I visited Sao Miguel, one of the nine islands of Azores archipelago, exactly two years ago. This year I returned to one of the most magical islands I ever been on to be a part of Faial da Terra Enduro Fest
, the second edition of a two-day enduro race on the East side of the Azores main and most populated island. From the first time I traveled to Azores, I really didn't know what to expect but I came back to Madeira with a feeling that there was so much to discover in terms of biking and other sports. Above all, I could see the evident contrast between the place where I was born, Madeira, and Azores. As two Portuguese archipelagos, they couldn't be more different and it's getting harder to choose my favorite. José 'Meira' Oliveira racing the last stage of the weekend, down to Faial da Terra.
Two years passed and I was back in Faial da Terra, a small civil parish in the municipality of Povoação, with about 350 residents, mostly farmers. This location gives me goose bumps as last time I visited the weather was a nightmare, the trails are technical and super slippery all year round - no kidding! I remember crashing here last time and calling the day off but this location gives a sense of calmness, something that you'd find quite normal if you plan to visit Azores in the future, something that it's truly hard to find nowadays. As you sit at the bottom of the valley looking up the mountains around, you would never think that mountain biking is a new way to develop Faial da Terra's economy, a change of paradigm and just a few more reasons for you to add Azores to your bucket list. The local community is primarily involved in agriculture and husbandry, as well as related commerce, but mountain biking has given local businesses a new way to go.
Faial da Terra has everything to be a unique biking destination. Steep hills, delicious food, and friendly people are a part of it.Everyone stayed in local guest-houses, having the complete experience of Faial da Terra.The local coffee shop owned by Mr. João sold pretty much everything he had in stock during the weekend.Faial da Terra Enduro Fest
was founded two years ago by Carlos dos Santos, a local guide for Bike Safari Tour, always with local support from Paulo Nazaré, Faial da Terra president and Paulo Dinis from Monbike store. Last year, Damien Oton and Rémy Absalon visited the islands and raced the event but this time the organization focused on reaching a national audience, getting about forty athletes to visit Azores, most of them from Portugal mainland. "It's a good way to improve Faial da Terra's economy and bringing athletes to discover how special Azores really is" said organizer, Carlos dos Santos.The master mind behind Faial da Terra Enduro Fest, Carlos dos Santos.Custom number plates for everyone.Most transitions are on tarmac road but you won't see many cars around here......just cows, lots of cows!Sweet sweet Faial da Terra. A natural paradise in the Azores.Azores good vibes!TRAINING DAYS
The plan for the week was two days of racing with a grand total of 62km, 2555m up and 3190m down. After two training days with perfect weather, the rain came down hard on Friday night, canceling the first competition day. This did not dampen spirits and everyone went riding anyway to explore other areas of São Miguel. Nuno Vicente trying to find enough grip to stay on the bike.It really feels like you're riding in a jungle. Roberto Chaves, 29" XL, struggling to fit.Local rider, Luís Melo, already knows couple lines of Faial da Terra.Weird stuff grows around here.Out of control vs always in control. José 'Meira' Oliveira was feeling confident all week.From jungle tunnels to open fields - there's a bit of everything.Although Luís Melo has a strong São Miguel accent, this is international language...Miguel Zacarias broke his 'pinky' finger on the second day of training but still managed to compete.Rodeo skills.Nuno climbing up to start of SS2, also known as Flats Paradise - confirmed.Fast and open singletrack from the top of Pico da Vara.Miguel Zacarias loving every bit of it. Just look at this view!Unfortunately, we couldn't race this stage on Saturday due to weather conditions.You can walk up... but riding down always feels better.Singletracks for miles.This bridge pretty much changes your ride from rocky and rowdy to fun and loamy.Loam plus flow, a perfect combination. Eleutério Gomes trying to get some grip.Not a bad place to end a stage.When Azores transitions go off-road.Amândio Pereira was riding fast and consistent during training.Although the trails and technical and steep, Eleutério Gomes wanted even more!José 'Meira' Oliveira training SS3.Everyone was smiling when Paulo Nazaré arrived with this old truck for a quick uplift.Not a bad place for a quick stop, especially with Santa Maria in the background.Nuno Jardim trying to find the best line from this berm forward.Not the best line choice from Luís Correia.Last corner of SS4, one of the hardest stages of the event.We always ended training days in Dona Beija warm water natural pools. A perfect way to relax before taking a bite of Azores cuisine.RACE DAY
The organization ended up with running the event only on Sunday, balancing between the same stages as determined from the beginning. It was a hard but honestly the right decision in order to guarantee riders safety. A total of 23.6km was enough to get a smile on everyone's face from start to finish. Camera assistant: check.Local shredder with no rear brake: check.When you already have more than three days of Azores riding in your body......and there's still a race to race."There has to be more races like Faial da Terra Enduro Fest in the future, where the focus is not just in the competition but also on friendship and experiences" - Carlos Parente.Local racer, João Machado, got a 2nd place but managed to beat Meira by more than 16 seconds in the last stage.Nuno Nóbrega racing his way to 3rd place in the Open Class.Miguel Pardal's sprints were on point this weekend!Electric fences are the best way to avoid cutting!Luís Melo was riding fast as always and managed to get a 4th place in the Open Class.!Running was also part of stage one if you couldn't get enough grip.Welcome to the jungle!José 'Meira' Oliveira just lost the last stage to João Machado. He was on fire all the way down stage one!Roberto Chaves, from Madeira Island, bagged 3rd place.Sandro Silva racing one of his favorite stages. "Faial da Terra is really something out of this world, completely different to all places I've been. The trails and the nature around them are just unique."Not the best race to Nuno Jardim, that had a perfect performance in last weekend's race in Madeira.Local Romeu Teixeira starting his race on the way to 5th place.Miguel Pardal, Open Class winner, finding the best way through the switchbacks.Steep and slippery, something that Faial da Terra has a lot - never too much!Transition from stage two to stage three was just magical! The old Caminho do Sanguinho path, where you really don't want to crash...Skratch Labs had some yummy stuff in the food zone.Stage three had some last minute modifications and ended up being short and sweet.João Ramos looking fast all weekend!Finish line sprint for Eleutério Gomes, getting a solid 7th place.Winter season in São Miguel, you will still sweat like hell!Roberto Chaves starting last stage of the race.Most trails are pretty natural looking but there are some berms, drops and jumps that make it all better.Grab your handlebars and hope for the best!Tutorial on how to drift and survive in Faial da Terra with José 'Meira' Oliveira. Still not sure how he managed this one...Cláudio Camacho seconds before finishing the last stage of the day above Faial da Terra parish.João Machado explaining to 'Meira' how the hell he managed to beat him by 16 seconds on the last stage.The Madeira crew won the race to the bar.A much deserved rest to today's winner, 'Meira'.Rock n' Roll bro! The barbecue was delicious!Final top three: João Machado (2nd) José 'Meira' Oliveira (1st) Roberto Chaves (3rd)RESULTSOpen Class
1) Miguel Pardal, 13:13m
2) Paulo Basílio, 14:02m
3) Nuno Nóbrega, 14:09mMain Class
1) José Oliveira, 12:44m
2) João Machado, 13:00m
3) Roberto Chaves, 14:07m
For more information about future events, check Faial da Terra Enduro Fest
and Visit Azores