Friday, February 8th, 2013 | by ergonusa
January 30 – February 2, 2013
MTB Ayiti Ascent Stage Race is the first mountain bike race in Haiti. In 2010, a few Americans were in Haiti and noticed the huge potential for mountain bike racing in the country. IMBA and Sea Otter founder, Rick Sutton, went on a scouting trip to confirm that Haiti would be a new mountain bike hotspot. Haiti, or Ayiti to the natives literally means “land of mountains.” With the incredibly steep, rocky climbs and the miles of hidden singletrack, the 3 stage, 2 day race was an enormous hit.
Sonya Looney was behind this race since the day they told her about it last year. “I think the media tends to blow things out of proportion with the safety concerns. It’s always nerve-wracking to go to a developing country, especially Haiti with the US safety warning and cholera outbreaks. I had a feeling that it would be just fine, especially after talking to some friends who had just been there.” They pro women’s field at the race was more stacked than the men’s with former world champ and Luna rider, Marla Streb and pro Ironman Tri winner, Jenny Fletcher.
“I wasn’t sure where my fitness would be with only 6 weeks of training into the new season.” Sonya proved herself as the 29 year old literally rode away from the field during both stages 1 and 2. “Stage 1 was fun. It was an hour and a half time trial uphill! I was pleased to feel so strong and to check out the great views at the top of the ocean.” Stage 2 was longer and more adventurous with an infamous hike-a-bike called the Soul Collector. “I felt good about my hike-a-bike with my upcoming Yak Attack and the specific hike-a-bike training I have been doing.” She was surprised at the vast mountain range and challenging riding. “I was glad that I brought my camera and I took photos and video along the way!”
Stage 3 included 12 miles of flowy singletrack and a heinous 18 miles of a rocky, brutally rough descent down to the finish on a pebble Caribbean beach. “I had a few mechanicals for Stage 3 and lost the stage by 20 seconds. There was also a lot of course confusion with people taking some accidental shortcuts, but I was glad I got the full course under my belt! It was really cool to see a Haitian guy take Stage 3. I wasn’t going to try to sprint him for it.”
Looney took the overall win of the race over men and women. “I’m really excited with my fitness right now moving forward to the Yak Attack in Nepal that starts March 1. It was a great honor to be the winner of the first ever mountain bike race in Haiti and I hope to go back next year!”
Sonya Looney, 1st place