Aidan Bishop reports back from the Big Ride Cannondale Enduro in Spain.
Big Ride Cannondale Enduro
Tui, Spain 9-10th June 2012
Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
Across the bridge was Portugal and some nice weather before the rain came.
With the season in full swing now, the past weekend was a busy one with the Fort William world cup DH happening, including a round of the 4X pro tour, Bristol bikefest and more. On the Enduro calendar there was a Super Enduro Pro race in Italy and also a round of the Big Ride Cannondale enduro race series in Spain, to mention a few. A friendly Spanish guy named Guti Martin is organising the Big Ride series in Spain sponsored by Cannondale, the series this year consisting of 2 enduro format races and then a mass start DH race in September. With his promotions for his events he had top Spanish racers signed up and to tie in nicely with Cannondale’s backing he had their own enduro supremo Jerome Clementz also signed up for the first two rounds. So Guti contacted me about his races and was keen to expand the nationalities of riders competing. It was a good opportunity for me to experience a different nation’s take on enduro racing and to get to know my Cannondale team mate from across the water some more.
So the lure of some good riding and racing in the Spanish sunshine, or so I thought! I arrived on the Friday, greeted by Guti and some nice welcoming sun, leaving the grey English weather behind. Once arriving at the town of Tui just across the border from northern Portugal, Jerome and the guys from Cannondale Europe were there to meet me then we crossed the border (and time zone!?!) to Portugal for lunch and a little sightseeing. Once done we headed back to Tui and then went for a quick ride out. Saturday morning and the course was open for practice, So we kitted up and headed for the start line which was located in the town centre, from what the coverage I have seen this is similar to how the Italian SuperEnduro races work, a good idea to draw local spectators and involve the towns and cities these races operate from.
Cannondale Europe representing in Tui, Spain.
One complete loop of the course was approximately 34km I think, fully exploring Mt Aloia which was 1km out of the town centre and contained the 5 timed stages we would be racing on. The route was very clear and easy to follow with blue arrows regularly placed along the trails along with some tape here and there. The first difference from the UK races was evident for me on the first transition, 1hr 30 mins was the time allowed for riders to get to the start of stage 1 but in this time you had a solid climb of around 500m I think, from the town centre right to the top of the mountain. On race day this took me 1hr to cover at a decent pace, so the time allowance was about right to allow riders of all fitness levels to make in time but at the same time it really puts the endurance side of the discipline into your legs! Luckily this was the longest of transition trails although plenty of climbing was required through the whole course so by the time you ended the loop you had certainly completed a ‘Big Ride’
Jerome Clementz, world beating enduro racer and first off Sunday.
Stage 1 – Started with short downhill start then pedal a lengthy section of double track, then follow more open grassy terrain along a worn narrow path that had rocks and ups and downs. Then pick up more speed down single and double track before dropping into some steeper natural wooded ground to the finish. 6mins a benchmark time with a good amount of physical effort.
Stage 2 – Had a fun DH start, flowing nicely with some natural jumps along the way. Short pedal and down through a succession of corners on singletrack before turning onto a long fire track, flat to begin with then pointing downwards. Turn off into jungle like singletrack with rocks and corners making this technical but fun before another fire track section. Then more nice flowing singletrack before a sharp steep climb then finish. Another 6min stage and just as physical as the first.
Stage 3 – a pedally start followed by singletrack and then out across a rocky outcrop. Then some pretty fast and flowing smooth singletrack before a couple of wet wooden pallet crossings and some technical turns and out onto double track. On and off more double, singletrack and road before joining some steeper straights on a tacky mud sections with deep ruts that needed to be avoided, finally try and gain as much speed as you could for a steep bank to climb to the line, under 7 mins was a good time to get here. Below is GoPro footage of the first part of stage 3
Stage 4 – a sub 3 minute mostly downhill stage here. Quick sprint on fire road then drop into singletrack trail with a succession of flowing corners. A pedal along a flat fire track then back into more nice singletrack with a few drops and jumps along the way, one drop in particular after crossing another trail could catch you out if you didn’t scrub some speed off first. GoPro footage below of the full stage is below following Jerome Clementz and Pau Reixachs.
