Few days passed from our arrival in Azores archipelago and it's still difficult to find the right words to describe this "to be discovered" paradise in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Land of myths and history, São Miguel island is known for its green plain fields that come across the highest mountains until reaches the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean. Since a few years that this archipelago simply abounds in adventure and outdoor activities. It has world-class whale watching, sailing, diving, hiking and canyoning, but recently the surfing and mountain biking opportunities are giving to this piece of green heaven a new breathe by slowly making his mark into a bike and surf destination.
Besides all the activities that we may want to be part of, there is no rush - this place can deliver us the sense of quietness, something that you'd find quite normal if you plan to visit Azores in the future, something that it's truly hard to find nowadays. As you sit at the bottom of the valley looking up the mountains around, you would never think that mountain biking is a new way to develop Faial da Terra village. For that, we advise you time. Time to have the full and right experience of the place.
Speaking about time, two practice days passed away and riders have to be ready for two days of racing ahead of them. This venue is composed of 8 stages total, where racers will experience a wide variety of terrain from, slippery dirt to cobblestone, purpose-built trails to ancient trails left by the Portuguese settlers and farmers.
The first two practice days were quite a mission for riders as it rained a lot before the event. Here, when it rains, "it rains"! With such muddy trails, grip is something you wish for each time but it's usually nowhere to be found in this place. The stages are a real challenge and surviving rather than racing became their main goal. Riders had to really trust on their tires and hopefully find some grip to, at least, clear the section with a big smile. In the end, what matters is the amount of time they spend on those singletracks with other people that share the same passion.
The first racing day we woke up with clean weather and promises that the weather will be on our side. In fact, as soon as the first riders started the day they realised that the traction conditions had improved a lot which gave a new level of confidence to them.
At the front end the race was super tight and Milan Mysik ended the day just 7 seconds ahead of Marc Beaumont. Last year's winner João Machado had a several mechanics that took him of the battle. In Duo's category, João Rodrigues teamed with Fábio Gil were comfortably in the lead.
Guy and Marc ready to smash hard down the mountain.
Ancient trails regaining a new life.
With First Day over, riders and bikes had time to finally rest and recover from a few crashes. For some, this is all about pure fun, but for others when there is a clock counting then, yes it's race time! The hopes for good weather from the day before continued and the riding conditions improved as well. Riders had to commit, lean and trust on their tires.
From many scared faces over the first few days, on last race day, things changed completely and it was all about having the most fun out of it. We could all see the new level of confidence of riders due to the better gripping conditions.
It's the last day and they all knew that at the end of the last stage they would have a ton of craft beer and traditional food to enjoy, so the stoke levels were high. Those warriors truly deserve that!
Besides Milan had set the pace in the day before, on the second Day Marc Beaumont was fastest and recovered the time he needed to win. In Duo's, J.Rodrigues and F.Gil maintained their pace and took the win.
Day 2 is on! Let's Charge down!
A different landscape from the first day of race. Here on the southeast is "kinda" North Shore, CA.
Just 0.5 seconds separate this two guys on stage 7.
1st. BEAUMONT Marc — 43:01:722
2nd. MYSIK Milan — 43:09.966
3rd. MACHADO João — 46:56.589
4th. KOPP Markus — 50:32.680
5th. JURGEN Fabio — 50:37.125
I caught up with some of the fastest riders around Azores to see what bikes and setups they're riding.
Done and dusted! Regarding the well-deserved winners, Azores Enduro Fest was all about to be and enjoy the magical land and those trails with a bunch of riders from various locations in Europe, sharing the same love that we all have for the mountain biking and especially for Nature. This event was nuts. This is Azores!!!
Practice Photo Report: HERE
Words and Photos: João Fânzeres, MISSION adventure collective
Special thanks to: Carlos dos Santos, Bike Safari Tour, Município da Povoação, Monbike and Junta Freguesia Faial da Terra