Digging For Gold
Marcelo Gutiérrez is known in Colombia as South America’s greatest DH racer. Now, in his new role as a Giant ambassador, he’s helping locals build new trails—and a sense of community.
Over the last decade, however, things have changed in Neira. Marcelo kept hearing about riders there who were pushing their limits on scrappy trails. There were tales of enthusiastic locals digging and building new lines through the densely forested, high-altitude terrain. There was a man called The Doctor, and he was doing good things.
It just so happens that this year the timing was right for Marcelo to return to Neira. After a decade on the pro downhill circuit, a span that saw him collect 11 national championships, three Pan-American titles and four World Cup podiums, the 30-year-old decided to take a break from racing, transitioning from his pro athlete job with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team to an ambassador role with Giant. His calendar opened up.
“It was a pretty natural track with a bunch of wooden jumps and weird looking lips,” Marcelo said. “It’s about 2.3km long. It starts in a pine forest and then goes through some coffee fields. At the end it goes through a sugar cane field.”
With the help of his digging crew, led by two brothers who live near Bogota and go by the name Tacky Brothers, Marcelo imparted his wisdom and trail philosophy on the locals. The goal was to preserve the challenge and thrill of the terrain but dial down the hazards and add some flow.
“Sometimes people believe that the gnarlier and more unrideable it is, the better it is,” Marcelo said. “I mean, at World Cups we ride trails that are almost impossible, but it’s a different sort of impossible. You don’t want it to be sketchy and scary—where it’s not a matter of skill but risking your life. I just wanted to show the potential of a trail and the difference between riding a path that’s 40cm wide compared to opening it up to about 1.5 to 2 meters wide. We want to use banks and walls, find natural jumps, and remove stumps or other things that make it unsafe.”