The Inca Divide is a 1675km epic bikepacking race across the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is the flagship event of the well-established BikingMan series.
Last summer, I lined up at the start of the race in the hope of achieving my second victory of the year. I managed to overcome the difficulties specific to this brutal race (scarce resupply points, very high altitude, extreme temperatures, broken roads) and finished first in 5 days and 15 hours.
I have been an ultra racer for four years now, and of all the events I have taken part in, this one stands out for the sheer beauty of the landscapes it traverses. From spectacular canyons to snow capped peaks, deep blue lakes and forgotten villages, it is a unique voyage in the heart of South America where every day brings its share of amazement.
Many of the places I have seen there, I will never forget.
Entirely paved, this first day brought me from sea level all the way to Cajamarca more than 3000m high. A climb that is gentle but lasts for 100km. As soon as you start climbing the road is pretty deserted with only a handful of villages.
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The day started with several short steep climbs that made the going fairly slow. But the views made up for it. The highlight of this stretch sure was the spectacular Canyon del Pato and its 27 tunnels. Soon after the city of Caruaz was in sight. With a wide array of food options, it was a welcome change from the resupply offered in the small villages that were scattered along the road from Cajamarca.
This day was extremely challenging with the climb of Punta Olimpica, more than 4700m high. And then a 7 hours long climb on very bumpy gravel roads, up to 4300m. Only by training at elevation can you hope to overcome these two monsters.
Madness and beauty is what this day was about, with more than 100km spent above 4000m. But the Nevado Pastoruri, close to 5000m high made it all worth it. It's hard to put in words how beautiful these mountains are. Let's just say they keep haunting me and will do so for a very long time.
The last push! Mostly downhill, but nothing is ever easy on the Inca Divide, and the headwind in the canyon was brutal. The last stretch to Trujillo on the Pan-American highway is not the most pleasant but it gets you there, where you can finally get some well deserved rest.