Halfway down the slither of mainland on South America’s western coast lies the Chilean capital of Santiago, a haven of bright colors and bustling markets. Beyond the capital, the mighty Andes mountains loom, cushioning the city in a pale haze. Here, the landscape is untamed, unforgiving, and exposed. It is, in other words, an ideal locale for new heights of unpredictable trail fun, and the perfect rugged proving ground for the hardy group of riders who have come to Chile to test themselves against the treacherous trails in a five-day stage race called The Andes Pacifico. In a pre-race warmup ride, after departing the capital and climbing over 2100 feet in our first hour, it feels strangely like we’ve barely left the city. Despite the perspiration beading on our brows, if we listen carefully we can still hear the car-honks and dog-barks below. We take a break and, looking down on Santiago, let the full weight of the challenge we’ll face in the coming days settle. After a well-earned, cooling traverse across the city foothills, we stop for a beer and a bite to eat. At the table, no one needs to voice what we’re all thinking: this adventure will be one for the books.