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 Conquering Brasil Ride

Champions: Looney and Wadsworth conquer the 7 day Brasil Ride UCI Stage Race; the Biggest Stage Race in South America.

Brasil Ride is the biggest stage race in South America attracting the World’s top racers from Europe and North + South America. It is also notably one of the hardest races in the world with 600km of distance and 43,000′ of climbing over 7 days.  Sonya Looney teamed up with Gordon Wadsworth for the second time this year to take on this Mixed Category in Bahia, Brasil.

Sonya said, “I won the women’s category at Brasil Ride in 2014 and wanted to see if I could get a different category win under my belt and there’s no better male teammate for me to race with than Gordon!  The race also changed locations so I was interested to see a different region of Bahia.

The race started with a 20km Prologue and got progressively harder.  On the first stage, Sonya and Gordon bested Portuguese champions and took the leaders jersey by 1 min 30 sec.  Going into Stage 2 boasting 82 long miles and temperatures over 100 degrees with extreme humidity, the power duo felt confident, but it didn’t go as planned.Gordon said, “Day 2 was a knuckle buster for sure, our competition attacked from the gun, putting us on the back foot and eventually forcing us into cruise control to be fast all week and not just in the first endurance day.” And it wasn’t just the competition that forced them into cruise control.  The heat and humidity ended up getting the best of Sonya.

Sonya recalls, “My body completely shut down in the heat. I struggled to finish the 6 hour day.  I had heat stroke and had to simply do my best to manage the symptoms and get to the finish line.  It was the only time in my career where I almost fainted at the finish line.”  They lost the leader’s jersey with the day’s 2nd place finish and had a 9 minute deficit to make up.  Sonya said, “I was worried about the rest of the race because if I was already struggling with heat stroke on day 2, what would that mean for the next 5 stages.

Fortunately, the next 5 days went to plan.  Stage 3 was a true mountain biker’s stage with muddy and slippery jungle singletrack, steep climbs and a very tough 50 mile day.  “This was a stage where Gordon and I could really shine in our ability.  You had to be strong and being a good technical rider paid off big time.”  They won the stage by 25 minutes and asserted dominance over the leader’s jersey.

Stage 4 was the Queen Stage and was over 100km.  The race demanded 5-6 hours of racing for most stages and the Queen was no exception.  “It was tiring, it was relentless, it was hot, and it required a strong mind,” Sonya said.  As a team, they worked together as Gordon shielded Sonya from the wind and even hiked both bikes up a very steep mountain while Sonya trailed behind Gordon.  “To be competitive in mixed, you have to find the strongest male rider you can find and Gordon is a machine!

The power duo stayed steady for the remaining stages, but none of the finishes came easy with the physically demanding courses and accumulating fatigue.  Even on the last day, there was pressure coming from the 3rd step of the podium because that last spot was being heavily contested on the last day of the race.  “I was hoping to have an easier day since we had a big lead, but the other teams were charging on the last day and it forced us to ride our best!” said Sonya.

Sonya and Gordon crossed the last finish line of the Brasil Ride winning by over an hour, but they had to earn every pedal stroke!  Gordon exclaimed, “After every finish line and every green leaders jersey we stayed committed to the causes that unite Sonya and I as Bike Racers. We were social with our fellow competitors, passionate about the experience of those involved in the event, and committed to top performance in our every action.

The course was hard. There was no time to ever rest.  When we weren’t riding singletrack, we were working hard to draft and stay in groups of very strong men.  There was a lot of climbing at this race, but most climbs were very short.  Every day was rolling and punchy. I found it challenging as a female trying to stay with the men and match their power, but I’m proud of how I rode and especially proud of how Gordon and I rode as a team.  Any time I needed him, he was there to give me a push or carry extra weight.”  Sonya said.

The Mixed Team will race again together in the future.  Gordon was positive and enthusiastic after the finish, “Brasil ride didn’t disappoint! The caliber of the competition, the difficulty of the terrain and conditions, and the smiles of the communities we raced among were all intense and impactful.” 

This will be Sonya’s last race of the season after 10 months of racing this year.  Her first race of 2018 will be the Trans Andes Challenge in Chile where she will go for her second win at the event.

Here is a podcast they recorded about a previous adventure racing as a team in New Zealand as well as secrets of Power Couples.  To subscribe to Sonya’s Podcast, go here.

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