XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas has been touring the Pan Am Tour's South America stops from Argentina to Chile over the past week and found himself quite entertained at what he has found at XTERRA's new home in Santiago today.
He explains ...
It is Thursday here at the first XTERRA Chile venue, just south of Santiago. Rodrigo Ballivian, Emilio and crew have done an outstanding job of preparing everything. The bike and run are fully marked, the expo is nearly complete, transition is up and the finish line near ready. There was a very neat kids clinic taught by Olympian and XTERRA superstar Barbara Riveros this morning. About noon there was an elite race briefing and then many of them took off to ride the course.
"It is tough" remarked last weeks Argentine winner Suzie Snyder. "Lots of climbing and a couple hike a bikes," agreed Branden Rakita. The downhills, for now, are very slippery with loose sand and we are all hoping a few hundred practice rides tomorrow will clean them up a bit. The run is equally difficult as it mirrors the bike for the first few K going around the swim lake - actually a water ski lake - and then up the same very steep climb. Both the bike and the run are single laps; the bike at 30K and the run at 8K.
There is a solid pro field with Pan Am points leader Snyder trying for two in a row but with the very fast Barb Riveros to contend with. Kara LaPoint looks healthy after a gutty race in Argentina while feeling very ill. Sabrina Gobbo and Laura Mira from Brazil are also competing in their second event in two weeks. For the men, Chile has given us Felipe "Pipo" Barraza who was 12th at Maui in his initial XTERRA season last year. He's joined by Chilean pros Benjamin Munizaga, Gaspar Riveros, and Diego Moya. Argentina winner and Olympian Gonzalo Tellechea is here along with fellow Argentinian and 2nd place finisher last week, Max Morales. Ian King from the USA comes south to join last weeks 4th place American Branden Rakita. The surprise last week was the speed of French Canadian Jean-Philippe Thibodeau who held 2nd most of the race before being passed by Morales on the run. Thibideau has been training hard and looks ready to podium again.
Friday registration opens and despite Highway 5 being under construction and the exit for our venue being closed, organizers have done a blast email to every entry with great instructions on how to avoid the construction.
Emilio has done any number of triathlons as a participant and organizer and between his operational skills and Rodrigo's marketing skills Chile will be an exceptional first time event.
Rodrigo worked a deal with Subaru, who is the sponsor of Triathlon in Chile, to donate several cars to visiting pros. They parade all around Santiago with big, bright logos adorning the front, back and sides. Perhaps even better is that Erdinger non alc beer has a tent full of chilly cans ready to quench the thirst of tired and weary athletes. Naturally, I had to make sure such a thing was worthy of XTERRA. It was.
Let me tell you more about Santiago. I've never been here so did not know what to expect. I am pleased to say it is quite the amazing city. Very, very Big City Metropolitan in every way. Tall, glass office buildings and apartments, tons of traffic at all hours, beautiful parks, great public transportation and the Andes in the backdrop.
The drivers here are as crazy as Naples. Which means that LA, Paris and Rome are easy in comparison. If a light turns green - don't go; wait a second or two to see if somebody is blasting through. My friend shrugs his shoulders when I comment on this and says "here, yellow means speed up to get through". The other item to watch for is changing lanes. If a Chilean needs to change lanes they simply put on the signal and turn the wheel. It makes no difference if another car is there, they are supposed to back off. But it all works and in a couple days of driving all over we never saw one fender bender. Figure 7 million people and roads created for a lot less.
The economy of Chile leads South America and it shows. Lots of construction of tall buildings and commercial space; BMW's, Jags and Mercedes are all around and the restaurants and shops are full. To put it mildly, this is no sleepy South American capital, this is a vibrant metropolis that is leading the way into the 21st century.