At least since our visit of the Andalucia Bike Race earlier this spring, we got to know the beautiful scenery and amazing trails of this Spanish region. The perfect location for the first stop of the Big Ride Enduro Series, that challenged the riders with five technical and steep stages. Masters racer Aiden Bishop reports from his experience at the race:

When the race calendar fills up at the beginning of each season I plan out what races I can and can’t make it to, some I prioritise, some I do to keep racing and others I do for fun and to simply enjoy. The Big Ride series is Spain’s national series and I have managed to compete in a number of them now, making many new friends and riding in some great places. So luckily this year their first round was held in Ojen, a small idyllic village located just above Marbella on the south coast part of the ever popular area used by many teams and riders to ride and train in good conditions through the winter months. With a string of wet races under my belt in the UK for this year already I was very much looking forward to some sun and good trails to ride and race.

Ojen pic 2

These races are one day races held on the Sunday so I had two days of practice/riding to make the most of, but with a 32km loop taking in 5 stages and 1700m climbing I didn’t want to overdo it before the race!

It´s Friday and we awoke to what we came for, clear blue skies and plenty of sun. Having raced here before I knew a bit of what was in store for me so I set off on the one hour long road/gravel road climb to the start of stage 1. I planned in my head to take it nice and steady, but spinning the Jekyll up the mountain with full face, backpack, pads, etc. took its toll and I reached the top in a sweaty mess! But the views from there are pretty spectacular and some lengthy downhill trails awaited me…. Happy days!

Ojen pic 3

Stages were all pretty technical.

Stage one was 6 mins plus of dusty singletrack with steep rocky outcrops to ride and plenty of care needed not to run off the side if you pushed slightly too much in the dust.
Stage two, a bit less DH orientated with more flow but quite a few tricky bus stops with exits that could catch you out easily if you over did it, around 4 mins for this stage.
Stage three was between 3 – 4 mins of steep dusty narrow trail to keep on before a pedal along the hillside and then dropping into the final third of proper rocky trail that could easily flat your tyre or spit you over the bars. After these three stages were done you arrive at the base of town with a super steep road to walk up (ride if you’re feeling fit!).

Stage four was reached by climbing the same road out of town and most of the steeper service gravel road to the mountain tops, but a saving grace being you turned off of this a couple of kilometers before the very top. Another long stage of between 5-6 minutes, starting with a fire road pedal then dropping down a series of steep dusty banks and traversing the hillside, being careful not to go off the side of the narrow track again here. The top was open before some tight and steep wooded trails followed by really tight hairpins to the bottom, the last few really making it hard to find any flow around but a good mix altogether.
Pedal just above town for the start of stage five and an interesting one here. Flowing trail to start before a gravel road pedal with uphill in it, then new trail traversed the hillside with steep corners in it before joining loose rocky path which led you onto the main road through town, this is where is got new and the stage for Sunday carried on down the tight alleyways of town and finished in the centre, ending the race with an urban section. One thing that always impresses me with racing in other countries is how the towns seem to really accommodate the events and welcome them, something you doesn’t happen so easily here, for whatever reason.

Ojen pic 1

Sunday and race day. I was set off towards the end of the field with last years seeded riders a little before 10am on the one-hour long ascent to the top of the mountain for stage 1, the weather had some cloud cover for racing which was better for riding. The first 3 stages came and went smoothly for me, concentrating to not crash, puncture or generally mess up! For one of the fast guys though, he managed to snap his front chainring off of his cranks somehow!? But still finished the day by walking and rolling the complete loop, respect!

Making our way back up the road climb and stopping at the feed station, a heavy rain shower came in, and a couple more times before we set off down stage 4. Starting in a thick cloud, visibility was really bad and then the trail quickly became a slippy mud trail meaning staying on became difficult. The rain passed by the time we hit stage 5, but the trail was still slippy in places and with the urban finish, care had to be taken also. The day was over, and all who finished were satisfied in one way or another, win or lose everyone was glad to finish!

Old boy’s podium: Me (and my daughter) and Fernando Marcos.
Old boy’s podium: Me (and my daughter) and Fernando Marcos.

Fastest three in the end went to Emanuel Pombo followed by under 23 rider Gabriel Torralba and then Juan Antonio Pascal Heredia. I managed 13th overall in the end but riding clean paid off with the win in Master 40 cat though so that topped off a good weekend for me racing wise but also great to see friends out there again and share some good times.

Scratch podium: Torralba, Pombo, Heredia
Scratch podium: Torralba, Pombo, Heredia

For more information about the Spanish Enduro Series visit the Big Enduro Series website.

Words: Aiden Bishop Photos: Aiden Bishop/ Carlo Calatayud

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.