Andes Pacifico proves a punishing enduro initiation for Adam Brayton in the land of the condor.
DIRT ISSUE 146 – APRIL 2014
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones and Gary Perkin
The Andes rise sharply out of the Pacific Ocean but it’s only when you reach Santiago that the ascent into the hills becomes really abrupt. Before you know it the altimeter hits five figures and the sharp realization that a complex four–day itinerary westbound to reach the coast at Maitencillo was upon us.
There was always going to be drama but we had travelled the eight thousand miles an assumption based on what we had seen on video analysis that the trails would be relatively easy. World Cup downhill racer Adam Brayton had been drafted into tackle the event against the clock, his first ever enduro competition. Aaron Bartlett would take position in the helicopter for video footage, whilst I stupidly decided to ride each stage with a 40lb camera pack and water on my back.
The mood on this trip was always upbeat, but we felt the heat as soon as we arrived. Most of it was reflected off Keswick boy Brayton’s brilliant white body as we dropped off the plane. Is there a hole in the ozone layer over Chile? We certainly believed it as we quickly headed for the shade.
The sixteen hour journey via Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere, gave us plenty of time to discuss the race ahead. Brayton had come with a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo and was convinced from the event video that it was the right tool for the job. The trails had looked relatively smooth and it was our impression/belief that the task was within reach on the shorter travel bike. I definitely recall Brayton saying to me, “I reckon it’ll be pretty easy”.
We began to recalibrate our thoughts however as we past over the Andes. It looked dry, barren, rocky, high, and… but no matter what you see or hear on the internet or from the sky it’s not until you start feeling and breathing the terrain that you get a grasp of things. Chile was only partly what we had expected.
Santiago is only just under two thousand feet high but you climb to twelve pretty sharpish. The start point is around this height and once you have taken a chairlift you’re in the snow line. Having photographed Brayton I knew his work rate was high, I knew he had the competitor mindset come what may, but I also knew he had the ability to full throttle everything. Back home they call him ‘The Kestrel’ because of his ability to swoop without notice. But he was an enduro novice with no reference points as to how to tackle longer stages even if he did do frequent descents off Skiddaw. His entire race career has been around the four–minute mark and only Garbanzo downhill last year did he experience the different physicality and mindset needed when the clock goes into double figures. Nevertheless Brayton is a grafter, he was upbeat and even as events turned for the next four days he remained that way. It proved intriguing viewing from the side of the track.>>