Race Recap – Tour de la Patagonia

The Tour de la Patagonia last weekend was a great opportunity for me to get some early season riding in and escape the cold, long, “never-snowy-enough” Idaho winter.  The race starts and ends on the beach of Lago Lacar in San Martin de los Andes and, over it’s course, winds it’s way through mountain passes and across the border into Chile.  The format for the race is a 3-day stage race.  Each stage is 40-60 km in length and teams consist of 2 racers.  There are 3 categories, hombres (men), damas (women), and mixtos (co-ed).  Reba and I have raced together a fair amount in the past and tend to work well as a team.  My only concern heading into the race was the fact that I haven’t been “training”.  I have been getting in plenty of skiing over the winter, but haven’t been forcing myself to suffer through “overly-structured-cycling-specific-mind-numbingly-boring” sessions on the trainer.  I’d rather have fun and go skiing, so I usually do.

We lined up the first day for the start and were scoping out the other co-ed teams.  I know better than to do this, but sometimes you can’t help it.  You see some guy and some gal who are super lean, very tan (means they’ve been riding a lot!), and who are doing some full sprints in their warm-up ritual.  They’re all “kitted” up and seem super high energy.  Immediately, Reba and I start to wonder what us “gringos from snow country” are getting into.  The hombres started first with the mixtos and damas starting together some 15 minutes later.  The gun went off and we rolled out of town in a “neutral start”.  The racing began at the bottom of a steep climb that took us up from town and into the hills.  The pace was high but we were able to stay at the front.  The one thing that I knew was that I wanted to be at the front going into the single track.  I’m not usually a fast starter, but for some reason on this day I really wanted to be at the front and be the one dictating the pace (and the level of pain!).  We hit the single track and opened a gap on the other mixtos teams.  Shortly after that, we began reeling in some of the men’s teams who had started 15 minutes in front of us.  The course was a mix of single track and double track that rolled through some beautiful higher terrain before dropping into a 15 minute “screaming fast” descent that put a huge smile on my face!  From there, we powered through through the last 6 km of gravel road to the finish.  We were happy to finish in 1st place in the Mixtos with a time of 2:13, but somewhat alarmed when the 2-5th place teams all came in within the next several minutes.  There were at least four other teams who were all easily within striking distance of us and we were going to have to race hard and smart over the next two days to stay in the lead.

Day 2 consisted of a neutral roll out to the border crossing into Chile.  From there, the racing began.  We were fortunate enough to make the initial break and get in with the top 3 men’s teams for the 5km of gravel road from the start.  I realized that none of the other Mixtos teams were in the group, so I was happy to help push the pace.  We turned off of the gravel road and onto the first climb with the leading men’s teams still in our sights and held nothing back.  We were anticipating this stage to be roughly 4 hours in length, which is long enough to force you to pay attention to hydration/nutrition, but not long enough to necessitate holding anything back.  We also knew that the stage roughly consisted of one large climb followed by one long descent and a rolling finish.  We weren’t feeling that fast on the climb or the descent and I expected another Mixtos team to catch us at any moment.  However, I also knew that there were only 3 men’s teams in front of us and as we approached the finish, we began to reel in the 3rd place team.  Catching a glimpse of that team gave us another burst of energy and we gave it everything we had to reel them in.  We caught them just at the finish line and ended up finishing just 5 minutes behind the winning men’s team with a time of 3:03.  The other Mixtos teams were again not far behind and our lead after two days of racing was just over 10 minutes.

Day 3 consisted of a 6 km gravel road start before a long single track climb.  We tried to use the same tactic as the day before and pushed the pace hard from the start, making the initial selection with the leading men’s teams.  The tactic worked again and we were able to lose contact with the other Mixtos teams.  The climbing began on the single track where we settled in and tried to remain smooth and not make any mistakes.  Once at the top of the climb, the remainder of the course consisted of a great mix of fun single track and some gravel road that also came with a ‘not-so-fun’ stiff headwind.  Reba and I took turns pulling into the wind and I kept looking over our shoulder.  We reached the last section of single track and knew that, barring a major catastrophe, we would hold on for the win.

The race ended just outside of town.  From there, teams regrouped and were escorted back through San Martin to the finishing ceremonies on the shore of Lago Lacar.  The scene at the finish was great.  Everyone was happy to be finished and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery of San Martin.  In the end, we took the win in the Mixed category and placed 5th overall.  Personally, I was just happy to have felt strong enough to enjoy the race and not suffer miserably.

The rest of the week was spent enjoying San Martin and working with Vallescondido putting the finishing touches on the course for their upcoming 24 Hr MTB race next month.  For me to explain how special this place is and why would be too long for this post.  I will simply say that San Martin is perhaps the most beautiful place that I’ve been and that my experience there has left me trying to figure out how to spend more time there.  As much as I enjoy winter here, I would be more than happy to sacrifice it and spend part of the year there.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, right….?

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~ by ketchumgreg on February 25, 2011.

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