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Road Trip Argentina: RLR’s wild adventure at masters downhill worlds

Snow and steeps at Patagonia's Cerro Bayo

Masters world championships is an event that normally flies under the radar. By contrast, the 2022 edition held at Cerro Bayo in Argentina looked truly wild. Snow crept down the hillside to just above the start hut on race day. In the days leading up to the race rain poured down, briefly cancelling practice and turning the course into a treacherous cascade of muddy drops and roots. Just days after racing, the Patagonian summer ended officially when the mountain was blanketed in snow.

We heard a few Canadians were down in Argentina and wanted to find out if worlds was as hectic on the ground as it looked in photos. Kevin Fowlie and George Amos are two members of Vancouver’s infamous DH squad, Rippers Lounge Racing. They gave a road trip report that sounds like it was one heck of an adventure, even before the racing started.

Masters worlds in Argentine is also, according to Amos, an event you don’t want to miss when it returns in 2023.

Amos and Fowlie under the UCI arch at 2022 masters worlds
Canadian MTB: Can you briefly introduce yourself, please?

Kevin Fowlie: Kevin Fowlie, member of Rippers Lounge Racing. I live in Port Moody, B.C., work in sales by day and ride mountain bikes as much as I can.

George Amos: Hi, my name is George Amos and I ride and race downhill for Rippers Lounge Racing based in Vancouver, B.C. A beer-drinking team with a bike problem.

How did you decide to race to masters worlds in Argentina?

KF: I turn 50 this year so I decided to treat myself. Plus I have always wanted to go to Argentina

GA: I’ve been racing bikes for a long time and when we heard that worlds were in Patagonia this year it was too good of an opportunity to miss. We’re spoiled here with amazing riding, but nothing can beat the experience of riding new tracks and exploring different cultures. Patagonia did not disappoint!

Amos drops into the Cerro Bayo course.
So Argentina sounds like it was a wild trip. From what little I’ve heard, there was a Phone stolen, lost e-mail access, Atm issues and a blown shock. All before racing started. Can you give a bit of a run-down of what happened leading up to the racing?

GA: We had a few booboos that was for sure! I somehow got my setbacks out the way on the flight out, whereas poor Kev had setbacks for the time we were there…

I had paperwork issues at Vancouver airport and missed the first flight that Kev was on to San Francisco. They re-directed me to Denver but security and bike bag searches meant I missed that flight too haha. So, Kev was already on the plane to Buenos Aires and I was in Denver. I overnighted in Houston (praying the bike was in a safe spot in the airport), got a lift in a 1.5-hr mini bus nightclub tour with a party driver, got to the hotel which was a rave until the early morning. The next day was smooth sailing to Buenos Aires where I met Kev at the hotel to reunite. This was the end of my setbacks but sadly was the beginning of Kevs!

Arriving at the hotel I finally found Kev after no cell phone or email communication to find out that his phone was stolen, I’ll let him explain the rest…

KF: Wild is one way of putting it! Ha ha. Here is a brief recap: My phone was stolen while in Buenos Aires. I couldn’t access email from the hotel computer because of the whole two-factor authentication wanting to send a code to my phone. Luckily, friend and teammate Brett back in Canada helped with a workaround.

I have the good folks at Villa La Angostura Bike & Ski shop to thank for getting my shock fixed. And yes, if you go to Argentina bring U.S. cash. Many of their bank machines do not accept our bank cards and the locals prefer you not pay with visa.

How was the race weekend itself? The course looked hard, even before the weather rolled in.

KF: Course walk and Day 1 of practice, the track was awesome. Pictures and GoPro videos do not show how steep sections were. It was a ton of fun. Then, when the rain came on Day 2 of practice, things got interesting. Most of the track turned into grease and changed dramatically for me. It became a battle of attrition.

On race day we had one practice run in the morning, then seeding and race run later in the day. My practice run did not go how I wanted, I crashed hard twice and by the time I got to the bottom I was mentally done. If it wasn’t for George I may not have raced, but thankfully he talked me into it. There was nothing better than crossing the finish line in one piece and drinking a Deep Cove Method Pale Ale with my Rippers Lounge Racing teammate George. All was good in the world again!

