Juliet Elliott jetted off to ‘sunny’ Spain to race Iago Garay’s home event, the Enduro Fun Festival with Marin/Stans pinner Martha Gill and friends.
As it turned out … Spain wasn’t quite as sunny as she’d expected!
Words by Juliet Elliott / images by Ben Winder and Olly Jelley
Spain equals hot, right?
Despite the fact I checked the weather forecast before leaving England, I’m standing on a Spanish hillside shivering in a pair of shorts, my fingers turning blue (see my photo above!). Yes, the weather forecast said snow, but no, I didn’t take any notice. Spain, after all, equals hot, right?
We’re in Moralzarzal, just half an hour from Madrid, and temperatures have plummeted since our arrival. But snow, or no snow, I’m happy to be in Spain with my mountain bike, a guest of the revamped Marin-Stans No Tubes Enduro Team who are here to race Iago Garay’s Enduro Fun Festival. I’m on the start list too, and really keen to experience my second ever Enduro race. Curiously enough, it’s also my second ever day riding a mountain bike on the slippery white stuff, so I’m ever so slightly out of my depth, but that’s fine; the only reason to be here is to have fun, and that, I can do.
“Martha has sensibly ridden the stages the day before, whereas I’ve had to skip that privilege due to potential hypothermia.”
Up bright and early, myself and speed demon/Marin-Stans team rider Martha Gill survey the terrain, or try to – blanketed in snow the area looks more like an Alpine resort than the rocky trails we were expecting. Martha has sensibly ridden the stages the day before, whereas I’ve had to skip that privilege due to potential hypothermia. It’s anybody’s guess whether she’s any better off – we’ll be second and third out the gate so the tracks will still be hidden under a layer of snow.
Snow drifts and drifting on snow.
We soon find that one of the three stages has been cancelled – four-foot drifts have accumulated up at the top of the longest track. Scanning our timing chips at the bottom of the hill we pedal off with the other women to the start of the first stage, enjoying a fairly gentle climb through the pines with far-reaching views of the surrounding Sierras de Guadarrama national park. I enjoy the climb as it makes me really warm.
At the top of the stage we ready ourselves for the start. Martha sprints off like a bat out of hell so when it’s my turn I do the same, which is fine for about 20 seconds then l hit a vague turn and find out how hard it is not to wash out in a snowdrift. Another hundred metres down the stage I make a spectacular mess of a few snowy corners, slithering all over the place and hitting my bars on a tree. Of course, I’m right in front of my buddies from Marin-Stans so try to regain my composure and contain my shrieking and giggling.
“At the top of the stage we ready ourselves for the start. Martha sprints off like a bat out of hell so when it’s my turn I do the same, which is fine for about 20 seconds then l hit a vague turn and find out how hard it is not to wash out in a snowdrift.”
The section turns out the be the trickiest part of the course – I actually wonder afterwards whether I’d have been better off rolling down it OFF the bike – so with the worst of the snow out of the way I crack on and try and make up some time. At the bottom I can’t stop grinning and add to the buzz by attacking the snack stand, definitely eating way more calories than we’ve burnt off, but hey, how am I meant to resist all those sweets?
Communication breakdown, it’s always the same.
Do to a slight miscommunication (or just no communication – neither Martha nor I speak Spanish) we spend a bit too long eating sweets and have to peg it up the last half of the transition stage to make it on time. Up at the top, it’s all pretty laid back and we join the rest of the women waiting at the start of the second stage.
When it’s my turn to go I sprint off, pegging it around turns with my inside leg extended. The snow is still really thick and I’ve not much of an idea how to ride it; sometimes it works, sometimes I slide out too far but it’s crazy good fun trying to get down as quickly as I can. Further on, the stage becomes quite pedally so I attack it with all I have left, cranking as hard as I can to make up for the cock-ups I made higher up the hill.
At the bottom I’m pretty hyped and celebrate European-style with a glass of red wine (ok, two). The hosts have laid on quite a spread, with hot soup, chorizo sandwiches, heaps of snacks and plenty to drink. The entire event has been impeccably run despite the difficulties they must have faced when it started dumping with snow. Iago tells me later that the quantity of snow is pretty unusual whilst another new friends says that he doesn’t even own a waterproof jacket – he just doesn’t ride when the weather is bad weather.
“Further on, the stage becomes quite pedally so I attack it with all I have left, cranking as hard as I can to make up for the cock-ups I made higher up the hill.”
Up on the mountainside, the Marin-Stans team are finishing the final stage, with impressive results – Rob Williams takes the overall, Leigh Johnson nabs fifth overall and second in the under 23s. Super-fast Martha wins the women’s event by a mile and I wind up taking third in the Masters category.
Goodbye training diet.
Later that evening we head out for a celebratory meal, stacking up plate after plate of tapas and an equally impressive number of glasses. The G & T’s come in what could easily pass for a goldfish bowl and the waiter isn’t shy with his free-pouring. Training diets and moderation are swiftly chucked out the window as we get on with the important business of toasting our wins. It’s been an awesome race and we can’t wait for next year!