Vuelta el Cotopaxi, the Cycling Adventure Race in Ecuador

  • 3 minutes

November 2020, while we were confined for several months, Alex and I were invited to participate to Huairasinchi, an adventure race in Ecuador, a word which means "The force of the wind" in Quichua. This race, which has been part of the World Series since 2003, is known for its brutal climbs, dense jungle and long stages at altitude. 

To go or not to go…  

It was a few months before the travel ban and the Canadian embassy in Ecuador confirmed that we could enter the country with a negative test. 

So it was with excitement, but also apprehension that we landed in Quito almost three weeks before the race to acclimatize. Living at sea level, we had no idea how our bodies would react at this altitude for several days.  

From Quito, we can see Cotopaxi, the emblematic volcano that occupies an important place in the landscape and history of the country. Cotopaxi is also a national park of almost 40,000 acres, full of small trails for hiking and mountain biking.  

Every year a mountain bike race is organized there, the Vuelta el Cotopaxi. This race takes place in teams of two and uses the trails around the volcano.  

With the health restrictions in place, the 2020 Vuelta el Cotopaxi consisted of a virtual race of 48 km. Teams had to download the GPS route and complete the course between November 1-30. The times and the ranking were recorded via an application provided by the organization. The Vuelta el Cotopaxi course was therefore perfect to test our bikes and especially our ability to push ourselves beyond 4,000 m of altitude.  

Alex and I decide to do the race "off record". Even though we are not officially registered, our competitive nature takes over as soon as we cross the starting arch. The first 10 kilometers goes particularly well. With our heads in the handlebars, we give everything we have to keep a steady pace.

The legs are responding to commands and the feeling of breathlessness is tolerable. We then take a turn into a long straight line with a headwind. Alex is my locomotive and I concentrate on not letting go of his wheel. After 25 km of high intensity, Alex had to take a short "nature" break. This interlude allows us to see the majesty of the scenery that surrounds us. Cotopaxi is right in front of us and we can see its summit at a little less than 6,000 m. In the distance, llamas and wild wolves move quietly in the Paramo vegetation. 

So, we decide to do the second part of the trip more quietly to enjoy every moment and not miss anything of this breathtaking landscape. We finish the 48 km with a respectable time of 2 hours and 41 minutes and our heads filled with postcard images. We are also reassured by our good sensations in altitude, which gives us a lot of confidence for our main objective, Huairasinchi. 

Slowing down to appreciate. 

Karine Corbeil – Cycling Avenue Ambassador

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