Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
Last weekend saw the second round of the National Spanish Enduro series: The Big Ride powered by Cannondale Enduro championship.
Having done a couple of these now, I have got to know more people involved and I was really looking forward to another trip out to Spain to take part. This round was to be held in the town of Tui in the north East area of Spain, so a cheap flight down to Portugal and hop across the border and we were in the sunny town ready to check out the tracks. A map of the hillside was provided for all riders showing the transitions and stages for the route, a tougher one this year covering 5 race stages over 42km and ascending 1900m but that is a Big Ride…
The town, like many I am discovering in these European events, has the fortune of being placed at the base of a jungle-like mountain, making it perfect for enduro events. I know I would be very happy to live somewhere where I could ride five minutes out of town and up into a natural forest on a mountainside with plenty of trails to ride. Last year I had the opportunity to ride with Jerome Clementz at this race and this year he was back again with the addition of Cannondale overmountain team riders Ben Cruz from California and girlfriend Pauline Dieffenthaler, so it was going to be a good weekend ahead.
Friday afternoon I quickly unpacked the bike and headed up to ride one or two stages. I first rode stage 1, which was the same as used last year, a short fun mostly DH stage. I then followed the route to stage two start, which seemed to go up and up for a long time, I was glad it was early evening as the sun wasn’t so hot to ride in. Finally at the start of stage 2 and faced with a rock face to ride down, dropping you right and onto singletrack, followed by a great mix of fast, technical, pedalling all combining to make a full on enduro race stage.Aidan havin’ it!
That was enough for that day so I rolled back into town and met up with Guti Martin, the race series organiser and Jerome, Pauline and Ben and we were treated to some local food dishes in a nice quiet local restaurant.
Saturday – time to ride
Saturday morning came and it was time to ride. We got into town, got our goody bags at registration and were good to go, with an aim of taking in all of the stages this time and generally getting pretty exhausted in the sunshine. Stage 1, as I said, was mostly flowing DH trail and 2min 30sec plus. Stage 2 had everything, including a lot of pedalling if you could towards the bottom and 7min plus here. Stage 3 was shortish again at 3min plus but 60% was very steep, seriously dusty and rocky trail that snaked down the hillside, a real challenge to ride. Stage 4 was pretty long again but very fast at the start, some loose corners at speed then some technical rocks near the end and 5min plus. Stage 5 and a final 4min plus to finish with, pedalling off the line with nice singletrack to the finish.Ben Cruz was ill this weekend but still managed a good result.
A provided sticker for your frame told you when you needed to start each stage and a chip stopped the clock the other end, a monitor was there so we could see our times each stage as well as people checking the overall times on their phones on the way round the loop so we were keeping a running check on who was doing what, which added to the race I felt.
Stage 1 and we all crossed the line cleanly, besides Fernando Marcos who crashed right over the line in a cloud of dust! Jerome took the lead from Ben Cruz then Tony Perez, winner of round 1 then me. It was on the transition to stage 2 that I learned of a fast Portuguese rider called Jose Borges to watch out for, as he hadn’t raced a Big Ride race before he was riding number 50 and so we discovered he had pinned the stage and actually gone fastest, thus becoming one to watch the rest of the day.
Stage 2 and a big effort on the legs and lungs got you across the line, I was two seconds off Perez again after a clean run then Mr Clementz chased me down and took 30 out of me, showing his calibre of racer and why he is one of the best in the world at this discipline, he had also taken over 20 secs out of Borges to take the lead overall.Jerome Clementz doing what he does best – schooling everyone…
Stage 3 and time to keep your rear mech away from the many rocks waiting to break it off. Nearly past all the steep dusty switchbacks and suddenly I hit the deck pretty hard but managed to get back on as quickly as I could to finish, however I lost valuable time on a consistent Perez who managed to break a gear cable here but fortunately managed to get spare from another rider, showing the other side to enduro racing where it is a battle in itself to finish the day and the friendly spirit of all riding together. Clementz went (in his words) ‘full gas’ and enjoyed his run to go fastest again followed by Borges and Cruz, who impressed me greatly as a stomach bug saw him in a bad way on Saturday and vomiting a lot, just racing was an achievement and he was racing hard.
Stage 4 and I needed a strong run to recover time lost, going faster into the corners than practice I suddenly found myself sliding out both wheels on a high speed corner off the start littered with loose rocks and sand…damn it! Again Jerome powered through for the win, creating a small time cushion with one stage to go ahead of Borges, closely followed by Cruz and Perez then myself.
Stage 5 and Borges managed to better Clementz once more by tenths of a second but Jerome had already done the damage through the day to win by 28 seconds, with Ben Cruz finishing the day despite feeling horrible the day and night before and taking third spot overall. I pushed hard once again to try and finish strong but got slightly offline and punctured so had to roll to the line, securing 4th elite and 5th overall behind Tony Perez the series leader.
We cheered through Pauline who took the win in the women’s category ahead of Eva Castro and the British Nicola Weaver. It was then back to town for a prompt podium ceremony which timed perfectly for us to get across to El Pilar De Tui to plug a laptop into the big screen and watch the Val Di Sole DH World Cup with good food, friends and beer…. the perfect way to round off a race weekend!
Another great weekend of racing and riding out in Spain and another well organised and challenging event by Guti, Monica and the Big Ride team who were great hosts in their hometown event.
Big thanks also to Cannondale, Mavic, Crank brothers, GoPro, MRP, RRP and Evoc for their support this year.
Next round is 20-21 July in Cercidilla, Madrid. I’ll be there for sure and hope to see some more Brits give it a go.