After countless years of dreaming of a trip to Patagonia, my girlfriend and I pulled the trigger on tickets and headed down in late November of 2016. We spent 3 weeks travelling around the southern region of Patagonia in our rental van exploring as much as possible by bike and foot. Patagonia was everything I hoped it to me and more. The sparse population, incredible sights, endless opportunities for adventure and delicious empanadas only confirmed one thing; I needed to come back.
A few of my favorite photos from the initial trip.
Trans Andes Challenge.
The Trans Andes Mountain Bike Race has always been on my radar as one of those bucket list races to attend. While down in Patagonia, I spoke with my friend DJ Brooks about the upcoming race and we both decided we should give it a go, even though it was less than a month out. After a short 3 weeks back home in Colorado, I boarded a plane bound for Patagonia. Upon arrival in Neltume, Chile (host city of the race) I was shocked at the contrast of the area when compared to the area I had previously visited. The southern region was primarily arid landscape, jagged peaks and notoriously windy days. The race was in the lake district of Patagonia, so the environment was quite lush and filled with waterfalls and lakes.
I arrived a few days early to check out some of the riding and get settled in before taking on the 5-day stage race. Neltume is a small town of only 2,500 people, but the area around is filled with endless dirt roads for exploration and some pretty awesome single-track if you know where to look.
There was no easing into the racing as day 1 was a loop of 50 miles and just under 8,000 feet of climbing. Being that it was late January, I didn’t have any intensity in the legs yet; just a few weeks of base miles. My plan for the day was to sit it in and just follow wheels to get a feel for where I am at fitness wise and try to get an idea of how my competitors were riding, assuming I wasn’t shot out the back.
On day one, we kicked things off with a start loop before heading into the meat of the day. I somehow managed to tag a rock wrong and began losing air in my front tire. We hit the first climb and I decided to attack, try to establish a gap then change my tire when it went completely flat. 20 miles in, I reached the top of the second major climb with a gap and air in my tire. It was a stressful day knowing my tire was compromised, but as I popped out of the trees on a descent I was treated to a vista above the river valleys and volcanoes across the way. It was one of the best views I’ve had while racing and one of the most memorable pieces of the race to me. It also reminded me why I was racing Trans Andes. It wasn’t a race I needed to win; it was meant to be a race to show me a new part of the world, meet new people and get in some good early season riding. Realizing this calmed me down and I continued pushing to the finish line with a different mentality. If I held onto the lead, great! If not, oh well.
I grabbed the leader’s jersey on Day 1 and was able to hold onto it until the end. We climbed almost 35,000 feet in those 5 days and believe me, they were not gradual climbs. I became very familiar with the 50t on my Eagle cassette. Trans Andes was an incredible way to see the area and one of the most fun races I have done. I’ll never forget the views on day 1 as I popped out of the trees or descending the Mocho Volcano on a misty day. I highly recommend putting the Trans Andes Stage Race on your to-do list. If the endurance racing thing isn’t for you, they also introduced an Enduro race this year which others spoke highly of.
Trans Andes was just the start to this journey in Patagonia. After the race, DJ and I left Chile and headed over to Bariloche, Argentina where we would be stationed for a 6 week training camp. Stay tuned for Part 2!