All of Club La Santa woke up Saturday February 4th to the first big sport event of the year. The 4 Stage Mountain Bike Race Lanzarote is about to unfold, where amateurs and elite riders will face a four-day adventure in the brutal terrain of the volcano island.
By Nikita Rørholt
A work of a dedicated artist
The big clock in front of the stadium says 10:27 am. It’s three minutes before the first stage of the race on a rare windless day in the otherwise windy Lanzarote leaving the air with tension and excitement from the riders and spectators. The complete silence is only broken when the speaker counts down for every passing minute: Three minutes, two minutes, one minute.
The sky appears to be painted with the clearest blue by a dedicated artist stroking the brush generously over and over again determined not to miss a single spot. With closed eyes it’s impossible to tell that the place is filled with more than 500 nervous riders, bikes and vehicles as the air is odorless like a warm cloud. It’s as if the spectators and riders are competing to stand the most still and everything surrounding the race is on standby. Some riders start to shake their legs a little, others sit as glued to the bike and one pedal determined not to move until the start.
Ten million black flies
Everyone is waiting and without further countdown the speaker suddenly starts the race. As if somebody has pressed play everything starts to have sound and motion again. The riders are off. The quietness is disturbed by hundreds of push on the pedal and complaining cracking sounds from some of the bike chains as gears go up and down. Like the sound of ten million black flies the thick rubber wheels slide heavily and lazy across the asphalt. For several minutes the black timing mat placed at the start line is loudly whining in pain as every mountain bike brutally runs it over.
The first five seconds the riders are moving in slow motion until they get up to speed and pass the spectators like cars on a highway. Like a big thick sheet tied to the last rider the expectant silence lays over the spectators and the mood changes to become more restless. People slowly go back to what they were doing and ten minutes later it's like the race never happened. While the riders are struggling in the heat out on the course people are eating lunch, golfing, going for a swim, and tanning. Children are again running around on the playground, and a boy runs to his dad asking where the race went.
Missing handlebars with a finish line to cross
A vehicle is placed next to the start and finish line. Here sits the timing guy Pablo, as the stuffy van will be his home for the next four days. His chair has taken the last empty spot in the back with computers and gadgets surrounding him as if they don’t want to miss a single click with the mouse. He has the complete overview of the course, the riders, and security on different computers watching every move during the race while not moving himself at all.
Ten minutes before the first rider is expected to cross the finish line the photographers start lining up 20 meters from it. Curious spectators and bystanders slowly start to move closer to the area whispering quietly as to avoid disturbing the riders’ focus out on the course. Sergio Mantecón Gutierrez shows up alone and crosses the finish line. Everybody is cheering enthusiastically. As more participants join the party, journalists and photographers try to catch the exhausted riders. One participant turns heads as he calmly walks through the crowd with a bike broken in half and the seat and handlebars missing.
A bloody face and the first bite of a chocolate bar
In a yellow tent behind Pablo’s home Sandra Santanyes sits on a thin chair that looks like it could snap in the wind every second. Her helmet is still on and blood is running deep in the features of her sand covered face. She looks down at her arm. Like a surfer sliding on a big wave the dark red blood has found a path in the skin and is making its way down and around in quick wavy motions. She stares blindly towards the van where Pablo sits in the exact same position as two hours ago eating some kind of chocolate bar. He has just taken his first bite of the bar with three more bites to go. The 4 Stage Mountain Bike Race has started.
It’s Monday afternoon and the location for today’s finish line is on the mountain top of Ermita De Las Nieves. The terrain is rough with a steep course up the red sanded mountain side. “Rocky Mountains” would be a more fitting name as the impulsively strong wind makes it hard to balance and the rocks around the edge are looser than they look. The mountain is surrounded by clear blue water splashing up on the white beach. The long distance between the mountain top and the ocean makes the water look still like wide bulges made from some kind of hard dark blue material. The horizon is covered in fog making sky and ocean become one.
Big containers, tents, and vehicles are keeping the finish area less windy and the warmth from the sun lays over the mountain top as a thin coat of ease. Riders are crossing the finish line one by one with short breaks in between. It’s time for the elite riders to finish the third stage, and spectators, organizations, and other riders are cheering them on, on the last part of "Rocky Mountains".
Rattling bike chains and a bike seat of steel
It’s Tuesday morning and the last day of the race. In a couple of minutes the riders will begin their last Lanzarote adventure in front of the stadium where it all started three days earlier. The amount of spectators has been reduced while the level of noise has increased as it gets harder to stay focused. 30 seconds before start people can't decide whether to look at the big clock on the finish board or at the riders. The hands on the clock hits 9:00 am, the speaker starts the race. A mellow cheering is drowned by the sound of the lead motor bike and rattle from the tired and overused mountain bikes trying to wake up for the very last stage. The black rubber mat is trying to get the last attention with its loud aching screech.
David Rosa is the first to finish the final stage and Annemarie Worst and Sergio Mantecón are announced as the best man and woman of the overall race. Covered in sand and with sunburned faces especially the elite riders are marked by injuries from crashes and are limping more than walking. In between the mandatory smiles for the cameras their clenched teeth and pinching eyes reveal the repercussions of four days struggle. Luis Leao Pinto walks casually by with his seat missing from his bike and as he sees the other elite riders he shakes his head resignedly. The 4 Stage Mountain Bike Race Lanzarote has ended. All of the riders seem happy. Some because of the results. Others because it’s over.