This past weekend in the small town of Murça, known since Celtic ages, a group of warriors gathered to celebrate the annual ritual of Portugal Enduro Championships. Only one would be National Champion. Several known riders from all over Portugal came to the gathering, such as Ze Manel Borges
(BH & Miranda Bike parts) reigning champ for two years in a row, Emanuel Pombo
(GT Bicycles), Marco Fidalgo
(Sram RockShox Factory Team), Jose Oliveira
(Enduro BTT Braga), Joao Rodrigues
and Miguel Pardal
(Penacova DH). On the women's side, a good fight was expected from the two main contenders, Ana Costa
(Casa do Povo de Abrunheira) and Ana Leite
(Enduro BTT Braga).
Two long days awaited for the riders, 35km, 1,300m cumulative climb and about 1,600m descent, with 6 stages, shortest one 1,200m and longest 3,500m. On official training day, Saturday, each special stage you don't show up, is a 30-second penalization for Sunday race. So, if you choose not to train at all and do a "blind race" you could to it, but you would start with three minutes penalty. This is unusual in Spain, but in Portugal seems normal. On next day, eight riders had a three-minute penalty, meaning they chose not to check out the stages.
Ze Manel Borges wanted to have his third championship in a row on the Elite category. While Emanuel Pombo, Jose Oliveira, Marco Fidalgo and others were constantly upon him, scratching as many seconds as possible on each state. But Ze was relentless and won all stages, winning the race with a 30-second advantage over the second classified, Emanuel Pombo and 1-minute 44 seconds over Jose Oliveira in third.
On the Elite Women category, Carolina Costa came ready to win the title from Ana Leite and she managed to do it, by 11 seconds over Leite that had a crash on the third stage. Leite won the first stage but Costa managed to win all the remaining four stages, recovering the time lost on the first one. In third position came Leandra Gomes, 1-minute 15second difference of Costa.
Final results can be checked on the Portugal Cycling Federation site.
It was hot, really hot in the area, up to 40 degrees on Sunday. Thanks to the organization that managed to have liquid and food stations in several places during the route for all the riders. The terrain was dry and loose. Drifting and crashes due to lack of traction was common to all riders. With not too steep or technical sections, riders focused on keeping the flow, pedaling fast between trees and trying to see through the enormous quantity of dust in the air when following other riders in front.
Stage 2 was the largest and physical of all, Pombo and Borges tucked on a high-speed section.
Lino Correia and Marco Fidalgo shredding on Stage 2 and 3.
3 fires in the area, one of them directly affected the final liaison, so stage 6 was canceled.
Marco Fidalgo, Leandra, Gabriela and other riders relaxing and waiting for the podium awards.