The Sandokan Enduro race was held last year on the 15th and 16th of November in Madeira, Portuguese island in the Atlantic ocean. It was organized by Bikulture, local guiding/shuttling company. Thanks to the support of the local government, Bikulture was able to invite an impressive group of international riders, allowing them to discover the potential of Madeira as a prime MTB destination. The local riders were amazed to ride alongside stars from France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Slovenia, who after a month of rest following the last EWS round in Finale Ligure, were just beginning their winter training. The race was covering two days, ten special stages, for a total of about 50km, 1100m climbs and 2800m descents.Early morning, the racers gathered at the beach of Calheta, to be briefed by race director, Ricardo Pinto and famous French-Portuguese speaker Pierre.The symbolic start took place in front of the town hall of Calheta, under the eye of local authorities.After a few hundred meters in the old streets of the village with traditional paving...... the bikes were loaded in the uplift vehicles, including this magnificent Bedford truck, mascot of the race, for the only uplift of the day, to the start at the Paul da Serra plateau, at 1600m altitude.Aboard the Bedford on the high plateau roads.Last minute track walk on the first meters of the first stage.Legend, Nicolas Vouilloz started as one of the favourites, after a sub standard 2014 season plagued by injury.Spaniard, David Vasquez was one of Nico's main competitor in the late nineties. He is now UCI commissary, but showed he still could ride a bike!Manuel Ducci, italian Super Enduro champion in 2013, was also coming back from injury, a broken ankle in early 2014.
The photographer team of Motion Studios was covering the event. They collaborate frequently with Bikulture, and shot a video for Sandokan 2013
.First transfer, time to ride amongst friends and share early impressions.Jan Sallawitz, sprinting out the start of stage 2 on the high plateau. The most physical stage, with only a gentle slope, requiring intense pedaling through rock gardens. Marketing director of EVOC, Jan showed he could also ride hard, and got ahead of several local racers.The third special stage, "Fatty Trail", had been kept secret and was ridden blind. Almost freeride, it was a ridge with multiple lines, rewarding improvisation and engaged riding, with surprise drops and rock gardens that caused a dozen flatsLocal spectators were lining the course.Slovenian Tanja Žakelj, multiple World and European XC champion, proved she was also competitive in Enduro, finishing second in the Women, and 21st scratch.Paulo Sergio Batista a.k.a. “Cabrito”, local rider and winner of the 2013 edition was starting in first position, with Vouilloz on his heels. The fourth special stage, "Cabeças", one of the most technical, was repeated at the start of the second day, as stage 6.The rain of previous days had rendered some parts extremely slippery, and audacious lines were rewarded. Robert Kordez, Slovenian masters rider, finished 7th overall.Local guide Sergio Abreu, dropping in the rocky part of stage 4, "Cabeças"Valentina Macheda, determined look, full throttle on an open section of stage 4. Due to a foot injury, she couldn't practice at all during the previous days, and raced blind, wearing one bigger shoe borrowed from her companion!Manuel Ducci had his best stage result on stage 4, finishing second behind local DH WC rider Emanuel Pombo.Even though he arrived late and only trained for one day, Nicolas Quéré had no trouble getting into the swing of things, finishing 3rd on day one, and fastest on day two.World Cup downhiller, Emanuel Pombo is the local star (8 times national champion). Outdistanced in the first two stages, he was able to diminish the gap by winning stages 3 and 4, with a significant gap on the latter
.German Enduro champion Ines Thoma won the first day, and repeated on the next day, finishing 17th amongst the men.French racer, Jérémy Arnould had some mechanicals and finished 9th on day one, and finally 12th.French connection: Jérémy Arnould, Nicolas Quéré, Nicolas Vouilloz relaxing at Calheta beach after a beautiful first day.The racers were ending their day with a cold one sitting at the beach-side terrace, or by a dip in the ocean.Portuguese (from the mainland) Zé Borges surprised everyone by leading after day one. He created a significant gap on the first two pedally stages, losing only a few seconds in the more technical following stages. He started first on Sunday morning, in very different conditions, with fog and intense rains.Some transfers were using forest roads through pines and eucalyptus.Despite the tough conditions of the second day, the smile of Valentina Macheda warmed up the hearts of many racers.Max Schumann, best German in the EWS ranking in 2014, in full attack on eponymous 9th stage "Sandokan". Short but very varied, with natural vegetation tunnels, a flat out open grass part and a few rock gardens, very slippery due to the capricious weather.Despite the rain, don't forget to have fun and splash some puddles!Emanuel Pombo exiting one of the tunnels of stage 9. He would finish third behind Quéré who won that stage. Finally, the consistency of Nicolas Vouilloz would award him the overall.Women's podium: 1. Ines Thoma, 2. Tanja Žakelj, 3. Valentina MachedaMen's podium: 1. Nicolas Vouilloz, 2. Nicolas Quéré, 3. Emanuel Pombo
Rankings. Full results
Photos: Motion Studios / Bikulture.
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