From the 13th to the 17th of September the second edition of the Trans-Nomad Enduro Adventure race powered by Fox and sponsored by Orbea was held in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees. The event saw racers cover 182km in four days, 12,200 meters were descended and 7,000 meters climbed over 18 stages and 53 timed km through the Spanish and the French Pyrenees. The start point of the race and first base camp was Sesué, next to Castejón de Sós, and Castejón was the chosen village for the last base camp location and finish point of the event.
Up to 80 riders coming from nine different countries, including names such as Ruben Rodriguez (Intense bikes Spain), the first edition winner, François Bailly–Maitre (Ibis), Ze Manel Borges (BH Miranda Racing), Simon Andre (Orbea), and François Dola in the men field. In the women's category, Trans-Nomad gathered last year's winner Sandra Pastor, Sandra Jorda (XCM European Champion) and Nadine Sapine (Scott France) among the rest of the female competitors. On top of that, the 2017 Trans-Nomad included some names like Chris Porter (Geometron bikes and Mojo-UK's Fox distributor), Carlos Huerta (Montenbaik collaborator, Chile) and Cesar Gairin (Orbea ambassador).
Trans-Nomad aims for a focus on the adventure and spirit of comradery, rather than on the competitive side of the event. Although it is still a race, and there is a final classification indeed, the big family feeling is powered by the team that runs the event. Daily breakfast and dinners are served for the entire group of riders together. The organization's bike patrols mark the stages ahead of the riders with a limited signing display. Besides the non-environmental-intrusive track marking, one last bike patrol makes sure that no tape or sign is left on the mountain after the last rider passes by. Underneath the surface works a huge logistics plan for the feeding zones, shuttling riders to remote places in vans or buses, and transporting the riders baggage and camp tents to every day's base camp location.
This year, the organizers decided to cross the French border, and it was one of the highlights of the race, with the riders taking their bikes to Portillon de Benasque and descending to France. More than five different valleys were visited in this second edition, some of the most beautiful locations within the Huesca region of the Pyrenees, breathtaking landscapes, many hours spent over 2,000m, amazing natural trails in a huge variety of terrain and forest. I can't avoid mentioning that completing this adventure is challenging, it's quite tough, pretty physical and mentally demanding, but totally worth it. The moments you experience, both on and off the bike, the places you visit, the people you meet. As one rider from Canada said the other day; "After completing this race, I don't see mountain biking the same way".
Did I mention breathtaking landscapes? Enjoy the views…
Francois Bailly-Maitre has certain experience in this sort of base camp enduro races... Andes Pacifico and Trans Provence victories are part of his track record.
Bitech and Fox were in charge of technical service, every day, until very late in the night.
36km and five stages leaving from Castejón de Sos (Huesca) to reach the base camp at Bagneres de Luchon (France), from the Aragonese Pyrenees to the French Pyrenees. In their way, the 80 riders had to deal with a hike from La Besurta (approx. 1,800m) to Portillon de Benasque (2,445m) where the start of Stage 1 was located. The Portillon is a natural border crossing between Spain and France, used in the last century by soldiers, traffickers, and political refugees. Although the day started sunny on the Spanish side, it turned to misty and rainy weather as soon as the riders entered France. After the first two stages descending the Portillon de Benasque, the riders faced a pedaling liaison to Col de Bareges (1.749m), descending on the third stage to Col del Portillón. The last two liaisons took the participants to stages four and five, in flowy and fast trails with better grip and temperatures than in the morning. Jose Borges and Sandra Jorda were the fastest riders at Bagneres de Luchon.
The start line of Stage 1 was set at Coll de la Forqueta (2,386m). After a long and technical hike from the French side of Bielsa tunnel up to the top of Coll de la Forqueta, cold, wind and falling snow were the ingredients for the first section of the stage, but the weather improved as riders were making their way to the Pinarra Valley, at the Spanish side of Bielsa tunnel. A shuttle took the riders to Espierba to ride the liaison to Pico del Comodoto (2,361m) for stages two and three, through an alpine meadow at the second one and through a fast alpine forest track for the third. The last two stages were held in the Pineta Valley, finishing in Bielsa village. Jose Borges and Sandra Jordá set the fastest times. François Bailly-Maitre wasn't feeling good in the morning and decided not to race the second day, what eventually took him off the general classification.
The village of Bielsa is just down there.
I had looked at the race book and I had no doubt about the third day being the toughest one of the race. More than 60km, four stages, 3,500m descending and 2,000m climbing/hiking. If that wasn't enough, the riders had to fight low temperatures (-5ºC plus wind) and a snowstorm at stage one and two, followed by snow, hail, rain, snow, and rain again. An epic day in the mountains.
A hike to Collado de Urdiceto (2.314m), border point between France and Spain, was done under cold temperatures but a sunny day. Suddenly, the weather changed to lower temperatures and an intense wind hitting Tabernés Valley and Biadós Valley. Stages one and two went from black dirt and rocks to an alpine meadow and then alpine forests with slippery roots. By that time, the rain and hail were over the valleys without intermission. After the feed stop, a long climb to Puerto de Sahún took the riders to stages three and four, and then to the base camp in Castejón de Sos. François Bailly-Maître and Sandra Jordá were the fastest riders of the day.
The menu for the last day included some of the best trails of Puro Pirineo
: Sierra Negra, Planadona and Gallinero.
After three days of rain, snow, and wind, the last day brought the sunlight and warmer temperatures as if everything was already planned for a good ending to Trans-Nomad 2017.
A 1.5–2 hours ride and hike was necessary to reach the top of Stage 1 at Sierra Negra. Departing at 2,500m and descending on a fresh black dirt without marked trail, a freeriding feeling with awesome views, making your way into an alpine forest on a fast and technical track, wide open smile for all riders at the end of the stage. The liaison to Stage 2 included riding on Planadona, and made happy every rider with its 3km of pure flow trail, a mandatory one if you happen to be in this area. Gallinero and Bosque Encantado (Magic Woods) were stages three and four, with almost no liaison between them. These two tracks together gather almost everything you can ask in a trail: rocky sections, fast trail sector, technical sectors, flow section, lots of corners, jumps, drops, pedaling section, and great views. Montisielo was the last stage, delivering more flow in the pine woods. Repeating the script of the previous day, François Bailly-Maître and Sandra Jorda set the fastest times for the day.
Pablo, the TN bike patrols leader, enjoying a moment of relax at work.
The winners of Trans-Nomad 2017, Ze Manel Borges and Sandra Jorda. Simon Andre and Nadine Sapin occupied the second step of the podium while Cesar Gairin and Beatriz Vicente made it to the third position.
Fall is already at the doors of the Pyrenees. Winter is coming and we can't wait for the 2018 season.
You can have a look at the final results here