As the season draws to a close, Tracy heads for Spain in search of the last good weather at the Mondraker series final.
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The racing season is slowly coming to an end and last weekend was the final of the Spanish enduro series sponsored by Mondraker Bicycles. This has been the first year of the Mondraker Enduro Series and over the year they have hosted five races – three in Spain, one in Andorra and one in France – with on average 150 participants enjoying some great racing.
The series has been outstanding value for money. An entry fee of just 25 euros includes open training on Saturday, five stages of racing with beam timing on Sunday, free t-shirt, food out on the trail and lunch after the race and a massive raffle of prizes at the prize giving. I’m sure next year will attract even more participants.
The final round ıtook place just an hour north of Alicante at a privately owned bike park called La Fenasosa. It’s a location that has been used for many bike tests and is open every weekend to the public to ride the downhill, freeride trails and jump park, all serviced by uplifts in old army vehicles and accommodation and food is provided by the owner Jean-Philippe at the castle on the grounds of the estate. It’s a perfect set up that can cater for up to 50 riders every weekend.
This was the first Enduro race at La Fenasosa, but with Mondraker Bicycles and additional sponsor for this event Wildwolf both based in Alicante it was the perfect location for a big finish to the season.
With much of Europe experiencing the first cold snap of winter and the Alps getting their first dump of snow, Alicante also had some cold weather over the weekend. At 8am when the first rider left the start it was only just getting above freezing but it wasn’t long before the sun came out and it was then plenty hot enough for me.
The course was a 23km loop with 1000m of climbing, so it was a pretty short sharp loop with some steep loose gravel climbs that really started to take its toll towards the end of the race.
Leaving the start it was around a 20-minute climb up to stage 1, which I was glad of as stage 1 was the most technical and I wanted to make sure I had woken up, and warmed up properly after my 8.08am start. Stage 1 was around four and a half minutes long and had two distinct sections. The top was gnarly jagged rock that was relentless. Carrying speed and conserving your bike was the key to this stage. It would have been so easy to get a puncture or damage a wheel if you pushed too hard at the top. The second half was much smoother bike park style with jumps and berms winding its way to the bottom of the estate. This was probably the most downhill and least pedalling of all the stages.
Up to stage 2 was a short but pretty brutal transition, almost 20 minutes of rocky steep track that was just that bit too steep to ride up without putting yourself into a painful place. Most people opted to push most of the way. The transition time here was pretty tight and most people only had a few minutes to get ready for the stage.
Stage 2 was fairly short, starting with a fun rocky narrow gully which then joined an uphill fireroad sprint for about 20 seconds and then a flat fireroad which seemed to go on forever to the finish. I did not get a chance to pre ride this stage so the big pedal was a little of a shock to the system. From the finish of stage 2 it was another climb of more than 20 minutes up to the start of stage 3.
Stage 3 was the most physical of the day. It started on the ‘bambi’ trail, which is a beginner trail of jumps and berms. A really fun trail to roll down, but racing it was tough; there was so much sprinting and squashing of jumps it was an exhausting start to the stage. You were already breathing hard before you started the minute-plus climb back up to the finish at the castle. Finishing back at the castle gave us chance to grab some food and cold isotonic drink from the Wildwolf bar before continuing to stage 4.
Stage 4 was the longest of the day with times of over seven minutes for the fast guys. It started off flat out and fast down a rocky gully that just got narrower and narrower, with jumps and north shore. At one point the gully is impassable so a wooden corkscrew has been made to transfer you down to the next level.
The gully slowly opened up again and the trail flattened out into the finish. It was a fun stage but a hard one as it was really hard to keep flow. The only way was to keep pedalling everywhere you could fit a pedal stroke in.
From the finish of stage 4 it was then the toughest and longest climb up to stage 5 which started at the highest point of the estate. It was close to a 40-minute slog up some steep loose fireroad and again there was little time to recover or to try and eat some food.
Stage 5 started with some steeper rocky terrain which then broke out into the open onto a section of jumps and then a flat out pedal along some rocky flat fireroad trail all the way back to the finish at the castle. Returning to the castle after being out for around three and a half hours it really was a tough enduro race with a big focus on pedalling and fitness. It was a hard morning of racing.
Live timing was available all day and the results were up within minutes of the finish. After a quick shower it was time to enjoy what the Europeans do best: food at bike races. A big paella dish had been placed above a small log fire in the finish area and everyone sat around having a beer watching the biggest dish of paella you have ever seen being created. Once everyone had been feed the podium took place and the mountain of prizes were given away.
This race was a big one for Cedric Gracia as it was his first race back since shattering his hip at Val Di Sole back in June. Quite remarkable that in four months he is back on his bike and obviously in great shape taking the win on the day ahead of Fabien Barel. Third place went to Spanish rider Jacobo Santana Pastor. I was happy with my race taking the win in the ladies and 19th overall.
A big thanks to Wildwolf for the invite, to Jean-Phillipe and his family for their hospitality and to the organisation for a great event.