Report: Ride Sierra Nevada Enduro

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November isn’t exactly known for its hot sunny racing weather, but just over a week ago, the Ride Sierra Nevada Enduro was going on over in Spain. Steve Longdon marshals there and got in touch with a quick race report, as well as talking it up a little, natch. He’s also sent us a great account of being a marshall there, which you can find below.

The next race is likely to be in November 2018 and further information can be found on the website. Unfortunately there’s no mailing list right now, but it seems like a race worth keeping an eye out for next year. Steve points out that getting to Spain for the weekend doesn’t cost much more than travelling within the UK, and rather cheekily suggests anyone who missed out on Ard Rock tickets might want to give this a look.

Sierra Nevada Enduro 2017
“November dust”. Just roll those words around your mouth for a bit.

Over to Steve:

It’s early on Sunday morning and we’ve just been dropped off at the top of Stage One. The race doesn’t start for a while but we have been told the first riders might be through in about an hour. We have to walk down the trail, checking the tape and I settle myself on a couple of steep dirt bends where it would be easier to take a straight ‘enduro’ line and jump across some corners in the woods and so result in a big time gain. Nicola walks a bit further down where a break in the tape might also tempt riders to take a straight line instead of the identified course. We both have walkie-talkies for emergencies but we only get to use them to complain to each other about the cold.

We have agreed to help out with this year’s Enduro race. Our main qualifications are that we don’t mind a bit of hard work, we can ride a mountain bike, we can see and tape a trail effectively, and we can speak enough Spanish to rub along on race day. Also we like to think we are quick to see hidden ‘enduro’ lines and close them off with rocks and tape.

Sierra Nevada Enduro 2017
There’s rain with 50mph winds outside the office today. We’re not jealous AT ALL.

The sun has not come up over the shoulder of the hill above us and it’s cold on the north facing slope amongst the trees. I look longingly at the other side of the valley where the later stages of the race are already bathed in sunshine. I’m so glad that I brought a warm top but soon I’m losing a few layers as the sun climbs and the first riders come hurtling towards me. Some riders come too fast into the bends and others just don’t have the ability to get around them. Fifteen riders take a tumble here but there are no serious injuries. I don’t get to use the race radio to call for medical help. That is so good. Nobody has tried to cut the straight line so perhaps I’ve done my job well enough.

I had talked about being a marshal on Stage One and then riding in the race. This was just nonsense. There was too much to do and to be honest I was more than worn out after three days of marking out trails. Then we had walked some stages again to make sure the tape had not blown away after the wind had kicked-up a bit over-night and to cut back some of the bushes on the the tight corners on Stage Four.

Sierra Nevada Enduro 2017
Looks like you need to carry plenty of water.

At twelve o’clock we get to walk down to the bottom of the trail collecting the red-striped danger tape on the way. We catch a lift in one of the vans to get across to the start of Stage Four. From here we walked down to the broken rocks towards the finish and sat watching and shouting encouragement as the riders looked for a quick safe line down this most technical section in the whole race. The best riders made it look easy enough but there were plenty of tired riders further back in the race order who had to fight their way down here. It was an exciting place to watch. We ate our sandwiches and sat in the sunshine.

When we get back to the square in Guejar Sierra we go get a beer and talk to some of the riders that we know. And so we get to share in the emotion and excitement of the race. What went well and what did not. The winners get to the podium. The crowds cheer. We go across to get our paella but sadly that all the vegetarian food has gone. Oh well there was still plenty of chocolate and salted peanuts. And more beer.

It’s a whole different thing being a race marshal. We all know how much effort we have made to ensure that the race has gone off as best as it can on the day. But let’s be fair it’s mostly unsung. We imagine that’s a measure of success. The riders have come to race. If it all goes well they have a great time and that’s our job done well.

Next morning we met up for a breakfast with everyone who had helped out with the race in a cafe in the square. Then we got to ride the whole race on our own. Quiet trails. The sun was shining. It was a delight.

