Mountain Biking (and Cycling) in Mendoza, Argentina

Up the single track, Chacras. Mendoza, Argentina, 2014
Up the single track, Chacras (with Victor, Ricardo, and Armando). Mendoza, Argentina, 2014

Due to security concerns (bicycle thefts), our old mountain biking stomping grounds uphill from Cerro de la Gloria and  in the Divisadero Largo area are not much used anymore. Too, bad, as there were and are some great trails up there.

The current hot zone is in an area known as Chacras, just south of town. Specifically, you’ll find the MTB crowd parked at Kilometer 11 of the Panamerican highway and riding off to the west, uphill, and onto some 70 kilometers of single track. Most everything is technically very easy (or maybe intermediate level) with only a very few more challenging sections. Like most mountain biking along the east side of the Cordillera de los Andes, you’ll find yourself going uphill on the way out and zinging downhill on the return. (How do you tell a happy cyclist? Bugs in his/her teeth!)

Ease of access and the fun trails here have caused a little mini-explosion in the popularity of the bici todo terreno within the last few years. Many more women are involved now, too. Back in the late 90s I counted exactly two, maybe three, active female mountain bike riders in Mendoza. Now there are large groups of women heading out on fat tires on the weekends. Nice to see the sport grow like that. Road cycling here doesn’t seem to have grown quite in this way, although there are still plenty of groups out dodging the potholes and traffic, and touring the vineyards, on weekends.

Cycling–both mountain and road–is big in certain areas of Argentina. (Track cycling in Buenos Aires–look up Juan and Gabriel Curuchet, and Walter Pérez.) If you follow pro road cycling, you may have even heard of the Tour of San Luis (just north of Mendoza) the biggest stage race in this country that currently draws the top pros for some early season miles. The Vuelta a Mendoza (still active, and a 10-day stage race I survived in 1997) was also once nearly of that caliber…as was the Vuelta a la Argentina (last edition in 2000).

On this trip…a big thanks to coach and friend Armando Mulle who managed to find a mountain bike for me. I had brought my pedals, clothes and helmet (just in case, dontcha know!) so off we went to Chacras to check out the trails, damp from recent rains…a familiar Arizona-like smell of wet creosote hanging in the air (above image)…and then, later in the week and after the sun came out, a tour through the vineyards (below).

Armando, Vinas Luigi y Bosco. Mendoza, Argentina, 2014
Armando, Camino de la Bodega Luigi Bosca. Mendoza, Argentina, 2014 (Cerro Plata, at just under 20,000′, is in the distance.)

“The Armstrong Lie”, A Film

Setting Up the Sprint. The pro peloton in Denver, Colorado in August, 2013. (Here's hoping they are all clean now!)
Setting Up the Sprint. The pro peloton in Denver, Colorado in August, 2013. (Here’s hoping they are at least mostly clean now!)

Just saw this film last night. The interesting thing is that, being in the bike-crazy town of Boulder, we were lucky enough to have the producer, Frank Marshall, as well as Betsy Andreu and Jonathan Vaughters (Team Garmin-Sharp manager) on hand for a post-show panel discussion and Q&A.

First, the movie. Originally to be a documentary focusing on Lance’s 2009 comeback, it went through some interesting production contortions once all the doping mess started to come to light–Floyd’s and Tyler’s revelations, the federal investigation, and finally, the famous Oprah interview–before it was finally released last year in its final form. Click here for the rest o’ the story.

“Relentless Forward Motion!”

Dex Tooke crosses Monument Valley, RAAM 2011.
Dex Tooke crosses Monument Valley, RAAM 2011.

That was Dex Tooke’s motto as a raced against the clock in the 2011 edition of the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3000-mile, non-stop bike race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. He had attempted this Mount Everest of ultracycling the year before, but abandoned just a couple of hundred miles shy of Atlantic ocean saltwater as he was too far behind to make the cut-off time. (Or so he thought–you need to read his book to find out the “rest of the story!”) Dex had this “RFM” motto emblazoned in huge letters on his big team support RV, Bessie, and it was a constant mantra for the 12 1/2 days he was on the road headed east.

In 2011, Dex finished RAAM, becoming one of only four 60+ aged athletes to tame “The Beast” within the allotted time limit. You can read about what this insane bicycle race is all about–the sleep deprivation, the saddle sores, the massive support team required, the highs, the lows, the tears, the humor, etc. in Dex’s book, Unfinished Business, available through Amazon books.

Anyway, back to the motto…Relentless Forward Motion. What does that have to do with photography? Well, I believe that Relentless Forward Motion ought to be our mantra as photographers as well. (And maybe even a good mantra for Life in general!)

To that end, I try to do something every day that will push me forward as a photographer–improve my skills, my art, my knowledge. What follows is a list of suggestions…Try to do something on this list every day, even if it is just for a few minutes: Click here for the list!