Picture yourself riding a bike through the city. In many places, this means a nice, casual jaunt. In Valparaíso, Chile’s historical seaside city, this means hurtling down steep slopes, mazelike alleyways, and countless, endless stairways. UNESCO looked at this in 2003 and named it one reason to designate the city a World Heritage Site. One year earlier, Red Bull looked at this and said, “Let’s hold bike races here!” And so, on February 18 and 19, the company held the 15th annual Valparaíso Cerro Abajo.
The Bike Course Itself
Let’s break down the name a bit. “Cerro Abajo” literally translates to “downhill.” The other word in the name shows the real challenge of the race: these hills are urban. Competitors fly down fenced-off city streets, notorious for sharp turns and sharper drops in elevation. The track, cruelly, includes shooting through narrow gaps in alleys and fences. And seriously, so many stairs. Man, I don’t even feel safe riding too fast on flat, stable ground. Maybe it’s my early ‘00s upbringing, but I can’t help thinking these stunt racers are ridiculously cool.
All this description is still pretty abstract. See this madness for yourself in this video one competitor took – while riding down the course.
Czech racer Tomas Slavik recorded himself trailing Brazilian friend Bernardo Cruz on a “trek check.” First they bound down about six flights of stairs. Then they ride through a hole in a house. Eventually, they’re leaping off elevated street sections and going fully horizontal while riding up walls like The Matrix. All the while, Slavik’s so calm he even provides narration, reacting to the challenges with only mild surprise. Is it any surprise that he eventually won the race itself?
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once wrote, “Valparaíso, what an absurdity you are, how crazy: a crazy port. What a head of disheveled hills that you never finished combing.” (Translation from Spanish found here.) Slavik called the city a “beautiful location” and said, “I would definitely come next year and … tell other international riders to come …” Throughout Slavik’s practice run, you can see fenced-off crowds watch the show, a reminder that UNESCO described Valparaíso’s layout as “amphitheatre-like.” How lovely that so many different people, decades and worlds apart, could find beauty in the city’s chaotic design.
In other crazy stunt biking news, here’s a video of a guy jumping a gorge in Canada six months ago.