Arriving in São Miguel, the biggest island of Azores archipelago, is always magical. The green plain fields in contrast with the blue and unforgiving Atlantic Ocean makes it one of most beautiful islands I have ever visited. Located 1360 km west of continental Portugal and 1925 km southeast of Newfoundland, Canada, the Azores are an undiscovered paradise that has been slowly making its mark as a biking destination - there's no rush in making it too big and that's a good way to make it unique. With a total of nine islands, our flight lands in Ponta Delgada, the capital and most populated city of the entire archipelago.
I'm back for the third edition of Faial da Terra Enduro Fest, a two-day race that takes place on the southeastern side of São Miguel, all powered by Bike Safari Tour. There are a total of 15 trails over 21km total distance, where there's a constant battle for grip, beautiful landscapes and a trip to remember. You need to add this event to your bucket list and add the Azores to your travel wishes!Training Days: Finding The Grip
Grip is something you wish for each time you start rolling down a stage. I's usually nowhere to be found in this place which is something that gets you on the edge on every trail. The event is divided into two training days, that basically covers the entire route with just one shuttle in each day.
Outside assistance is not permitted during training, meaning that you'll have to push yourself for four entire days of bike action. The first time you get your tires on the ground will be on a winding tarmac road – basically the only one – that takes you to the start of almost every stage. You'll feel confident and strong on the first ascent of the day to the top of stage one, believe me. Once you enter the first special stage and hit the first corner, your perception of riding and racing mountain bikers changes completely. These trails test you.
These special stages are a challenge and surviving them will become your main goal for the entire weekend. Racing becomes secondary as you are sharing these singletracks with some people that have the same passion as you and they're all struggling to get to the bottom in one piece. You have to lean and trust your tires at all times, hopefully finding the minimum amount of grip to clear another section with a smile on your face.Open green fields and a bit of rain at the bottom of SS1.It's just a bit of mud guys, don't make a big deal about it.Race Day One: Forget Your Line Choice
The first day of racing started off with beautiful blue skies which made everyone more excited for the following 38 kilometers of racing. Once we arrived at the top of SS2, things got tricky, with the sun being replaced by heavy showers and one hell of a ride to the bottom! After that, everything calmed down once again but the damage was done to bodies and bikes. Needless to say that line choices from training days were quickly forgotten and replaced by a word pumping on your head: survival.Race Day Two: Enjoying It From Start To Finish
I saw so many scared faces over the weekend, some of them too worried about their performance other than having fun. Mud flying, bikes taking a real beating and bodies worn out for the last three days of riding. On the last race day, things changed completely, it was all about having fun sliding around as much as possible, trying to get to the end and have a beer all together. The total route had another four super fun stages with a total of 30km and about 1500 meters climbing. The feeling of surviving the weekend is unique. Celebration from the German and British racers at the end of SS8.Results Men
1) Joao Machado - 42:29m
2) Roberto Camara - 43:26m
3) Roberto Chaves - 48:12mM40
1) Luis Melo - 51:18m
2) Eleuterio Gomes - 1:06:31mDUO
1) Phil Fallows / Stephen Collins - 57:43m
2) José Afonseca / Pedro Figueiredo - 1:20:30mPhotos and Words: Antonio Abreu, MADproductions
Special thanks to Carlos dos Santos, Bike Safari Tour, Município da Povoação, Monbike and Junta Freguesia Faial da Terra