Urban Downhill Done Right
November 30, -0001
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It isn't very often that professional mountain bikers and the circus that surrounds them get to travel to a brand new event in a brand new location. I had the opportunity to spend a week with a few of the world's best soaking up South American hospitality at an urban downhill race in Valparaiso, Chile.
Valparaiso is a UN Heritage Site and one of the most important ports on Chile's 4000km coastline. It has a thriving art community, is the seat of Chilean government and is as old as the country itself. It is built on 24 hills facing the bay, and is a spectacular location for an event of this type. Graffiti has been elevated to a modern art here in Valpo, with every building turned into a mural from about 10m down. The stage was set long ago for an event with a spectacular backdrop.
Much of the town was shutdown for the event to take place and spectators came in from hundreds of miles away by bus to scream and watch invited riders like Duncan Riffle (Iron Horse Honda), Cedric Gracia (Commencal), Chris Van Dine (Cannondale Cut) Jeff Beatty (Orange Mojo) jump and slide their way to the finish line in a style of event that is non-existent in North America. They were joined by 56 other riders from up and down the Americas. Practice was interesting as some streets were left unblocked, and riders had to dodge cars and pedestrians as they got used to the slick surface below them.
The event itself wound through steep cobblestone streets and tight, drop filled alleys and staircases. It had plenty of pedaling, some ridiculously tight corners and a 300m long section filled with huge drops, a thousand screaming fans and huge stair sets that riders barely touched on the way down.
Team Honda Iron Horse rider Duncan Riffle had this to say following practice: "We all show up at the time planed ready to ride and we find that our biggest obstacles weren't the obstacles themselves but actually the mass amounts of yelling children, people, dogs, cars (moving), [a] course that wasn't finished and anything else you could think of." Beatty was the lone Canadian representative and enjoyed his first trip as a member of his new team at a decidedly different event than he is used to. "It's a completely different sport racing on the pavement, it's awesome. The course is pretty intimidating and I almost had a heart attack."
The fans here in Chile love our sport. They scream and cheer like rabid dogs for all of the riders competing. Cedric Gracia ended up being the number one qualifier, and then managed to take home the win by just over two seconds from local Oscar Yunge (Oxford) and American Lars Sternberg (Fluidride), who rounded out the podium.
Gracia has this to say following the event. "The race went really good, the people are really fucked up here. Its like racing WRC, you jump and dont know where you are going to land until people move out of the way. Its crazy, they just want to touch you, dogshit on the streets and lots of pedaling. Super crowd and a lot of hot girls. So many hot bitches. I hope we come back!"
"Maybe twice more people [here] than in one World Cup, and were in Chile. Its crazy. People are crazy here, they fight to have a pair of socks. I give away everything and just go home in my underwear and I was holding my underwear to make sure the lady...she wanted my underwear."
1 - Cedric Gracia FRA Commencal 1:22.41
2 - Oscar Yunge CHILE Oxford 1:24.73
3 - Lars Sternberg USA Fluidride 1:24.84
4 - Sanjay Shanbag USA Unattached 1:26.41
5 - Antonio Leiva CHILE Fusion 1:26.98
6 - Sabastian Vasquez CHILE Cannondale 1:27.08
7 - Ignacio Rojo CHILE Cannondale 1:27.61
8 - Chris Van Dine USA Cannondale the Cut 1:28.16
9 - Martin Flano CHILE Mcdonald Giant 1:29.32
10 - Mauricio Jordan BOLIVIA Unattached 1:29.62
11 - Jeff Beatty CANADA Orange Mojo
12 - Duncan Riffle USA Honda Iron Horse