As we looked at the Chilean round of the Enduro World Series in the rearview mirror, we have many fond memories of the race. It was a historic race for Ibis because we debuted the Ripmo to the world, garnered Ripmo’s first podium finish - Robin Wallner’s best ever finish and his first EWS podium.
We celebrated our Chilean triumph with our MTB PRO friends (Ibis Distributor in Chile), and we celebrated in our Santa Cruz headquarters. But Chile is history, so it was time to look forward to our next stop in Manizales Colombia, where I would attend my first EWS race. FROM PLANE TO PLANE
At 5 am my alarm (set with a plane emoji), woke me up and reminded me to move my ass and get to Manizales. Traveling to Columbia is always “fun”, but flying there with a layover in Miami plus a night in Bogotá would make it even more interesting.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one suffering as I sat in 5B on the Bogotá-Manizales flight. The propeller-powered plane made tremendous noises whilst trying to land. And I say “trying” because in the words of the pilot, “the Manizales airport can close at any time due to bad weather, and we could end up in Pereira”.
We flew around in circles and the plane jolted violently from side to side, causing some of the passengers to scream, while others tightened their seat belts so tight it looked like they couldn’t breathe. Others smiled and stared silently out the window, trying to disguise their whispered prayers. I held onto my seat a bit tighter and tried to think about landing safely. Which we did.
At the Manizales airport, our Ibis distributor Interfusion welcomed me with a smile. They whisked me away to dinner, which was held in a spectacular location. From the restaurant table, you could see the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. Welcome to Manizales.THE STRONGEST SUN
The strongest sun is Colombian, or that's what I thought after the first day of racing. A day spent spectating the urban circuit left my arms and face a glowing reddish color. And it wasn’t just me. Sandra, of Hyperformance Hardware (Ibis’s New Zealand distributor), was also glowing red on the cable car ride.
In spite of the sunburn, the entire first day was memorable. It started with a good Colombian breakfast and coffee, shared with Josh Bryceland and Iago Garay.
During breakfast, Bex Baraona’s bike was also delivered. The airline companies say they never lose baggage, they only take their time delivering it. After dozens of calls to Avianca, they managed to deliver Bex’s race bike in time for the main event.
Saturday afternoon’s urban circuit was amazing. It's spectacular the work that was done by Iván Jiménez, Chinguiro, and company. They created a 1.5km long stage in the middle of the city, which was lined by crazed spectators. We heard estimates that over 20,000 people watched the world's fastest EWS racers try their shot at racing on pavement. Seeing this stage made me proud to see what the EWS has done for mountain biking not only here in Colombia but around the world.
Back to racing. The urban downhill event went well for the Ibis team, with no major injuries sustained, and an impressive stage win for my friend Marcelo Gutiérrez. On the women’s side, the Dutch rider Beerten sealed her first stage win at the EWS.
At sundown, I sprinted from pharmacy to pharmacy hunting for Aloe Vera to cool my raging sunburn. That mission was followed by dinner, which will be hard to forget, not for its brilliance, but for the plate of spaghetti which must have been cooked three times longer than recommended. Maybe al dente doesn’t translate to Spanish. In any case, stay tuned for the zero star Trip Advisor review….But the good company from our friends at Interfusion and Hyperformance made the sunburn and horrible pasta easier to digest.
WHEN WATER TURNS TO MUD
The next day I awoke to the smell of rain and coffee. It hadn't stopped pouring all night, and there were seven stages scheduled for the day (six in the end, due to a rain cancellation), which would be bogged in mud.
Some friends picked me up on the way to the circuit and there were puddles and water everywhere. But the sun was out again and still trying to burn. A layer of sunscreen and long sleeves helped me avoid another catastrophe.
Our racer, Robin Wallner remained fully focused, while Bex was thinking about fitting a 27.5” wheel on the rear to help with clearing the mud. Robin, Bex, Lewis, and Dillon all suffered, along with the rest of the field.
Sam Hill has been unstoppable in every round. He flowed softly over a layer of mud, while the rest of the field fought to keep control of their bikes. Wallner kept himself in the top 5 in almost all of the stages, while Bex commented that on some tracks, she couldn’t even keep her feet on the pedals, tripoding her way down the track.
It's hard to know what's happening in every moment of the race, so Mats, the team manager decimated his data plan looking for the live race feed to keep us up to date on what was going on.
Stage after stage, we saw riders hanging on to their bikes and suffering due to the mud. Our riders were reaping the reward of the Ripmo, which never stopped showing how well it copes with any circumstance. While we waited, we drank hot chocolate and kept up good spirits.
The last stage of the day confirmed that Hill is in incredible form.... Marcelo Gutierrez cemented his position as a local hero and for Ibis, Robin finished in 6th position, which moved him to second in the overall standings.
Bex finished in 6th and is now ranked 4th in the world. Lewis Buchanan finished in 20th and is now sitting 17th in the general. And local star Dillon Santos toughed it out to finish 68th and is now 60th in the overall.FRIJOLITOS CON CHICHARRONES
The prize ceremony was drowned in rain, like the rest of the weekend. But the team walked away with the award for the Overall Team Leader, which I tucked under my arm to carry back to our Santa Cruz California headquarters.
To celebrate the accomplishment, we went to Casa de Juco and had some Frijolitos con chicharrones for dinner. I tried to explain to the team what a chicharron was in English, but there was a language barrier… At least they understand that it comes from a pig and is fried.
We weren’t the only ones from EWS in Casa de Juco. The presence of Marcelo Gutiérrez and friends showed we were at the right place.
After dinner, we spoke to Tom Morgan (Ibis president), by telephone. Tom was super happy with the whole team and congratulated us all.
SEE YOU AGAIN SOON, COLOMBIA
I said goodbye to Manizales on my way to Bogotá. The pickup driver was a maniac, tires screeching around every corner, a bit like Juan Pablo Montoya, the F1 driver. If they weren’t related, he at least drives like they are....
Once on the plane, the pilot asked us to be seated as quickly as possible. A storm was coming and we have to depart a.s.a.p.
Back in Bogotá, a message is broadcast over the P.A. system reminding me not to miss my plane. And although I didn’t miss my flight, my luggage did. Or as the airlines always say, not lost, just late.
When I arrived home in Santa Cruz and looked at the calendar, I saw the next EWS race is scheduled for the 12th of May in Olargues, France. I'll see you there, Enduro World Series! If we managed to survive the Chilean dust and the Columbian mud, then nothing can stop the Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team.
Ibis Cycles Enduro Race team is supported by: POC, Maxxis, KS, Fox Factory, Shimano, Joystick, LizardSkins, Muc-Off, Feedback Sports, Industry Nine, Honey Stinger, One-Up.
For Spanish speaking countries, read the Spanish version of the report here