So, last 27th April was racing weekend for the first stage of the portuguese national Enduro series (Troféu BTT Enduro Vodafone) taking place at Vouzela, a small village in the Northern Centre of the country right under the big mountains of “Caramulo”.
We decided to run this year in Promo only, since that’s where the big chunk of our followers run or would like to and this way we can in some way stay closer to our friends (also the pros start the stage much earlier in the day and this way we can also get that extra sleep:] ).
We (Caco, Nuno, Eman) headed north Saturday early in the morning, by the time 8:30 AM, Nuno’s van with our three trail bikes in the roof top had already travelled three of the six hour trip to Vouzela. As we travelled north, the weather was progressively becoming “northier” and subtle thoughts like “where the hell are we getting in to” or “why on earth did we leave the sun in the Algarve and Lisbon”, were starting to become part of the conversation . It didn’t stop raining during all the second half of the trip until we arrived! By noon, we stoped the car, turned off the engine, got our plates and went to lunch. Hamburger for Caco and “febras” to Nuno, Eman and our friend Joao Rodrigues who joined us for lunch and eventually to ride the tracks in the afternoon.
The “training” was supported by Joao’s van for the uplifts – which was great because if we climbed all that on the bikes, we wouldn’t even move in race day, and after seeing those climbs, maybe we would sabotage the alarm clock in the morning – eventually we all drived the van and did each track two times, all of them under loads of rain, cold and fog.
We all forgot how fun it was to run in the mud and were really enjoying the day, but time was short and we had to go get something to eat. Wet and freezing, we washed the bikes and the van with the little energy we had left. Had dinner, hotel room hair blower stuck inside shoes, bath and sleep…
Race day… After the lousy breakfast we headed to the start. There we met with our forth team rider, Pedro,(who did the training before us in the morning) it was a sunny as summer day so time to take off all the extra inner clothing we had prepared for the hailstorm we had the day before. No, just sun, and hot, thanks Portugal and global warming phenomena stuff.
Ahead. Special stage one was the toughest off them all being closely followed by the second – which were also the longest ones – so we knew we had to give it all in these two to get a good result in the end. A badly located tape threw all four of us off track for a couple hundred meters in the first third of the stage. Unfortunately all four of us lost between 30 to 60+ seconds there but that just made us carry on faster throughout the rest of it. The stage had three distinct zones all separated by two fire roads. First third was a slower up and down and pick your line between climbing big rocks and avoiding small bushes, followed by a very fast singletrack with lots of fun turns and finally the arm killer rock path in the last kilometer where you could also get precious time if you were feeling confident. Releasing the brakes, picking your line and try to go in straight and keeping rubber side down was the real secret here, the faster the better, and easier! Nice!
Special stage two was fresh. Fresh like opened the week before. So it was not yet as compact as it would to be perfect, but it was fun anyway. The track wandered a riverbed for the first half – really beautiful scenario here – and after going through a wet and dark hundred meter tunnel, a wooden swithback lead us to a small climb. From now on the stage alternated between up and down very technical and narrow sections and very flowing singletrack between the pine trees throughout the ending in a cute small village.
Special stage three, what can I say about SS3, oh I know, GETTING THERE!! Man, talking about steep and long climbs! Anyway, apart from that this was a real pure fun track, like two downhill tracks separated by a steep one hundred meter climb. Just that. Really fast and flow the first section and fast and rocky the second one. This was one of the favorites riding the day before. Everything went fine here, no harm or errors, just tiredness after that climb.
Special stage four was the shortest and fastest, it was about flow and turning technique, the dirt was perfect, with just the right amount of wetness to give you that ultimate grip we forgot we don’t have in the dust. Just one thing to point here was the commissary’s distraction in ordering Caco’s take-off which took a few seconds right of the start and made me stop halfway to push and tight my kneepads and goggles in place.
At the end, we weren’t that bad apart from the time lost at stage one and four.
Pedro (Junior) was 3rd, making our podium of the day;
Nuno (Jacaré) was 5th
Carlos (Caco) was 13th
and Emanuel (eMan) was 16th.
We were kinda happy with that and left Vouzela tired but with a smile on our faces.