Mountain Biking Brazil Style

Claro Ride Brasil is a first-ever stage race over six days.
Stage 3 start in Rio Contas. Photo courtesy Claro Ride Brasil

The first-ever Claro Ride Brasil kicked off its six stages Sunday in Mucuge, Bahia with a 13km prologue.

Monday brought the event’s longest day for the event’s 104 two-person teams — an 86-mile ride from Mucuge to Rio de Contas, total climbing 11,000 feet. When all is said and done, racers will take on 565km challenge with over 33,000 feet of climbing.

The race is set within Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina, a 1520-square kilometer national park that’s considered among Brazil’s top scenic sights. Most of the Claro Brazil Ride racers are Brazilian amateurs, but there’s also a handful of pro-level international teams from Europe and the U.S, including Topeak-Ergon’s Jeff Kerkove and Sonya Looney.

The race is modeled on the world’s other great mountain bike stage races, such as La Ruta in Costa Rica, BC Bike Race in Canada and South Africa’s famed Cape Epic.

Stage 1: 13km Prologue

• Andy Eyring and Lukas Kaufmann (Team European Youngsters) stopped the clock in 31:07 over the prologue’s 13km.

• Gunnison, Colorado’s Brian and Jenny Smith were tops in the mixed division, two spots ahead of fellow Coloradoans Jeff Kerkove and Sonya Looney (Topeak-Ergon). The Swiss pair of Renata Bucher and Damian Perrin (Zaboo Free) were second.

• In the seven-team women’s competition, former German Olympian Ivonne Kraft and Portugal’s Celina Carpinteiro carded a day’s best 41:42.

Stage 2: 139km Mucuge to Rio de Contas

Stage 3 suffering on a hike-a-bike section. Photo courtesy Claro Ride Brasil

• Between the two towns was 3,372 meters of climbing, torrential rain, and mud, mud, mud. Fortunately there was also some amazing singletrack and tons of stunning scenery on Monday’s stage 2.

• The day’s big winners were the Czech duo of Robert Novotny and Kristian Hynek (Free Cycling/Factor Bike), who earned the stage win ahead Christof Bischof and Martin Gujan (Swiss Machine).

• In the women’s open race Ivonne Kraft and Celina Carpinteiro took their second straight stage win, as did the mixed duo of Coloradans Jenny and Brian Smith.

• All told only 61 teams finished in front of the original 11-hour cut off, a mark that was later extended by 30 minutes. There were 89 teams that received official finishing times. The gap between first and last – more than six hours.

Stage 3: 85km Rio de Contas circuit

• Testing trails, mechanicals and Mother Nature ruled the day on a rain soaked stage 3 on Tuesday.

• While GC leaders and stage 2 winners Robert Novotny and Kristian Hynek were busy dealing with a pair of punctures, Christof Bischof and Martin Gujan (Swiss Machine) were cleaning a pair of lengthy rock-strewn downhill singletrack sections on their way to a stage win in the 87km circuit that started and finished in Rio de Cantas in the Brazilian state of Bahia.

• In the women’s open class Ivonne Kraft and Celina Carpinteiro took their third straight stage win, as did the husband and wife mixed team of Brian and Jenny Smith.

• Fellow Coloradoans Jeff Kerkove and Sonya Looney (Topeak-Ergon) had an off day due primary to Looney’s on-going back-muscle problems.

“It got so bad I could barely walk,” said Looney, whose team sits more than 25 minutes off the lead. “Today Jeff said his effort level was around a two. Mine was probably a 10.”

• The deluge of rain didn’t make things any easier. A wicked midday storm pummeled the front of the field, and forced some of the back markers to find an alternative route when one of the course’s river crossing became impassable.

• Racing in Brazil continues Wednesday with another Rio de Contas circuit. This time riders will cover 95km and ascend 1750 meters.