Our rest day, if you could call it that, called for a visit to Machu Picchu, Just a short hour and a half train ride from Ollantaytambo, how could we not visit one of 8 wonders of the World. Our day began quite early as the transportation strike had backed up the trains and we had to sort that out. We all caught separate trains, eventually meeting in the tourist town of Aguas Caliente. A short but scary bus ride delivered us to the site of Machu itself. Breathtaking hardly describes it, the site is massive! When you contemplate all the stone, irrigation and architecture, it really blows your mind. I've been to Machu Picchu three times and will absolutely go every chance I get. After spending the day at Machu, we grabbed dinner and caught the last train back Ollanta, arriving late at night, the perfect preparation before an intense weekend of racing…Inca Avalanche starts manana.
Racing the Inca Avalanche
Saturday, Inca Avalanche race day, one of the most extreme events you can participate in. A mass start enduro/DH, starting from 15,000ft. above sea level. Racers descend 5000ft. through multiple climates before arriving at the finish. As per usual, we met at the plaza to load the vans and head to the peak of Abra Malaga. The mood in the van was contemplative, everyone falling into their own modes of preparation for such an intense race. As we neared the peak it was apparent that it had snowed overnight. This would be the first time for snow in the history of the event. The start line is 1000 ft above the paved road, riders have the option to push their bikes or pay one of the locals the equivalent of two dollars to push their bike up, money well spent in my opinion. Today was a qualifier, an opportunity to review the course and set yourself up with a good start position for Sunday's final event. A local shaman was on-hand to bless the race for the safe passage of the riders, a nice touch that bridged the gap between our modern mountain bike insanity and old world Peruvian traditions.
We were 200 riders in the start corral, anxiously awaiting the judges start whistle. Whistle blows and we’re off! The first section of the course is pure insanity, So slippery that 90% of all riders crashed at least once if not multiple times. Once below the snowline things settled in and racing got on as usual. Unfortunately in the chaos of the start, one of our group went down. Alf's helmet visor exploded into his face slicing his nose and lip wide-open, he would eventually travel to Cusco in order to get the proper treatment. We wouldn’t reunite with him until two days later at the airport
With qualifying behind us, we were on to the task of preparing our bikes for the Sunday’s final event and speculating on what we could do better or what lines were working best.
Sunday greeted us with rays of sunshine, much appreciated. At 15,000ft the conditions were still quite slippery but much more manageable than the previous day
As with the day before, we were placed into the grid, 200 strong, full of enthusiasm, riders were ready to unleash! The whistle blows and we rush down the open tundra, trying to avoid the pitfalls and mud bogs that lay in front of us. Once through the opening sections, focus was on the singletrack and picking off riders ahead, while staying out of danger, all while feeling like you’re breathing through a straw…There really is nothing like starting such a massive descent with 200 riders, if you have the means, I highly recommend it.
Once the finish line is crossed, all anxiety is released and the party begins. Local kids from the community practically rip your bike from your hands begging to clean it in the canal for a few Soles, the equivalent of two or three dollars. A valuable service no doubt but a watchful eye is recommended or your stanchions might just might lose their coating to the walls of the canal, no bueno.
The finish line is a full on party with food vendors, beer and copious amounts of chicha a local homebrew of fermented corn. However, If your stomach is not localized I recommend staying away from the chicha or suffer the consequences. The finish line party transfers to the Plaza De Armas, the whole town turns out and the plaza is packed with thousands of people to see the awards and jump jam.
Our crew not only survived the event but came away with some really good results! Joni and Christine stepped onto the Pro podium in first and third, David Beeson won the master 40+ category and many of us finished in the top 10 in our respective categories, no surprise for Utahns, we're pretty fast.
Back to Reality
There is always a touch of sadness when these journeys come to an end. After spending eight days only caring about ripping trail with your friends, it feels like real life. But reality calls and so we make one final journey to the plaza, this time with bikes packed in boxes, headed for the airport and the long journey back to the promised land.
For more information on the Inca Avalanche Trail Festival visit IncaAvalanche.com or follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @IncaAvalache