Just a few days before the end of the year, the Montanhas Race Enduro defined the best of 2016 with its last race in the city of Socorro, in the state of São Paulo.
Settled in the Mantiqueira's range and 135 km from São Paulo, the city of 40,000 residents offers an excellent infrastructure for tourism. In addition, it has a perfect feature for enduro mountain biking: gravity!
The menu for the fifth race of the MRE (Montanhas Race Enduro) was not different from what we had all year. Within a total of six special stages, expectations were high regarding the level of physical and technical skill. Even after a massive campaign of endurance contests, once more riders from other states came to attend the race's call. Newcomers to the discipline and the women category added oxygen on both days of racing.
Saturday started with sunny weather and quickly the riders moved towards the start of E1 for practice. The timed section was part of the last stage held in the 2015 edition, where only 13 riders from 50 passed through muddy terrain under critical and miserable conditions. Unlike the 2015 nightmare, the track had the best grip possible and the corners were all perfect. Great start to the day. Following that, the biggest special of the whole championship, the E3.
Its beginning is very close to E1 in an open field at collar of the mountains that divides the areas of Bela Vista Rock and Valley das Pedras. Navigation difficulties occurred during the initial meters that led to a sector of switchbacks in a eucalyptus plantation. Still, in this special, 50 seconds climbing at a hard pace reminded that many enduro is not only about the descent. High speed, small leaps and even a coffee plantation made E3 the baby girl of the day.
To move from E3 under the noon sun to E5 and E6 made all riders re-assess their performance on an hourly basis. However the perfect and very different terrain from last year, the specials fueled the riders with smiles. Lunch time at Valley das Pedras, the finish line for E4, E5 and E6.
The afternoon was reserved for E2 training and timing only. Only that!
Well, many say that the small peppers are the most insane and we can say that E2 has won the label of the day. Steep terrain with rocks most like a beast's sharp teeth, the track dried the mouths of many pilots. A very interesting fact noticed was about the veterans given tips and guidelines to the rookies of how to master the bike in the mouth of the beast. This is enduro!
Times were very close to each other, evidencing all the solid background acquired by the competitors along the year. This special was selected as the second most difficult of the entire Championship, only losing place to the E5 (Hat of the Bishop) from the stage of Monte Verde (SP).
The day ended with rain followed by a breathtaking sunset.
Sunday was cloudy, cold and dark. At the base, before the untimed section, everybody could see the summits hidden by heavy clouds. It was from there that the next four specials would start. Heavy backpack, extra jacket and determination to add more than 1,800 vertical meters to the 1,700 carried out on Saturday.
The start of E3, recognized the day before, was not easy. Fog, low visibility, wind, and rain were the gifts earned from the mountains for Sunday's race. This demanded even more from the athletes and the conditions worsened every minute.
Much of the results were defined in this special. With an eternal ten minutes, it overpriced the ticket for the show. Many had technical problems, others got lost and so followed the test under the worst of nature.
The E4 practice, which was part of the Chapolin track, was performed only by six competitors, including Isabella Lacerda. Exhaustion was already visible and rumors about to cancel the E6 were taking place.
In a solid pace like creatures for the start of the next special, which was also recognized on Saturday. This track features a line through a cave formed by two giant blocks of stone. Even with some riders close to the start, the organization decided to cancel the E5 and E6 due to safety reasons. At the end, four of the six specials prepared for the Socorro stage were completed.
For 2017, the expectation is to have a considerable increase of participants, support from major brands and improvement of the entire structure and organization of the Race Enduro Mountains which is already elected the best Enduro in Brazil proven by its range, values, and legacies. All this in a very positive way so that the culture of enduro and all-mountain biking will conquer more ground in Brazil in all its dimensions.