Threading needles at the Valparaiso Urban Downhill

Mountain bike races aren’t known for attracting large crowds. After all, remote mountain trails where the more prestigious events take aren’t exactly fan friendly. But that’s all changing thanks to the rising popularity of an alternative racing class: the urban downhill. “The premise is simple,” says Joe Parkin, editor of Bike magazine. “If the people can’t get to the show, just bring the show to the people.”

To that extent any hillside town will do, but hardcore bikers say the bumpier the roads and narrower the streets the better. And that’s why the coastal village of Valparaiso, Chile, has become home to one of the most renowned urban downhill races on the planet.

Last week the city hosted it’s 9th annual urban downhill, which attracted tens of thousands of fans and riders from all over the world, including Filip Polc of Slovakia, Cedric Gracia of France and the USA’s Chris Van Dine.

As usual, they thrilled onlookers by weaving through narrow alleys, dropping off staircases, riding up and over walls and avoiding throngs of people (and a few stray dogs). Local boy Antonio Leiva did them proud by finishing in fourth place. Here’s what his run looked like from behind the handlebars…