving my goal of top 20 and taking some valuable experience with me on where I’m at and what needs to be worked on. I’m looking forward to the next round and the opportunity to find some more speed.

Argentina we are coming!

You can keep up to date with Justin’s racing by liking his Facebook Page.

Words: Justin Leov Photos: Sebastian Schieck

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