Lima, Peru | Friday, December 06, 2013 09:44 pm | | |
Coya is a small village, population maybe 500 or so. The drive there took us over a mountain and into the Sacred Valley of the Inca. Cusco is at 11,400 feet and it was a considerable drive up from there before cresting the pass. We had 4 members of the team and their bikes in the truck with us. The trip over the mountains was breathtaking. As we crested the mountain peak the Sacred Valley came into view. It was an awesome site. Seeing the Valley laid out before you, the small villages dotting the landscape with a river running through it. It was beautiful to say the least. This valley was the bread basket of the Incan Empire and it is still a farming community to this day. We passed through several villages on the way to Coya. Each interesting in its own way. The drive there gave me the chance to see how the people of Peru truly lived. It can give you an appreciation of what you have.
When we arrived in Coya there was a festival in progress. All the village elders, actually it looked more like the entire village, were in the town square in their finest Peruvian dress. There were speeches, music and a small parade involving all the villagers. In the parade was a group of young people from the village in costumes and colorful frightening masks. They represented the spirits that protect the mountain behind the village. It was very colorful and quite interesting but that wasn’t why we were there. Looking around you could see quite a few young men with bikes getting ready for the trip up the mountain for the practice run down. I would guess there were between 30 and 40 competitors there. As far as I could tell, all were Peruvian except for one who was a young man from Canada. The bikes ranged from what appeared to be the best you could buy to some that I would have been afraid to ride down the street. Some of the guys were doing some jumps on a poorly constructed ramp in the town square getting in a little pre run practice. I have to admit they are crazier than I was at their age. After enjoying the festival for a brief period of time most of the guys loaded their bikes on a trailer pulled by a tractor and jumped aboard for the trip up the mountain behind the village. We decided to haul our guys up there in the four wheel drive truck we had driven to the town.
The trip up the mountain to the trail head was an experience in itself. We drove up a road, and I use the term “road” very loosely, that was just barely as wide as the wheel base of the truck we were in. It was mostly dirt with the occasional wooden bridge that spanned the small creeks that cascaded down the mountain side. The side of the road was a sheer drop off, constantly inviting us to take a plunge over the edge. I have ridden in taxis in Cairo, Istanbul and Rome but I have never been so nervous riding in a vehicle as I was on the trip up that mountain. The young men riding with us were very amused at my discomfort. We passed children herding small numbers of goats and cattle on the way up. Small homes made of mud brick with thatched roofs dotted the mountain side. Everyone was friendly and waved as we passed by. The views along the trail we were on were spectacular. At certain points there were small man made water troughs that crossed the road. These were just wide and deep enough to give the truck problems crossing them. The guys traveling with us would jump out and build little rock bridges to get us across. At certain points we crossed the racing trail. It was well marked at those points and looked to be very difficult. Lots of jumps, hair pin turns and very, very narrow. Actually I think it was the path the goats used to traverse the mountain side. We kept an eye on the other boys who were making the trip up in the trailer behind the tractor. They were packed into the vehicle but obviously having a blast. All in all it took us a good hour to drive up the “road” to get to the start of the downhill race trail.
Arriving at the starting line there was another very small village. Maybe a dozen or so buildings, some looking residential and a couple looking like they might have been for agricultural storage. It actually had a name but for the life of me I cannot remember it. A couple of young children showed up to watch what we were doing. From their reaction to our arrival I don’t think they had ever seen a four wheel truck before. The boys on our team piled out and started unloading their bikes and dressing in all their safety gear. I walked over to the starting line and took a look at the first leg of the race. It was at this point that my limited Spanish came into use when I noted that the boys were “Los Chicos Locos” for even considering the run down that “trail.” They spent some time loosening up by practicing some small jumps off the side of the road. Mauricio checked their safety equipment before they biked over to the start of the trail. They perched on the edge of the first drop, turned and gave us a small wave and then they were off. They dropped out of sight so quickly that it looked like they just fell over the edge of a cliff. I a sense they did.
My friend and I got back into the truck and took off back down the mountain in the truck. I actually think the ride back down was more nerve wracking than the ride up. We tried to keep an eye on the boys as they navigated what looked to be a very difficult trail. Eventually we had to give that idea up since they were obviously making better time down the mountain than we were. We had arranged for the boys to stop and meet us about one third of the way down so that we could check on them, their opinion of the trail and make sure their bikes were holding up. When we arrived at the meeting point the boys were there waiting for us. One had a problem with his bike so we loaded him and his equipment into the truck and the rest took off to finish and meet us back in Coya. We raced down the mountain as fast as possible to meet the boys, trying to catch glimpses of them on the trail to make sure they were OK. In our hurry to get to the bottom we actually hit a culvert with a rear tire and bent the rim. You could hear air leaking from the tire every time we hit a bump in the road. Luckily we were close to the bottom when it happened. Getting the rim fixed was another adventure in itself and It is a story for another time. When we arrived in the village, all the boys had made it down safely and their times were pretty good for their first time down the trail. We loaded everyone back up and headed back over the mountain to Cusco.