GA: Cerro Bayo, Kamikaze track is one of the best race tracks I’ve ever ridden. Fast, multiple line options, physical, steep and put a huge smile on your face every lap. The soil was a sandy silt, no rocks and a good chunk of roots. Running Maxxis Shorty tires was the perfect combination for grip and could let the bike eat its way down the hill. Wednesday was the first day of practice, a sunny dry day that had everyone in a great mood for racing.

Overnight, it dumped rain and snow. The perfect dry, fast and pinner track was now a slopfest survival mission. Tires were glooped up, traction was almost gone… it was awesome. UCI cancelled morning practice on Thursday, re-opening in the afternoon for 2 hours. The track became real hard, but with every added lap the rut lines were in and bike surfing the high lines was getting more and more fun.

Both Kev and I seeded and raced well in the cold and wet conditions. The race runs were to be proud of. The locals knew the lines and the track (they were sneaky and had their nationals on the track the weekend before masters worlds). Considering 85 per cent of racers were locals we did well. There was a good turnout of ex-World Cup racers, which makes me even happier that Rippers Lounge Racing was up in the top percentile.

*Amos finished 24th in the men’s 35-39 race. Fowlie was 10th in the 50-54 event. Excellent results on a new track against some big names, guys.
Amos, right and Fowlie post-race in Patagonia
This is early in the season for the two of you, even being in Vancouver. How did you prepare for racing?

GA: It was a wet winter this year! Still, we ride as much as we can with the team where the snow hasn’t buried the trails. Having so much amazing riding surrounding us on the Sea to Sky we are really lucky to be able to ride some of the best technical trails in the world. We take our bike and beer training pretty seriously. When it comes to the summer you need to be ready to lay down a race lap and have a can of Deep Cove thrust into your face at the finish line, then there’s the Keg stands if you win your race…

KF: I spent a lot of time at the gym/spin classes, rode my pedal bike as much as I could and got some DH laps on Cypress with teammates.

What’s the standout moment or takeaway from the trip for you two?

KF: For me, it is coming to terms with the fact that no matter how much research and planning you do, adversity can happen. Thankfully I had my friend and teammate George there to help me through it. I owe him immensely.

GA: Argentina and Patagonia were incredible, the landscape was stunning and the people friendly (even though they’re a bit nuts). I loved their relaxed attitude to everything, whereby not having the latest and greatest is the normal. Vancouver is a bit keeping up with the Jones’ and Argentina is more F*** the Jones’. We need more of that attitude in this city. Rally your beat-up cheap car to the bike track, ride a shonky chairlift, ride your bike and drink beer with your buds.

Fowlie launches off of a wet log in some very lower mainland-like conditions, just in Argentina.
Racing’s just getting started back here in Canada. What’s on the schedule for the rest of the summer?

GA: Race season is coming into full swing. Few of the Rippers are heading down to Port Angeles to race the North West Cup mid-May, then it’s onto the BC Cup circuit and the legendary Dunbar Summer Series. Whistler laps, alpine laps, road trips, float plane trips, the endless playground of British Columbia is opening up!

KF: Summer will be filled with BC Cup races including the Dunbar Summer Series, along with some bike trips within BC/Washington State.

Will we see either of you at masters worlds in 2023?

GA: Masters World Champs 2023 is a go for me. If they can hold it earlier in the year and we can ride that track in the warm and dry you’d be crazy not to go.

KF: I probably won’t do the Masters Worlds in 2023 as it is back in Cerro Bayo, but 2024 is a very real possibility.

Finally, I want to thank George for putting up with me on this trip as well as those that support Rippers Lounge Racing and help us reach our goals: Corsa Cycles / Dunbar Cycles, Race Face, Fox Suspension, Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers, Maxxis, Progressive Systems LTD., The Southside Diner, Muc-Off, SMITH and FiveTen