Updated: Jan 7
As many of you know, DIRTy Squirrels Racing teammates Rory Polk, Diego Delgado, Andres Gutierrez, and Charlotte Erickson recently participated in the Andes Epic, a 3-Day Mountain Bike stage race in Barbosa, Santander, Colombia.
Pre Andes Epic Race
From there that traveled to Armenia, Quindío to train in real mountains with the owner of team sponsor Eleven Pro Cycling Clothing, Alex Rodriguez. It was a great training ride: 56 miles and 7,421 feet of climbing through the beautiful countryside around Armenia. The team left feeling strong and ready to take on the Andes Epic challenge.
The team then flew to Bogota and met up with two friends who would be supporting the team throughout the race, Sonia and Ana Lucía. The group of 5 then drove the 4 hours to Barbosa the night before the race, making a quick stop at the house where Nairo Quintana grew up! Upon arriving in Barbosa, the team met up with Diego and his friend Fabio who would also be racing.
The team got their kits, including an awesome Andes Epic jersey, and stuck around the hear important information regarding the routes in the days to come. After that, it was time to get the bikes ready and everything in order for the impending challenge the following day.
Andes Epic Stage 1
Stage 1: 66 miles, 11,482 feet of climbing. Rain. It rained the entire night and into the next morning. The team drove to the start of the race, checked in, and lined up. Sonia and Ana Lucía brought snacks and coffee. After listening to the national anthem of Colombia, and the anthems of Santander and Barbosa, the racers were off.
The stage started with a long climb into very muddy terrain that had many racers on the side of the road cleaning their bikes. At mile 7, Diego’s derailleur broke after getting mud and stones stuck in it and had to go out of the race. After having to stop several times to clean the bikes, Charlotte and Andres, racing the mixed pair category, barely made the 40 km checkpoint. Rory made the checkpoint with time to spare.
After stopping at the first hydration stop, the next big climb came. The “Premio de Montaña”. 3 km straight up with areas that were nearly impossible to climb on a bike. What followed was a long descent that left the hands, wrists, arms and feet hurting. Charlotte and Andres arrived to Bolivar knowing the wouldn’t make it to the next checkpoint on time, and decided to rest for the next day. Rory finished the stage in 10:41.
Andes Epic Stage 2
Day 2: 46 miles, 10,213 feet of climbing. Luckily the rain held off.
The team again made their way to the start line. For the 7am start time. The stage again began with a climb. It took a minute to get tired legs spinning after the previous day.
Diego was well ahead of the other teammates and remained strong throughout the entire stage.
The challenge today: heat. At one point the temperature reached 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit). During one particularly hot and difficult climb, Andres spotted a young boy on the side of the road and asked for water.
The boy offered his bottle of water and Andres said he was going to need more than that. The boy led Charlotte and Andres to his house and gave them a big bowl of water and Charlotte and Andres drenched themselves with the water in order to cool down.
After the climb and another long downhill, started the last long climb of the stage. Charlotte and Andres again barely made the cutoff.
The climb to the next town of Guepsa was a long one and just when the racers thought they’d arrived, one small downhill led to a super steep uphill that was virtually unridable. A young boy helped Charlotte push her bike up and Andrés gave him his Zipp water bottle as a thank you. The boy walked away with a smile on his face.
In Guepsa, Charlotte and Andres met Rory, Sonia and Ana Lucía.
Rory had unfortunately not made the cutoff and was rerouted to Guepsa. Charlotte and Andres were beyond exhausted after that final climb and decided it would be better to rest for the final day. Diego finished the stage in 8:14.
Final Stage of the Andes Epic
Day 3: 28 miles, 5,209 feet of climbing.
This “flat” stage started with the same climb as the first day. Although the team was exhausted, knowing that this was the last day was a motivating factor to keep spinning. Before the team knew it, they were at the first hydration stop in Puente Nacional and feeling great with just a few more miles to go. After descending the famous stairs and climbing a bit more, the team enjoyed a long downhill.
One super muddy area slowed them down a bit when Diego had issues with his derailleur, but was able to keep going.
The four teammates were arriving to Barbosa together when everyone heard a loud crack as Diego’s derailleur ripped apart. Rory and Andres had to push the pusher to the finish line but the four squirrels finished the last stage together and received their finisher medals.
A great way to finish three days of hard work!