February 18, 2008 (Valparaiso, Chile ) – Canadians were well represented at the Copa Contrapedal urban downhill race this past weekend in Valparaiso, Chile. Canadian national DH champ, Micayla Gatto (Commencal Oakley) took home second place, less than a second out of first, despite a crash on an upper section of the course. Cassidey, BC’s Steve Smith took home third place.
“My race was pretty fun – during my qualifier I hit a stray dog – that was interesting. I guess that slowed me down a bit. All in all it was a really good week, I had a lot of fun and the course was amazing. It was unlike anything I have ever done before. I definitely would want to come back,” said Gatto.
Smith spoke briefly about his run the next morning, “The race was awesome, got to huck some stairs, it was super fun. The Chileans were awesome. It was a great time. My race run went pretty good.” Smith was a source of entertainment for the event staff all week, making up new names for the host countries citizens and handing out Redbull to the fans who chased riders back to their hotel and begged for everything from sweaty jerseys to dirty socks.
Antonio Leiva (CHL – Santa Cruz) took first, while countryman Mauricio Acuna (Rocky Mountain) took second. For the women, 16-year-old Kona rider Luana Oliveira of Brazil took home first place while Diana Margraff of Ecuador was 3rd.
This year’s event featured an almost 3-minute course, with extremely high-speed upper sections, including what is possibly the longest set of stairs mankind has ever constructed. Starting high up above the town of Valparaiso in a barrio, the course wound it’s way down the ghetto, through the old Valparaiso prison and finally though the second story greenhouse of a local flower shop to the finish. An estimated 6,000-7,000 fans were in attendance to watch the riders negotiate their town’s unique features and avoid the hundreds of roaming stray dogs.
Fan favorite Brendan Fairclough (UK/Monster Iron Horse) suffered a couple of flats, which prevented him from qualifying as there were numerous large drops with no go-around, which would not have been insane to try on a bare rim. Despite his bad luck, Fairclough vowed he would return. “I thought it was good. I expected it to be ghetto, and it was ghetto – but it was good fun and the track was so much fun. I’ll be back next year.”