You have to be a glutton for punishment to want to organise any sort of event in 2020, but that's exactly what Fosforo Garcia and the team at La Venada Bike Park went and did. Is there be anything better than a one-off race to decide the champion of champions?
Guanajuato City, in the heart of Mexico, is no stranger to action sports events, having hosted the World Rally Championship since 2004. It's also been a regular fixture on the Mexico national downhill and enduro circuit for the past 6 years and is a favourite among the fans and riders alike. Not only for the magical city with its colour and colonial architecture, but the trails themselves that have been steadily developing over the years to now boast 25 fully mapped enduro and DH routes, set amongst the incredible backdrop of the virtually untouched mountain range of the Sierra de Guanajuato.
La Venada basecamp is positioned at a cool 8,800 ft, but for the majority of the trails that would be included in the race, the drop-in’s would be at 10k plus ft. So not for the fainthearted!
It was decided to start the race at the highest point, where there was easy access and space for the riders to gather, and just a short transition to the first of the 6 stages of the 36km of fast wooded and rocky enduro stages and transitions before finishing back in the city.
At this altitude and at this time of year, the weather can do anything. I’ve been up there when you can bearly feel your hands, and on other days getting tanned through my helmet. This weekend saw the latter. The rainy season, which for a few months keeps the trails in an almost perpetual state of hero-dirt, had ended just a couple of weeks before, and things dried out in a hurry.
After pedalling the track a couple of weeks previous, it felt to me that the tactic would be to stay in contention in the first 3 stages to save some gas for the next 3, and especially the final one. But it would;t be easy to find race-pace after so long off, adapt to this change in traction, and have the legs for the incredibly physical last stage. And do all this in temperatures not a lot shy of 30 degrees!
But this is exactly what eventual winner Pablo Mabarak managed todo. He banked a conservative 4th and 7th in the first two stages but then turned up the pressure as others began to flag, with three consecutive wins on the next three stages and a second place in the final by only the narrowest of margins. These results were mirrored by second-place Jose Aviles, who, after winning the first two stages was just not able to hold the pace. And I don’t blame him. To hold that intensity at the altitude, in that heat, and with those gruelling transfers, you’d have to be superhuman!