Oaxaca, Mexico is a place surrounded by magic, folklore, and traditions. Birthplace to some of the most important pre Hispanic cultures in Mexico, the Zapotecs, and Mixtecs. Oaxaca is a city situated in the southeastern part of the country, and one with some of the most diversity in America. This city hosts a great variety of flora and fauna which changes drastically from north to south and east to west. Surrounded by great mountains, Oaxaca is a perfect place for Mountain Biking.
One of the most fantastic and extraordinary Mexican traditions is the “Day of the Dead
”. This is the day in which the souls of the dead cross the bridge back to their families, where they are received by their loved ones with vivid coloured decorated offerings to spend one more day with the ones who have already departed. This holiday is composed of just two days in which people celebrate the return of the dead, the loved ones and the friends from the eternal life. The celebration begins several days before this date. Many families work together to make this a great celebration. The local markets offer flowers, “day of the dead bread
”, incense, sugar skull candy, Mezcal and everything necessary to complete the offerings. November 1st is the day that the saints and innocent children arrive from “Mictlan
” or world of the dead. The next day, all the dead arrive.
“Mil Ríos” (Thousand Rivers
) is a race that is born out of the love and passion for biking, planned and organized by BIKE LOGISTICS
with the sole purpose of sharing the magic of this place with every racer, its traditions and the “Day of the Dead
“The Sierra Norte de Oaxaca” (North Oaxacan Sierra
) has a peak altitude of more than 3100 meters (10,170 ft.), inhabited by the joint indigenous communities known as “people of the clouds
”. The North Oaxacan Sierra is comprised of an infinite number of single track trails and roads used by the ancient settlers of the high mountains to get to the Central Valleys where they would trade their products. These days the trails are being used for trekking and biking since the terrain is ideal for this.
The Mil Ríos race format is unique to the Enduro formats we are used to, in the way that teamwork played a strong factor. Making all of the teams race the track blind, with no practice runs added to the difficulty, so strategy and handling abilities were obviously key elements in the performance of each team. The format of the event was to have two racers per team, both started off with a 30 sec time difference, and both riders should arrive at the end of the stage within a difference of no more than 3 min, every second after these 3 minutes would be summed to the total race time, which complicated the race a bit more.
Last year, some of the best Enduro racers in the country were summoned to this first edition Mil Ríos Enduro Race. The hard conditions of the terrain and climate played an important part in the dominance of the race, a large quantity of the riders suffered punctures or mechanical issues thanks to this unforgiving terrain, so the ones who played strategy and nursed their bikes were the ones that got down first.
It's almost pitch black, hard to see out the bus windows, the silhouette of the trees between the fog reveal a faint glimpse of the Oaxacan sierra. Trusting that the driver knows the way, the racers just look out the window quietly. We had been picked up a few hours ago in downtown Oaxaca during Day of the Dead festivity preparations, so this was not the right moment to remember a Hitchcock movie, heading high in the Oaxacan Mountains, approximately 2 hours from Oaxaca city. This first edition of the Day of the Dead Enduro Race in Oaxaca was yet to prove itself.
After a few twisty turns and bumps, the bus arrives into what would look like a desolated town. Stepping off the bus all we can hear is the wind howling as strong as I’ve ever heard, hurricane like, and it carries some freezing showers. Our only visible reference in the pitch black night is a far away house with a dim light inside. We walk across and an old lady welcomes us, who speaks no Spanish, only her native tongue. But she knows who we are, and far from the cold and freezing night, inside the town’s dinning building we find a warm and welcome greeting from the women of this town. They had been waiting anxiously, with dinner served, for these long talked “crazy bike racers
”, with hot traditional and native Oaxacan cocoa and some of the best quesadillas you’ll ever have, all handmade and cooked in an authentic traditional wood fire oven. This whole town is operated by the native people and they are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
After this great dinner, we meet in the main cabin and gather around for the rider's brief. Now far away from the cold wind and rain, with a lit fireplace and a “few” beers among the riders makes this a perfect way to reunite or meet new friends. The paired rider team race format would be a new challenge for many over the 17 km of single track.
Off they go!
There was a small 40 min liaison stage, before the fun began, nothing to worry about, but a perfect warm up to shake the cold away and get the mind set into racing mood.
The trail was made up of mixed terrain, from perfect hard packed soil, leaf covered ground, to some technical rocky sections, but as some rain had moistened the dirt the night before, grip was perfect. As the trail descended the climate changed and it seemed that with every turn the temperature increased and the fog up on the mountain which had covered us in the morning was now substituted with a perfect blue sky. The foggy trail at the start of the morning now was a totally different place from what the scenery presented us now. This was now a more tropical climate, where all of the racers knew that heat and humidity played a big factor in the race. Not to mention that if you had a puncture or a mechanical it would be best to fix it as fast as possible, not because it was a race and you’ll have to go fast as hell down the hill to win, no, that wasn't important, what mattered is that in a few seconds you'd become the perfect mosquito meal!
By the beginning of the second stage, the winner could literally be anyone since some of the favourites by the middle of the race had already lost time due to some Mil Ríos adversity. The locals would later say, if Mil Ríos doesn't punish you, then… it is not Mil Ríos!
The end of the second stage arrives beside a beautiful, wide riverside with abundant cactus and some tropical vegetation which make a beautiful contrast. There is still a small liaison stage to get to where the award ceremony would be, and as a proper Mexican town party, the ceremony is right in a nearby town’s little plaza beside a small market that is still selling some Day of the Dead flowers, called Zempasúchil flowers. Now, the locals watch as the award ceremony begins and some that are surpassed by curiosity or the chance to try some Mil Ríos official Mezcal join in.
So now it is obvious to say that no Oaxacan celebration would be complete without its famous Mezcal, which is an alcoholic beverage similar to tequila, and as part of the race kit one small bottle was included, so now was the perfect moment to toast in honor of the of the dead and on those who's victories in this race were made true, and for a few people this time, “Dreams of Mezcal and a thousand rivers
” would make a new chapter in some of the riders’ bucket lists.
Every race, trail or trip is unique, no doubt about that, but this race has all the elements to become a true Mexican race, a complete experience, with all its color and warmth, it is a race of its own in a very special place, Oaxaca.
It's almost that time of year again, and this race is just around the corner, the 30th and 31st of October 2015 will host the second edition of this magical race in Oaxaca, which will also be part of the 6th round of the Mexican National Enduro Series, if you'd like more info on it, the guys from Mtb Enduro
are the organizers and can answer all your questions!
Entries can be bought online here