When I think of Greece, I have always imagined the Ancient Greeks, the Trojan wars, mythology and weird numbers; I have never really associated it with Enduro Racing, until now. This journey started back in March 2014 when I received a private message through Facebook from one of the race organisers, Steven Kouins. He was inviting me out to one of their Enduro Mediterraraneo races in Steni, just an hour’s drive from Athens on the Evita Island. I quickly replied with ‘Hell Yeah I would love to’. I couldn’t think of anything better than riding in the Greek sun.
When I arrived in Steni, Steven was there to meet me and took me to my hotel, Cafe Steni, luckily for me just 100m from the race village and the start of the race. We got straight into it with an uplift up to the top of stage, before hoping on the bikes and checking out the stages for the upcoming race. Stage 1 was a really nice flowing trail with a couple of cool rock gardens to catch you out, Stage 2 was more of a XC trail at the top with a brutal little climb in the middle but started to speed up after that, Stage 3 was an awesome little trail with a few nice berms and near the bottom reminded me of Finale Ligure, with the rock gully type trail. Stage 4 had a little pedalling at the start but soon got into some nice fun fast trail.
The terrain was like nothing I had ridden before, I was not really sure how much traction there was and the rocks looked really sharp. You really have to get out riding in the morning or evening here, because the heat of the day is unreal, or maybe my Scottish body could not handle it. I soon got into the local rhythm, of getting out early doors then just chilling in the afternoon.
As soon as I was getting used to the hot conditions, it was time to race. After a day of practice on Saturday, the competition kicked off with a prologue, held on an awesome little trail right next to the town which was just under one minute long. I had a really smooth run and despite the super fast locals, managed to take first place, meaning I would be seeded first for the race day on Sunday.
As I won seeding, I was to be the first rider on the trails, so there was nothing for it but to get stuck into Stage One. My run was good, I tried to be fast everywhere that I could, and ended up winning by 28secs, a comfortable lead and a nice way to start the day. Stage Two was a little different, with the really steep climb that I knew I had to save energy for. I focused on keeping it smooth and got ready to give it some gas on the climb, but then disaster, my gears slipped and I was stuck in too hard a gear, I quickly jumped off the bike and ran like hell. Hitting the top I jumped back on the bike and got the rest of the trail pretty good, in my haste I nearly took out some walkers that had strayed onto the race course. I won that stage by 12 seconds.
Stage Three was one of the trails I liked the most, because triggered fond memories of a smoother, but just as cool trail in Finale, I started off a wee bit sluggish but told myself to get my finger out, and nailed the bottom rockier stuff and got an awesome drift on the last turn which got me stoked. I was happy to see that I had won this stage by 19 seconds. The final test would be Stage Four. A cool little trail joining the old dh track, with a couple of little climbs to catch you out. I was starting to feel the heat and made a few mistakes up top, and as I joined the dh track I overcooked one of the bermed turns and went off the trail. After that I pulled myself together and got to the finish in one piece. This time I was second to a fast dude, Christos Dervenis, who beat me by 3.5 seconds.
In the overall classification the results were; 1st Gary Forrest 11:22.7 2nd Nos Lamprakopoulos 12:35.9 and 3rd Christos Dervenis 12:55.8.
And then it was time to leave, I really enjoyed my time in Greece, there is a strong MTB community, and despite being small, they are enthusiastic and the scene is growing fast. Young riders are coming through and breaking into the local top 10. With great food, coffee, beaches, bikes, Greece has it all, and with amazing people who are so kind, they made me feel like one of their own. I will be back here again and will certainly be trying to get my friend to come next time too. It would be the perfect destination for some winter training with perfect weather all year round, and with guys like Steven at the helm and the endless potential, I’m sure the riding here will only expand and get better and better.
Words and Photos Gary Forrest and Steven Kouins
Gary Forrest races for the WTB UK Enduro Team
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