Madmen and Daredevils

26 Feb

DSC06032“Cerro Abajo” is a downhill bike race held every February in Valparaiso. The whole city turns out for this slightly insane but very Chilean event.

The race course is the city itself. The steep stairways, hairpin turns, cement and stone walls and a second story window are some of the obstacles riders face in their downhill plunge.

DSC06017The crowd is packed like sardines, three to six feet from the action as they line the narrow streets of Valparaiso trying to get a look at the flying cyclists. People walk up and down the hill along the race route cheering the riders on with shouts and songs. We were impressed by how happy the crowds were as at times they inched their way shoulder-to-shoulder on the narrow steps lining the course.

DSC06061Many of the competitors wear webcams on their helmets to capture the action from a first person perspective. Search for ” Cerro Abajo” and “Valparaiso Downhill Race” on the net to see some of this year’s videos.

Fans crowd around the wild spirited and devilishly attractive athletes as if they were rock stars.


DSC06075The racing day starts early in the morning with practice and trial runs all day until the big race at 5 p.m.  The riders and their vans go up and down the hill repeatedly practicing all day.


This year was sunny and clear with a cloudless blue sky and bay. Street sellers were out in force with iced tea, beer, empanadas, tortas and ice cream.

DSC06028The race ends in Plaza Anabel Pinto with a big finish.  A window is removed from the second floor of a store that looks out on the Plaza.  The riders come down the last hill picking up speed, enter the store through the back door, then jump out and down two stories to the ramp and finally the cobblestone. These guys make it look easy but then we are on the ground looking up, not the other way around.

DSC06063Watching the riders fly with such wildness and grace was full of joy. Some may call them “madmen” but these riders are incredibly young and incredibly brave.

2 Responses to “Madmen and Daredevils”

  1. Jon February 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    wow! you were there? about a week ago I watched a video on you tube about this. great event and great pics dana and jill.

    • Jill February 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Jon: How funny you just saw that. The video cams really capture the nerve of the riders. Most of the guys are slight and young. Helps to have those pliable joints, eh? Love, Jill

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