In 2020 Jorge Sandoval will be going global!  The man who is famous as race director of the New Zealand Cycle Classic will be turning tour host for the inaugural edition of the Tour de Amigos, taking in the sights, the sounds and culture of Sandoval’s homeland of Chile.  We caught up with him to ask more about this new adventure.  

For upwards of 30 years Sandoval’s influence in the cycling world has grown and grown in New Zealand.  Events like the Trust House North Island Series and the New Zealand Cycle Classic have become staples in the racing diet of so many in New Zealand.  But there’s been a call to something broader on the international spectrum and after a number of years of people asking Jorge and son Daniel began putting their heads together to make a request a reality.  

“People have been asking me to organise a group tour of Chile for years. I’ve been so focused on growing my tours in New Zealand and doing my best to deliver the best cycling event that it really wasn’t on my radar,” Jorge told RoadCycling.  

“It wasn’t until my last trip to Chile in 2018 with my son when we started to brainstorm how it might work. I always bring my bike to go on rides throughout my visits home and it was here I began to piece together the tour route.

“I began to get excited about the idea of putting together something special that combines great rides, picturesque scenery and activities that encapsulate a Chile which most tourists don’t get the chance to experience. The real Chile.

Chile is a fascinating country, renowned for its beautiful landscapes around areas like the Chilean Patagonia and the Andes Mountain Range.  It’s a nation steeped in rich history when it comes to food and wine, great street art, and Chile also happens to possess the tallest building in Latin America.  But beyond that though the cycling climate is a healthy one, and with the Tour de Amigos Jorge was keen to make sure that the tour would take place in optimal conditions for visitors to maximise their enjoyment of one of South America’s gems.  The tour will take place from 29th February – 12th March, with the nation in the same state as New Zealand; enjoying the back end of the hottest months of the year.

From mountain peaks to beach side towns Chile, like New Zealand, has a range of facets at its heart that makes the nation what it is, photo provided

“Cycling is very popular in Chile with both recreational and competitive riders.  The climate during the tour is on the tail-end of Summer. Not too hot and not too cold. We’ve chosen that time of year as we feel it’s the perfect temperature for cycle touring. I’d say it’s not too different from the Wairarapa during summer,” Jorge explained.

“In regards to the landscape, it’s undulating with beautiful scenery of mountains (we ride at the base of the Andes, just by the Argentinian border, for a few days), vineyards, farmlands and Chile’s famous Bio-Bio river.”

Visiting Chile with the Tour de Amigos is set to be an immersion not just into the cycling on offer but into Chilean life and culture.  Just as there are elements that New Zealanders associate with what it means to be a Kiwi, Chileans pride themselves on a number of things, and as he said earlier Jorge is looking forward to introducing visitors to the ‘real Chile’.

Jorge explained to us a bit about the cultural history of Chile, saying, “Like Kiwis, Chileans are proud and passionate about their country. We have a rich and sometimes turbulent history. 

“Chile is a big tourist destination in South America and Chileans are very welcoming of foreigners because of this.

“Culturally, Chileans pride themselves on their cuisine, their wine, and of course, football (soccer). Like New Zealanders and their Rugby, football is a huge part of what it means to be a Chilean and the country often slows down when a big game is on.”

The tour itself will be a 13 day immersion into one of the most vibrant countries in South America.  After arriving in Chile and being transported to the tour’s official departure in Cocepcion, the first ride will take in the long flat roads and then the rolling hills and valleys towards Nacimiento.  The longest day of riding will be 83km in length and will rise from 140m to 1098m above sea level to Antuco.  The Bio Bio River will feature a couple of times across the tour, as will the beautiful Ralco National Reserve, and then a rest day to explore and savour Chillan’s markets and restaurants.

Antuco, part of the Bio Bio region is simply stunning to experience, photo provided

Possibly the hardest day on tour will be day seven, the journey to the ski resort of Termas de Chillan; 1650m above sea level, with stunning views and well deserved spa services and hot spring pools awaiting riders at the end of the day’s cycling.  Day 8 will provide the opportunity to experience Coihueco, one of the small country towns that make up the Chillan region, before two days in the beautiful Guarilihue wine country area.

Next it’s a tough but rewarding ride to the seaside town of Tome, where the following day takes in relaxing riding and then some final happy memories before getting ready for the flight from Santiago.

So as we get set for the first ever Tour de Amigos in 2020, we couldn’t help but ask whether this would be something that Jorge and the team will be hoping will take off as an annual event.  For now Jorge is a bit reserved, committed to making the first edition something that is unforgettable; so don’t wait to book your place in the Tour!  

“At this stage all we’re focused on is putting together a tour in 2020 which our guests will remember for the rest of their lives. On a personal level, I’m very excited at the prospect of sharing my country and culture with like-minded cycling enthusiasts and anyone interested in experiencing other cultures,” Jorge said.

To find out more about the Tour de Amigos, which runs from 29th February to 12th March go to www.tourdeamigos.com.  

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