The incredible spectacle of the annual Red Bull Valparaíso Cerro Abajo, one of the world's best downhill mountain bike events took place on Sunday, February 12th. It saw Tomáš Slavík, despite carrying an injury into the finals, take his third win of the famed race down Chile's steeply streeted port city.
Although you might not have been aware of it, urban downhill mountain bike racing has been thrilling crowds for years. With the select few riders riding at suicidal high speeds down the narrow course with lots of stairs and massive jumps. While thousands of spectators and quite possibly a stray dog or two on track watch the action unfold.
Throw in parked cars, pigeons with a death wish, the odd random resident who seems oblivious to what's going on, and Rob Warner with his excitable commentary and you have quite the combination for an exciting downhill mountain bike series.
The gravity discipline is set to get even bigger with the launch of the Red Bull Cerro Abajo series for 2023 and the first round of the series took place in the narrow residential streets of the UNESCO city of Valparaíso, Chile. It gave the field a true urban downhill mountain bike challenge as riders rattled over a rooftop and rode through an actual house, with the owners happily cheering and waving flags as each rider rode at speed through their home.
Every edition sees a subtle change to the course, with staircases just wider than bars, difficult drops, and man-made obstacles to navigate. The 2023 edition saw the placing of a boarded wallride with a difficult approach into and out of it and brought the athletes a host of challenges.
Qualifying whittled down 26 riders to a 16-man final, two-time Red Bull Valparaiso Cerro Abajo winner and home favorite Pedro Ferreira was unable to compete after suffering wrist injuries in a practice crash. Notable riders making the final include Chilean enduro mountain bike specialist Pedro Burns, Red Bull Monserrate Cerro Abajo 2022 winner Camilo Sánchez, regular British UCI World Cup racer Phil Atwill, Scottish rider Lewis Buchanan, and Frenchman Adrien Loren who was a previous Cerro Abajo winner.
Czech rider Slavík would take the race win with a time of 2m 16.815s which was just under 1.5s faster than Columbian Juanfer Vélez, who was last down the course during finals as the fastest qualifier. In third place, Brazilian national downhill champion Lucas Borba rounded out the podium on the day.
Slavík's winning run was remarkable given that he suffered an ankle ligament injury on his right leg from a practice crash before qualifying where he dug deep to finish with the third fastest time and he spoke to Red Bull on the finish line "I'm super stoked. Breaking the ligaments in my ankle, I thought this chance of taking a third win, it's just like, gone and I was already thinking about next year here. Whenever the journey is hard, then the victory tastes better. So today tastes real good."
The Czech, second last year, won previously in 2017 and 2018. Slavík also leads the 2023 Red Bull Cerro Abajo series overall going into the next race at Red Bull Medellin Cerro Abajo on March 4. Watch his epic winning run below and follow the series on Red Bull TV.