Enduro with DTs!
On Friday when the pilots arrive, Mario held an Enduro “clinic” for the pilots participating in the test that would take place that same night. In the bullring – in Costa Rica they do bull clipping contests in almost all towns, but bullfights are forbidden – there was a local Super Enduro, which was one of the funniest shows we have attended in recent years.
In addition to the classic categories, Pro, Veterans or Beginners, there was the highlight of the night: the DT race. The Yamaha DT is one of the most typical motorcycles in Costa Rica, which has been sold for more than 40 years. There are them of all times and of many displacements, 160, 180, 200cc and also with double shock absorber, cantilever or connecting rods. All of them compete in the same category that is the only one of the night that has cash prizes, about € 300 to change, almost half of what the motorcycles cost.
In the race the pilots gave everything on the limited mounts with grotesque situations, motorcycles crossing lanes, falls of all kinds, even running over the track marshals. These riders wear limited equipment, with few protections, road helmets and wellies. The racing spirit on the other hand is really fun and all the drivers have a great time.
The next day, Saturday, the National race was held, and on Sunday the “ride”, which is a non-competitive exit, which takes advantage of the National route, they add a few kilometers and certain sections of Hard Enduro, which make it a short ride and a full-blown adventure.
This trip was attended by me and my battle partner Chema Alonso, a regular in the TT Cup and a very well-known enduring character from the downtown area. He loves to travel and the enduring destinations lose him, every time they invite us to something, he signs up on his own and we participate together.
On Saturday, instead of participating in the race, We decided to roll along the route like marshals, and go recording some of the images that you can see in the video that accompanies this article. So we stopped in the most complicated areas and we were helping the “teachers” who needed it. This is what they call a “colleague” or “uncle” in Costa Rica, and no one hesitated to thank you with a “Pure Life” another of the typical phrases of the country to thank something or wish luck.
The National Enduro route is usually quite easy, rolling on broken tracks or roads, and on paths, or “trails” as they say there, relatively simple. There are always a couple of complicated steps but nothing that was Hard Enduro. In fact, the format is something that many people would like in Spain. A classic Enduro, with a grass chrono without a single artificial obstacle, no logs or tires. And two sections of trail, or enduro tests, timed. These Enduro Tests were about 12 and 16km each, being really tough and technical despite not being complicated. They had many cracks, and stones to avoid, slippery areas, and some roots that made you have to be very concentrated.
And it is that the terrain is another of the characteristics of Costa Rica. The mud is super slippery, pure soap, which makes you have to always be with the reflections on the surface. The climbs with a little mud are made very difficult by the clay, and the roads are so compacted in some areas the wheels cannot scratch even one mm of ground. This mud from the most open trails is alternated with areas of completely closed jungle. Plants and roots on the ground, with vines that hook you as soon as you touch the ground and make you lose your balance. The ground is also very slippery but in a different way, as there are alternating roots and branches everywhere. A true hell that together with extreme humidity makes you run out of air with minimal effort.
El Nacional was fun and everything happened without consequences. None of us were hurt and Mario won with authority but not without effort. After finishing the race, he told us that he had been riding with the championship leaders and that his pace was not slow at all. That in the fast areas and without knowing the terrain it was not easy to keep up with them, but with the development of the race and the deterioration of the track due to the rain, Mario was able to open big differences and finally win with ease.
And the thing is that Costa Rica is a country with a great offroad tradition, and its pilots are not “handicapped” even though they are not known in Europe. Thanks to their strong economy they have been able to import a lot of material from the USA, also helped by the proximity, and they have classic motorcycles, and a great motocross culture, that we never had due to circumstances that we all know. The culture of the American SX is huge and everyone knows the big stars. In fact the best driver the country has given has been Ernesto Fonseca, el Lobito, who was a teammate of Ricky Carmichael at HRC and ended his career due to an unfortunate accident that left him in a wheelchair. Now Enduro is the new fashion in the country and all fans know who Jarvis or Mario Román are, even the best riders are sent by the Federation to compete in Cross Country in the USA and they usually have equipment for the Six Days.
Without a doubt it seemed that the most complicated thing had happened, but none of that, the Nacional was just an appetizer of what we were going to find on the walk. After all night and dawn raining, it seemed that the day was going to be difficult. For the ride they lent us the bikes of the riders who had just participated in the Enduro the day before, a brand new 2019 Husqvarnas from Maicol vargas Y Bruno Consumi, the championship leaders. They had a great suspension setting and they worked fine.
We were guided by Luis Araya, a true eminence of the Costa Rican Enduro. A regular collaborator in races and ex-driver with various National titles, both MX and Enduro, he is one of the living legends of the country. We had the pleasure of being invited with his group of friends and skipping the first part of the ride to avoid traffic jams. The tour began by some jungle paths, which already gave us the first warnings that the day was not going to be as easy as we thought.
The mud was very heavy and slippery (or slippery as they say there) and any climb, no matter how small, was difficult. After leaving the jungle we began to roll down grass slopes, also slippery but much less, and we did a few difficult climbs, which required help, but we were progressing well. Little by little the jungle closed and the grass gave way to the forest, the roots and the vines, which caught your boots as soon as you dragged your feet on the ground.
The Devil’s ravine
That’s when we walked into the one they called the devil’s ravine, a path along the side of a stream in the middle of the jungle with mud and roots that we had never seen before. Right at that same moment, my bike started to warm up and the clutch stopped working (I later found out that the bike had already failed the rider the day before). Despite having it activated, the bike kept moving and it was increasingly difficult for me to continue. We let the bikes cool down a bit and little by little we moved on, but the heat and humidity in that pot made it almost impossible to breathe.
We started helping each other and taking out the 8 bikes one by one, when at that moment Mario appeared, like a saving angel. He had decided to participate in the ride as well, and go out at the end to go ahead of the pilots and give a hand to whoever he came across, and there we were all 8 stuck. Mario passed by everyone as if he were dry and smooth, parked his motorcycle and said “guys, do you need help?”. He grabbed one by one and helped us get our bikes out and take them to the end of the trail. Then he would walk back and so on with the next one until he got us all out. It was amazing to see how a rider of his level was one of ours, pushing the bikes of his colleagues without barely flinching when the rest of us couldn’t even breathe. His humility is something that affected all the participants of the test very deeply and will be remembered for many years.
I will remember the devil’s ravine all my life for two things. The trees on the way down had the biggest spikes I have ever seen., and instinct made you cling to the logs when slipping. These were covered in moss so you didn’t realize it was full of spikes until you grabbed it.
This may seem bad, because there is something worse, in a moment of exhaustion I sat on the floor to catch my breath, the same moment I move a rotten log, a tarantula comes out from under it like the palm of my hand. The jump I made is still remembered in the jungle; I thought I didn’t have the strength left but I had to get out of there screaming with fear, even though the poor tarantula was surely harmless.
When leaving the ravine of the devil, my motorcycle continued to fail, so Luis recommended that I skip the remainder of the route and return to the “wind” by track and road. As I was leaving, another group of pilots arrived and saw me open a fence, and another joined me. Thus, with the clutch overheated, my adventure ended. Chema continued and finished the few remaining kilometers of travel with the group. Despite the small misfortune, I was able to experience the Costa Rican Enduro in my flesh, with two great days of motorcycle and a couple of falls without consequences, but in which I made a few bruises that I brought to …
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