Dust, Sweat and Fat Tires: The Entel Challenge

A cloud of dust rises from the dirt road straight into my face, but I don’t notice it as much as the intense sun and heat. Not only did I pay for the experience, I’m also enjoying it.

Santiago Chile Entel Challenge
Photo courtesy Angela Pagliero Avendaño

A massive row of bikes span out more than a kilometer in front of me on a road that winds through vineyards and cornfields. Nearly two thousand riders have gathered for a mountain bike endurance challenge some 80 kilometers southwest of the capital on March 28 for the Entel Challenge.
Santiago Chile Entel Challenge
Photo courtesy Angela Pagliero Avendaño

The annual event is sort of a race, with prizes awarded to those who managed to cross the finish line in the 25, 50 and 100-kilometer categories. But that’s not what seemed to draw most of the riders to the large private property Fundo Longovilo, myself included: It’s more of a personal challenge with a whole lot of other people in your way, kicking up dust in your face.

Sponsored primarily by the large Chilean telecom provider, the Entel Challenge was organized by Aventura Aconcagua, an adventure tourism agency and event producer. Aventura Aconcagua also organizes a mountain bike challenge called Dinosaurios, which involves riding 78 kilometers up into the Andes, and a yearly triathlon event for dog owners and their pets.

One big draw for an event like this is the sheer quantity of people involved.

Picture a road crammed full of people of all different ages and abilities stretching as far as you can see. No matter how fast or slow you rode, there was always someone to pass or to be passed by. Even the highway en route to the event was packed with participants and their bikes hanging from the back of their cars.

Santiago Chile Entel Challenge
Photo by Colin Bennet

In their efforts to bring more people to what is still a niche sport in Chile, the organizers also made clear that the event was not a technical ride. Serious riders with high priced Cannondales rode side by side with families on steel-framed Oxfords, a particularly popular brand in Chile.

The event also brought together different kinds of people, from the socially affluent to working-class kids who must have saved for quite a long time in order to afford their bikes.

But the best feature of all was the landscape. As the route took participants first through grape fields awaiting harvest, I could even smell the cabernet sauvignon vines-to-be while riding by. Cornfields, grazing pastures, pig farms and finally a tough climb up into the surrounding foothills provided plenty to look at as the kilometers slowly ticked by.

Not too bad for a Saturday morning.


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