Stage 5 – Started with a spirit to get up to speed on the sandy fire road then you just needed to keep your speed rolling and hold your lines through several fast corners, drop into singletrack before needing to hop a ditch and pedal up a little before getting back into more single trail. There was then an option to roll a ditch or jump it to the right before hitting the last few straights of trail that held some good speed to the line. A really fun piece of trail to race on and finish the loop with, under 4 minutes was achieved by half the field here.
Wet from the start, not the weather I had hoped for!
We finished our practice lap in around 4 and a half hours and before the rain got a little heavier and really turned the trails from tacky to wet and slippy in places, riders practising later that day came back wet and covered in mud spray. Sunday and it was race day, when signing on your number board was accompanied by a waterproof printed sticker with all your start times for the stages, a nice touch to ensure everyone knew when they had to be ready to go. Usually fastest go last in the UK but here it was the opposite with Jerome setting off first with the number 1 plate and myself setting of with the number 2 plate. A 10am stage 1 start meant leaving the Big Ride Cannondale liveried starting platform in town at 8:30am, the weather more pleasant for this and quite warm with the cloud cover. Before long though we were riding through patches of drizzle and heavier rain bursts, and after an hours pedalling up the mountain I was pretty wet through, the hopes of racing in the sun out in Spain out the window now!!
Spanish pinner Pau Reixachs pushing it on stage 2
Stage 1 was a hard stage, battling through the rain and wind, trying to see through the wet and trying to push as hard as you could with the visibility and grip available, I finished without crashing at least and was pleasantly surprised to be told my time almost immediately as they had a screen posting each riders time at the line, not so good was that Jerome went 12 seconds faster than me already! It did appear that I had a bit of a time gap over the third place rider though; this would turn out to be the pattern for most of the race. As each stage passed however the amount of climbing involved in each transition was taking its toll on my legs when it was time to sprint in the timed stages however so pacing your riding effort was quite important. Stage 4 nearly ended my chances of a result however as I hit the blind drop way too fast, forgetting which one it was so I ended up landing at the bottom of it on my front wheel. Fortunately I got my weight back enough to stop myself going over the bars and hurting myself but did clip a tree and go down, I was a little tangled up with my bike but got up and back on as quickly as I could and finished the stage. The rest of the race went smoothly and then it was time to get back and clean and dry.
The later stages warmed up a little and started to dry.
By the time we and our bikes were washed and we had got back to the finish in town it was 20 mins and the podium presentations were ready to go, this was quick compared to the various enduro races I have taken part in to date. I was happy to hear my name called out, first I was up on the 2nd step in the masters 30 category and then back up for 3rd place in the overall standings too! Jerome rode fast and strong as I had expected him to all day and so took the win from Antonio Perez DaCosta, so good news for Jerome and myself putting two Cannondale’s on the podium, better news was to come after the event however as a timing error on the final stage was corrected meaning I had actually finished 1st in masters and 2nd overall with Antonio placing 3rd. So the final result being a Cannondale 1st and 2nd place finish in this round of the Big Ride Cannondale Championship.
All in all then a really good event put on down there in Spain by Guti and team even with the rain. Nice touches that I think helped make the event were the start being in the town therefore attracting more interest and crowds, really clear and concise route and stage markings. With Powerade on board as a sponsor there were refreshments provided at two points around the loop that was very welcomed by all. The timed stages had a good variety of all terrains and gradients in them to keep all riders challenged and tested, and finally there wasn’t a long wait at all to get the final results published and prize giving underway. I was particularly pleased with this as it meant I got to get onto the internet and watch live coverage of the Fort William DH world cup with Jerome to see the race unfold and compare whose Dirt fantasy team scored the best….he beat me here too!!
Champagne drenching for Jerome, a 1-2 for Cannondale!
So another Enduro race series appears on the calendar, the final round of the Big Ride Championship is a mass start avalanche format race in September this year. At 30 euros per round to enter and if you find conveniently priced and timed flights, these races offer you an alternative if you fancy a change of scenery or the lure of warmer climates than the UK. I’m certainly very tempted to return for more.
Big thanks to Guti, his team and the guys at Cannondale in Spain for the warm welcome and hospitality as well as Mavic, RRP, Crank Brothers, Giro, GoPro, Maxxis and 661 for their support this year.