Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Old Town Outfitters on the Podium

This past Sunday was race day in the Antigua valley and the new Old Town Outfitters mountain bike race team showed up in force. The "punto a punto" or point to point is a race that has become hugely popular around here. This is one of Guatemala's most brutal courses that traverses some 60 kms. across the Guatemalan highlands.

Nearly 1700 mts. of vertical ascent across the course did not hold back Francisco "Pancho" Gaitan our hotshot young gunner who not only won his division, but nearly took 1st place overall. This determined 17 year old cruised around the 60 kms. course in only 2:47 minutes. To put this in perspective the Elite US pro rider who won overall finished in 2:42 minutes. Pancho will for sure be a face to watch in the future. Keep an eye on the Old Town Outfitters team to see him crush the competition.
Watch out boys, when you see Luisa "Wicha" Zea screaming up behind ya on a downhill, you'd better get out of her way. Don't feel bad though as she drops you on the climbs...your not the only guy shes cruised by. She stepped it up on Sunday to show the field what she's got under the hood. Wicha not only crushed the womens open field to come in 3rd, but brought most of the men on the course to their knees as well. Wicha will be the workhorse of the Old Town team and a true national contender. Racing with her prior Pro Road teammate Gaby Molina and good friend and Mirador Basin Saviour Josie Thompson, these 3 gals swept up 1st, 3rd and 6th place are a force to be taken seriously in whatever category they race in.

The "punto a punto" was our first race together as a shop team, but certainly not the last. To see so many Old Town Outfitters jerseys on the podium definitely turned more than a few heads amongst the big teams. We're taking applications for more riders if you think you got what it takes to stare down either Wicha or Pancho on the course....I say bring it on!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Western Highlands Mayan Trail

The rains stopped and the sun finally came back out, which opened the perfect window for us to get a few folks out on our 3 day trek retracing the ancient Mayan trade routes connecting the Maya of the Lake Atitlan basin to those of the Quetzaltenango Valley. This walk crosses mountains and ridges used by the Highland Maya for centuries.

Leaving the Atitlan basin behind we pushed high up into the altiplano to an area locally known as Alaska. This cold, windswept, high mesa is named after its northern neighbor because of its climate. Much of this walk traverses the ridges at more than 10,000ft that seperate the lake from the rest of the western highlands.

"Las Siete Cruces" or the ridge of the 7 crosses is the backbone of this ridge system and offers up enormous views off each side. Legend has it that these crosses honor fallen Guerrilleros from Guatemala's long infamous civil war. The ridge passes through rare intact stands of virgin Pinabete forests which is a type of Pine endemic to Guatemala and in danger of extinction.

The views from the Las Siete Cruces campsite to the West has you staring down the dormant sentinel giant of Santa Maria volcano with its active neighbor which can often be seen letting out a puff of smoke after and eruption.

To the East the views from our campsite is of the Lake Atitlan Basin and the Volcanoes all the way back to Antigua. On a clear night with a little luch you can see fuego volcano giving off one of its signature lava shows.

On the third day of the trek we dropped down off the ridge skirting Zunil Volcano on our way to Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings. The trail down is pretty tough as it drops quite steeply from nearly 11,000ft., through lush bamboo forest down to the pools. The sounds of the fiesta coming from the hotsprings and knowing a long hot soak was going to heal sore muscles kept us going.
A cold beer and soak was the perfect way to end this trip.