In 2020, Spanish mountain bike racing has been subject to confusion and cancellation.
Along with hundreds of other hopeful stage racers, Tim from Pure Mountains entered Volcat, La Rioja Bike Race, Asturias Bike Race, Mediterranean Extrem and La Rioja (again!). One by one they were cancelled. He experienced the hope and the disappointment that every person with plans has felt during this exasperating year. Was all his training going to go to waste?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so he registered for La Tramun. It's a one day UCI World Series marathon in the mountains near Girona in Cataluña, right up in the north east corner of Spain, near the French border. That's nearly 1000km and two day's driving from our base in Andalucía.
Race day was 18 October. Just three days' beforehand, new restrictions were announced for Cataluña, including the cancellation of all amateur sporting events. Luckily, racing with a UCI licence was considered professional, so the race was on!
We stayed en route in a lovely seaside town called Peñiscola (after which Pensicola USA is named, but they subsequently altered it, for obvious reasons).
Saturday was race number collection day, which, in a far cry from the usual hubbub, involved temperature checking, hand gel and social distancing.
As Tim cycled to the 08.00 start on the Sunday morning, the sun had not yet risen. Racers were shivering on the start line. The sun popped up from behind the mountains and gradually racers and spectators warmed up.
The COVID precautions around the start were strict: social distancing, face masks, hand gel everywhere. Racers were called individually into the start pens. The riders were allowed to discard their masks at the last minute, though many forgot and kept them on until they found they couldn't breathe properly!
The race route was 75km of wonderful, oak forest trails.
The racers arrived in Girona and the end of a tremendous day in the hills. The finishing area was a little subdued, as everyone had to keep their distance; there were none of the celebrations that are normal at the end of a race in Spain. But thre racers, many of whom had travelled a great distance to be there, were very happy just to be competing again.
We wouldn't normally travel so far for a one day race. But these aren't normal times, are they?