Race and Trip Report: Claro Brasil RideJeff Kerkove 5:13 PM
Not even sure where to start with this post. It was a 12 day trip....7 of those days spent on the bike. While I could give blow by blow stage recaps, I am not. Cyclingnews.com did a good job of that. Rather, I am choosing to focus on the event as a whole: the course, people, culture, food, and drama.
Brasil is wide contrast in lifestyle. From the booming cities of Sao Paulo, Salvado, and Rio de Janerio where it is like walking through any modern city in the USA......to the small villages the race took place in which offered unreliable electricity during rain storms, some of the freshest foods ever consumed, rock/brick roads, homes were here in the USA would refer to as the 'tool shed out back', and no sense of urgency.
The lifestyle in Brasil was simple and quiet in the small villages of the Claro Brasil Ride. It was a welcomed sigh of relief from the hectic and go, go, go lifestyle we live here in the USA. You can walk down the middle of the street only worrying about the occasional passing car or motorcycle. Random dogs wonder the streets. And the locals sit in their windows watching the day go by instead of being plugging into the TV or computer. Even while eating at restaurants in most villages, we keep a running tab.....only paying after we eat. This would never fly in the USA.
The fresh juice was a personal favorite. When all the fruits are local, it is cheap......very cheap. All this fresh squeezed acai juice for less than $2.00!!! The same went for the mango, orange, and lime juices!
The Claro Brasil Ride takes place in a National Park. It is a 9-10 hour bus ride from the main city of Salvador, which most racers flew into, include Sonya and myself. Coming into the event, I was not 100% sure what to expect for the course. It appears to be a lot of road riding, which it is. But, the roads are steep and very rough. Wouldn't really call them roads, as most cars and truck would not survive. Instead, bicycles, motorcycles, and 'donkey pulled carts' seemed to be the best modes of transportation. Surprisingly, there was some awesome singletrack.....and a lot of it. It is rough and chunky, similar to that found in Moab and St. George, UT. We also spent a good amount of time riding through the jungle in Stage 2...on singletrack. It was so thick and dark, the sunglasses came off. Also, those small looking mud crossings in the jungle were actually 2 ft deep pits of mud. Lets just say those were a surprise! Riding in the jungle was unlike anything I have ridden through before. The singletrack was similar to east coast style riding....but the flora and fauna was unique. Leaves on trees as big as your entire body.....the cries of creatures in bush......and the moist humid conditions. Yes, we were racing....but we were also riding through a new environment with all senses being stimulated. If you go next year, take the FS bike!
Like I said earlier, the course offered a bit of everything. Water crossings were a norm on each stage. Stage 1, which this picture is from, is the only stage it did not rain.....but we still got wet. During the rest of the week, we would ride in torrential pouring rains. The kind of rain that would force you to pull off the side of the road if you were driving a car. Thankfully, the soil has a lot of sand in it, so we never hit any crazy mud. We really only had to deal with road spray, slick rocks, and sand particles eating away at the brake pads and drivetrain. The 6 days of non-stop rain was not the norm. It was supposed to be hot and humid. When it is hot....it is very hot. The cloudy rainy conditions was actually a blessing in disguise.
The race was a big deal to the small villages we passed through and stayed in. Kids and adults alike stood in pouring rain to catch a glimpse of the teams as the rode by. Autographs were not that uncommon. More than once, Sonya and I were chased down by a group of kids which spoke no English....only to want a picture or name signing.
Sonya and I had our fair share of drama in this race. We went all year with no race mechanicals, the Claro Brasil Ride changed that. Stage 3 Sonya was dealing with a back muscle problems. This led to a slower than liked race pace. For Sonya, this was a very very very tough day on the bike.....as she collapsed shortly after crossing the finish line for the day. Post race was spent on the massage table, which helped to ease the pain for the rest of the race.
Stage 4 it was my turn. Not long after the start, by bike felt sloppy and my shifting was jumping all over the place. It would come to my attention that the bottom bracket shell in my frame came unglued from the carbon frame. With every stroke of the crank arms, the chainrings would hit the frame and the shifting would jump. We would have to ride very slow and conservatively not brake the frame or chain. We would loose nearly 1 hour to 2nd place, killing our hopes of taking 2nd place in the overall GC. What caused this? Unsure. Might have been damage from flying with the bikes, race conditions, or just a bad production run. Lucky for me, Topeak Brasil....which distributes Scott bikes....got me on another bike. Only problem was it was a size too small and the carbon seat post mast was too short. So, for the next 2 stages I would race on a carbon hardtail that was too small and the seat was too low. With no room to complain, I made it work.
Stage 5 about pushed us over the edge. Riding on the borrowed Scott bike, my left pedal would come off the spindle only 2 miles into the near 80 mile stage. We thought the race was over for us. For nearly 10 minutes we watched all the Mixed teams pass us as we tried to figure out how to get off the course. With no option for evacuation on the course, we rode on. With each pedal stroke, I was forced to hold the pedal onto the spindle by pressing in....as well as down during the pedal strokes. Surprisingly, we would get into a good groove to finish 2nd on the day!
Thankfully, Stage 6 went well for us with no mechanical issues. The weather on the other hand was out of control. It rained all night and day. The course was flooded in many spots....especially through the potato fields. At one point we rode down a flooded road that nearly 1 mile long with water that was over our hubs!
All the photos I took are located here from the trip. I did not shoot video or take pics during the stage due to the wet weather. Basically from Stage 2-6 everything was wet until I got back to Colorado to do laundry and dry.
Mixed Category overall podium. Topeak-Ergon takes 3rd place!
Here are links to the videos (4-7 minutes each) that were taken at each stage....then shown at night during the awards.
Overall, the event was fantastic and would/will go back in a heartbeat! If you are looking for a new adventure in a different setting look into the Claro Brasil Ride 2011....which has a October dates for 2011. Everything is included in the entry fee....you just need to fly to Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. FYI, surviving in Brasil is fairly easy if you speak no Portuguese.
Thanks to all of those involved in the race, our sponsors for the equipment support, and most of all my teammate and best friend, Sonya Looney for a unforgettable week!
Check out Sonya's blog for a recap of each daily stage.