Despite this one not being the first or last MTB stage race that I compete in, heading off to a part of the world where you expect to come across things that you don’t usually find in European races or those held across North America always arouses expectation, interest and curiosity. Races in these locations are more ‘westernised’, with globalisation unfortunately having made things all very uniform. As a friend of mine once said, inequality, contrast and the remote serve to transport you back in time several years.
Brasil Ride is an MTB race featuring seven two-rider stages and is recognised as being the most prestigious race across South America.
The biggest MTB race across South America: 7 days, 6,000 km, 13,000m climb
In previous editions, the event took place in the Chapada Diamantina region, an area which lies further inland, but this year there was a change to the location. Perhaps this time round, the setting was less stunning, but it did come with its benefits, such as the fact that on the first and last days we stayed in a hotel, with the comfort that this affords. Meanwhile, the beach, leisure amenities and alternative activities were all close by for those riders who brought their families along. The days spent on the camp are always interesting ones because you share in a communal and multicultural experience with your fellow participants. You get to meet others, learn things about other countries and cultures and that’s always enriching.
The attention to detail, care and determination displayed by the organisers to ensure that we had an enjoyable few days is something for which we were grateful. The military forces were a constant presence, which offered additional security in case anybody felt uneasy. Everything was carefully marked out, signalled, marked off and indicated by signage and volunteers. It’s also worth pointing out that the food was of good quality and in line with the objectives set out by the race.
Participation levels were strong, with a varied and high-quality field. Here are the best stages.
PROLOGUE/STAGE 1: AGAINST THE CLOCK
Arraial d’Ajuda – 21 km
We were surprised by the humidity levels and heat that we encountered. It was the common denominator on each day and is something that we struggled to get used to.
This stage offered up fun and fast trails running alongside the sea which were linked by very fast forest sections. The vibrancy and colour of the locals saw them transmit their joy, which spurred us on to pedal faster and enjoy the experience to the max. That’s what we were all after, was it not?
Never had I crossed so many rivers in the saddle as I did on this day. Rivers of all shapes and sizes.
STAGE 2: CROSSING THE RIVER
Arraial d’Ajuda / Guaratinga – 128km
This stage saw us delve into the forest from the beach area along sections of track that simply left you pedalling and pedalling. There weren’t any great descents, but the distances were considerable.
Never had I crossed as many rivers in the saddle as I did on this day. They came in all shapes and sizes, from the sort that you could easily cross on your bike, to those in which the water reaches your chest and you see it and just want to get through it.
From this day on, we had something that would remain with us throughout the race, a bar of soap. An essential piece of kit which we needed to keep both ourselves and our clothing looking pristine for the following day.
We spent the night at the camp, which had been carefully set up by the organisers.
STAGE 3: CONTRASTS
Start and finish in Guarantinga – 92km
This stage offered riders steep incline climbs, valley landscapes and forest sections in which what shone through was the vibrancy of the small villages, in which the children run out of school to take their places alongside the locals on the streets to greet the participants as they went by. It’s strange to see how in poor parts which are so far removed from civilisation, with their untarmacked streets, barefooted children and borderline hygiene, a young girl photographs you using her smartphone.
Poor in terms of resources but rich in happiness. This is perhaps the one thing that really struck me about everything that surrounds a race this like one. How did these people get here? The answer is an easy one, they’ve always been here.
STAGE 4: EXTREMELY TOUGH
Start and finish in Guaratinga – 85km
Forest, forest and yet more forest would be the purist definition of this stage. A whole range of trails of all categories including some highly technical ones, which were interspersed with sections which seemed endless owing to the incline on some of the climbs. There’s not even so much as a metre of flat ground, but fortunately the clouds occasionally appeared to slightly dampen the heat. However, the humidity was simply unbearable.
I get the feeling and am sure that we’ve gone through spots that nobody will pass until next year’s race comes along. We’ve just got to get on with our business as we keep on pedalling and progressing a little further every day.
How did these people get here? The answer is an easy one, they've always been here.