Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens was out doing battle in Madeira for the third round of the 2017 Enduro World Series and it was the toughest yet!
Our leading enduroist pens his account of the madness that went down on the small Portuguese island off the coast of Africa. The weather played its part but even in the dry this would have been one tough race.
Another Enduro World Series in the bag and it was a tough one. Madeira proved to be a mammoth. This remote island is fast becoming one of Europe’s mountain bike meccas. Traditionally a tourist destination for the retired, on the hunt for a secluded holiday amongst incredible greenery and vibrant colours delivered by the wild flowers which bloom at this time of year, Madeira is changing. This change is clear when the EWS rolls in to town. It’s not on the map as an Enduro destination, yet!
With some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs, a warm climate given it’s geographical location just off of the coast of Morrocco in North Africa and superb infrastructure it provides everything a mountain bike wishes for. Coffee’s capped at 1 euro as well! What’s not to like about that?
The EWS drives this huge focus on an area. It’s mass coverage, exciting video recaps and it’s ability to bring the best riders in the world to a location to race can’t be faulted. John at Freeride Madeira was the brains behind hosting the event in Madeira and ensured there was real challenge for the riders.
My video highlights from practice gave a little insight into the trails but from past trips here there’s more to offer the less dare devil rider. What we raced was intense! Wild and dangerous with some riders stopping on the notorious stage 3 to reflect on life. One rider I spoke with, from Switzerland, was seriously unsettled by this stage. Big drops to your left and a challenging track to race down.
One small error and who knows what could happen. With a kid on the way and family at home he questioned his need to push on this stage. Worth the risk? It’s a bike race at the end of the day. However for those who took the risk and pushed hard from the start were rewarded. For me I pushed, care taken in a few places, but it was clearly not enough. My pants were pulled down by a few, a few too many but I made it through that stage and the weekend in one piece.
Having raced downhill for over a decade, at a World Cup level the trails here were more like the old school World Cup tracks. It’s no wonder fellow Nukeproof rider Sam Hill made the switch across. The track resemble the type of trail he was so successful on and as he finds his form at this new discipline it’s clear to see he’s enjoying the switch. That’s maybe why I love enduro so much as well. It’s technical, challenging and puts some serious physical demand on your body.
Madeira pushed every element of you. It was physical and by Sunday morning I was spent. That first stage ruined me. Three crashes on stage 5 and I’d definitely made it hard to climb any higher than my 50th overall from Saturday. Mentally that was tough but it was key to push on. Sunday was a long day. Still not recovered from Saturday, or stage 5 the 6th Stage was hard. Technical and very slippy in the damp conditions, this was a stage to really push through. After this the end was in sight and drying conditions helped put a smile on my face.
With a terrible bottom of stage 7, where I hit every line and I mean every line choice that could be ridden, I had to get back in the zone for the final stages.
The last two stages were great. Stage 8, an iconic one featured in a lot of the preview and post event footage raced along the sea cliffs. Only meters from the drop down this required total concentration. The trail rocked though… Certainly at the bottom as the path narrowed and became far rougher.
Onto the final stage and the crowds had grown. The trail dry, but blown out, was wild. Racing through the open hill side to finish made for a superb finish to the 3rd round of the EWS. On finishing a nervous Mr Callaghan waited for his son, Greg, the eventual winner to finish. An incredible victory for Greg. It was amazing to see. He’s such a humble and friendly racer. The crowd’s favourite.
I’ll be rooting for another home victory for the lad in Ireland. Although I think team mate Kelan Grant could do some damage. He showed amazing form on Sunday during the race to climb up the ranks into the top 60 with myself finishing in 51st and sitting 45th in the World Rankings just now.