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Racing On Top of the World

Cat Topham - local racer and photographer www.cattopham.com tells us about getting ready to race in the Santa Cruz Andes Pacifico Enduro in Chile. A truly epic adventure and Tweed Bike Boxes will be there keeping the vital equipment safe!


The Santa Cruz Andes Pacifico is a 5 day mountain bike Enduro event taking place high in the Chilian Andes, a mecca for Mountain Biking. The competition starts above 3500 meters and crosses over ten valleys of different geographies, landscapes and vegetation to reach the Pacific Ocean after 5 days having fallen nearly 12,000 vertical meters.

During these five days the riders will be challenged by very technical trails made by Indians and the cowboys from de Andes to the pacific ocean. This is the real deal and the Andes Pacifico has participation from great riders like Jerome Clementz, Nico Lau, Fabien Barel, François Bailly-Maitre, Cedric Gracia, Yoann Barelli and many more..


TBB: Tell us a bit about yourself

CT: Hi, I’m Cat. By day I’m a pet photographer, wife, mother and all the normal stuff. I got into Enduro because I got an entry to the Trans Provence in 2013. I’d done plenty of riding abroad and raced a very limited amount at that point although mainly endurance style MTB. It just looked a really cool thing to go and do so I put in an entry, honestly not really expecting it to go anywhere. It did so I started racing some Enduro, thought I best had! I raced the UKGE series in 2013 and after TP again in 2014 finishing 4th overall in women’s category. It was a pretty small group of girls that turned up to the races in those days! I can vividly remember my first UKGE, it was in Innerleithen, before we lived here and it was absolutely tipping it down. I spent the majority of the weekend on the floor thinking, what the hell I have got myself into! Still I made it through TP and I’ve raced all over the UK and abroad in loads of different series since then really.

TBB: What drew you to the Andew Pacifico?

CT: I’m heading out to do the Andes Pacifico in February with my Husband Paul. It’s an event we have always fancied and since we had our son we have to pick and choose what we do with a bit more thought. Rowan’s now old enough to stay with his Grandparents for a bit longer and so it seemed like the right time for another adventure! I think the main reason for racing rather than just visiting for a holiday for us is the atmosphere and people you meet. Neither of us are aiming for any kind of result, other than finishing in one piece. A race is just one of the best ways to cram in the best trails with a group of like minded people and a fun atmosphere to kick about in when you're off the bike.

TBB: What makes it special?

CT: I think you might have to ask me this again when we get back! But hopefully it’s just going to be totally different to anything we have done before. We’ve both ridden in Europe loads and although it’s always brilliant fun, when you have less opportunity to get away it’s important to make it count I think.

TBB: Tell us about your preparation and training.

CT: So this is the part where I need to admit to having done very little. I hit a really busy period with work as soon as we decided to enter, I’d just started a new business, so I thought I was in for a fairly quiet few months where I would be able to train. I was wrong, which I shouldn’t complain about but it has made it hard to train. Turning down work when your self employed is incredibly difficult to do, even with the AP looming large!

I have managed to do some turbo training but I’ve probably averaged about 1 ride a week on the bike for the last few months. I’ve blocked the January diary out though so I’m putting in some last minute panic training. As I mentioned I’m not really looking for any kind of result, just to enjoy the experience so hopefully I will have enough fitness in the bag for that. Pauls had a training program and has stuck to it so I’ve no doubt he will manage a smug look when he ends up helping me up the hills!

TBB: What special planning needs to be done?

CT: I think for us its just been a case of making sure the bike setup is on point and buying bigger tyres! Other than that just the normal logistics of flights and any other travel really. I spent 10 years in the Army and did two tours of Afghan in that time so I’m quite comfortable with living in a tent in the heat! Packing what you need and no-more. Don’t forget a hat, sun screen and a sense of humour.

Like any good mountain bikers we’ve probably spent more than we should have on some new jerseys and knee pads too. Looking the part is half the battle right??

TBB: Any training tips?

CT: Do more than I have.

TBB: What are you looking forward to most and least?

CT: Most I’m looking forward to the complete change and the challenge. I know I’m going to be absolutely crapping my pants at the top of the first stage, possibly every other one after that too! I haven’t pushed myself like that for a while so it will good to see if I can do it. I’m also looking forward to seeing Chile and meeting some cool folk.

Least is definitely the hike a bike. I’m not a fan, never will be. There’s going to be a lot of it.

TBB: What bikes are you using?

CT: I’m on an Orange Stage 5 and Pauls on a Stage 6. I’ve been an Orange fan for as long as I’ve been into bikes. I like things simple and things that just work. There's no faff with an Orange and it just keeps trucking on. They look better with age and wear their dents with pride, which is lucky because I’ve put a few into it.

I did the Trans Provence on an old Five, it was just as 650b was becoming a thing and I must have been one of a handful of people at the race not on a new carbon Bronson, poor thing was a bit worse for wear by the end. My Stage is a little better specced than my old Five and does hold it’s own in a shiny bike line up, it just doesn’t need to shout about it. Which is lucky because if I turned up on a blinged out super bike people might actually think I was fast, which I’m not!

We wish Cat and Paul all the best in this incredible adventure and we are proud to have our boxes along for the ride!

To find out how the adventure was, subscribe to the Tweed Bike Boxes newsletter where we will be catching up with Cat and Paul on their return. Sign up here