The actual competition was the next day and I was scheduled to go on a tour and not able to attend. At the time I wished I hadn’t agreed to the tour but quickly realized that this is not exactly a spectator sport. Still in a way I wish I had been at the finish line to cheer for those young men as they crossed the finish line. The tour I was on actually passed through Coya and there was a huge crowd waiting for the participants at the finish line. I was very impressed with the support the people were providing for this event. That evening my friend gave me a summary of the event and “Los Chicos Locos” apparently did very well. The strongest of his competitors finished first in his age group with a time that was a little over 7 minutes. And the rest had good times but did not finish in the top 10. One young man on his team was injured at one of the jumps. Apparently when he landed the handle bars slipped from his hands and caught him on the chin knocking him out briefly. A young man from another team stopped had stayed with him until an ambulance could make it up to his location. In the end, the injury was not severe, there were no broken or fractured bones and he is OK and still racing.
The point of me writing this article is to let people know that there are competitions going on in the Andes. If any of you have the opportunity to travel to Cusco and participate in these I think you would find not only the competition excellent but enjoy the thrill of experiencing another people and their culture. See the world, it is the best education you will ever receive.
To learn more about Rodney, you can read his bio at the end of this article!
Hi Roodney,I am Portguese, 28 years old, imigrated to Holland in the 17th of September of 2006 and I am a proud Downhill ryder,because it's the greatest sport ever believe me.I was on the internet searching for cool DH to put on my laptop's desktop when i came across your article.I had to read it till the end because i often wonder about the countries in the world that are lucky in "having'' this sport and the ones who don't, like the one where I am since 9/2006(The Netherlands),it's a surprise and a good feeling knowing that a country like Peru has downhill events going on,(I mean, being even more of a thirld world country than Portugal is,and specially when it's an extremely expensive sport in any country in the world)I guess you just need to like mountain bikes be corageous or willing to increase that corage and have mountains or hills in order to do this amazing sport! Part of me makes me hate Holland for not having mountains because i can't do downhill hier, only when i go on vacations to Portugal ( but i do Downhill in my mind every single day believe me ),also the fact of not having moutains makes this country to be a very boring place to be because basically everything looks the same ,in or out of the cities, it's mentally BORING the fact of the whole country being flat,from north to south east and west...
Anyway, i am hier to work and i have to accept that sooner or later (as much as it cost me)also because the situation in Portugal is the worst ever( minimum salary 450euros!!! yeah, like i used to say Portugal is Europe's Brazil...) so this acts like a buffer over the feeling of not being able to do downhill in Holland, in the end i have to keep in mind that i am here for a better future, otherwise i get crazy...
Just to finish i want to say that you were very lucky in getting to know "Mr Downhill" and I want you to try it next time that you have the oportunity, but keep in mind this advices that i'm giving to you for your own safety and specially so that you can't say after falling down that 'this sport's not for me':
First make sure you do it with a downhill bike ( long travel suspension in the front/150mm at least and a shock absorber at the rear, a spring would be better than an air one because it's stronger and more sensible since it's your first time)
Don't do any jumps during your first time, don't worry cause it will still be the best day of your life, just pass at the side of the jumps and leave them for the time that you feel more confident and evoluted in the sport, for now the thrill given by the degree of steepness of the place that you have choosen will be more than enough...
Take somebody with you in case something happens( this is not the type of sport that you can go do it alone )
Make sure you have the tyres with the standard measurements like 2,5'' or 2,35'' , in your case because you are just starting I would go for the bigger ones the 2,5''( my opinion is that they slow down the bike quicker than anyother when you brake, cause they are bigger and also if you go over the mud they have better performance as long as the nods in the tyre are spaced enough, so that they can spit out the mud away with the spining of the wheells-tyres are the most important item in any vehicle but specially on a DH bike)
And last but not least wear all safety equipment that normally a DH ryder have to wear wich is:
a full face helmet
a body armor and make sure it protects your spine, it has to have a piece of articulated rubber over the area of where your spine is( all the body armors are like this but i am only specifying cause you are a
rookie and i want to make sure that you have everything that is standard in this sport before you go down the hill
sheen protections with kneecap protection incorporated
some cushioned pants or shorts
a pair of DH gloves ( full lenght fingers with thick material covering the top of each finger )
And keep in mind that sooner or later you will fall, it's part of the sport and at the same time ads value to it , if not ,how could we feel so good every time that we DON'T FALL ( just take a look at the DH movies on the internet and you will see what i am saying, for example take a look at the world famous Freeride event in the Utah state, it's called the Red Bull Rampage 2010', take a look also at 2009/2008... (Freeride is even more extreme than Downhill, it's the most extreme categorie of moutain biking).
Well Rodney it's time to go and I wish you the best, I hope that you reply me back saying someting,bye...