Sierra Nevada Enduro 2017
A puff of dust, just to rub it in.

Here’s Steve’s description of the race:

“1900m descent, long climbs, technical singletrack, steep descents, loose rocks, tight turns, oak forests, rock gardens, 4 transitions, north faces, spanish sunshine, riding with respect… you could be forgiven for thinking that the Scottish Enduro season had moved to Spain when Hibs fan Shaun and Csilla from ‘RideSierraNevada’ and Spook from ‘No Fuss Events’ hooked up for this year’s enduro race in Guejar Sierra just above Granada in Andalusia. But in stark contrast to the wet and mud of a winter in Scotland the winter sunshine washed over the white pueblo of Guejar Sierra for one of Spain’s best enduro races.

“The race is set in a rock-strewn valley over-looked by the beautiful snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, and the sunshine washed over the white pueblo of Guejar Sierra in stark contrast to the grey skies and the wet and mud trails of a winter in Britain. Still the dry and dusty trails provided more than enough excitement in a 38Km race with four timed stages and almost 2000m of mostly single-track descent. Riders came from Canada and Australia, the USA and the UK but also from across most of the regions of Spain go head to head with the local riders from Granada.

“Stage One was a blast down through the oak forest to finish in a long tight section of rocky corners before opening out to a sprint for the finish. Then a climb up to the skinny single-track of Stage Two that was cut into the mountain scrub and where clouds of dust were thrown into the air as tires bit into the corners on a thrilling dirt descent. A quick stop at the feeding station to catch breath before the fast and flowing Stage Three became a lung-bursting climb to a ridge and then a loose technical switchback descent that spilled the riders out onto a gentle climb to the start of Stage Four. This last stage was always going to be a challenge as the fast flowing single-track was broken several times by sections of technical rock gardens where line choice was to prove crucial for all riders whatever level. This was where most riders spent time on practice day. It was the place riders said where the race could be won or lost in a moment.

Sierra Nevada Enduro 2017
The long sleeves aren’t for heat, but to protect from a thing called “sun”.

Nathan McComb, a young UK rider from Northern Ireland, has spent this summer riding the EWS series in Europe picking up sponsorship from Vitus Bikes, but still lives out the back of his van like most riders with plenty of enthusiasm but little cash. He said that he was on holiday in Spain and had no real intention to race but came along for the ‘craic’ after a phone-call from his friend Tommy Crusate, the junior rider from Alicante.

At the end of the race Nathan came out on top despite a strong challenge from the Spanish competitors and Tommy won the junior event. Nathan was quick off the blocks taking the opening stage, was squeezed into second place on the next two stages, but then took the win on Stage Four won to win Elite and the overall title from the Spanish riders Alvaro Tito Ruso and Mario Arjonae who somehow managed to tie for second place some 49 seconds adrift. The women’s race went to Marketa Michalkova. The junior women’s race went to Tracy Pisvin Baijot. It was also good to see Tim Kirkus and Jenny Mayhew from ‘PureMountains’ win the men’s and women’s Master’s 50 titles.

“One of the best things about this enduro race is that the liaison stages are not timed so there’s no pressure to get to the start gates only the pressure of getting to the end quickly and in one piece. For some riders it’s real competition and for the rest of us it’s just brilliant fun. Then at the end of the race there’s time to blow the dust off your bike then sit in the square in Guejar to eat paella and drink beer in the sunshine while the times are calculated and the prizes are given out.

“For those who like to sleep in the mornings and couldn’t make the 6 o’clock deadline to get into the ArdRock Enduro or got up early but didn’t get a race entry, why not think about a trip to Granada in the November sunshine 2018 to race in one of Spain’s best organised enduro races instead? It’s a fantastic and friendly atmosphere. The prizes are good and race entries are easy to obtain. Watch out next summer for information on how to enter next year’s race on the Ride Sierra Nevada Enduro MTB website or Facebook page.”

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