I rode the Mexican 500 Sprint enduro last weekend. It was my first time doing the event, and really wasn't sure what to expect. I have completed many of the traditional enduros, but this was a new format. Being used to +120km enduros, +5 hours races, how hard could a 30km, 3 hour event be?
The sprint enduro format consisted of three tests. One an extreme section, one GP style grass track, and the last section was an MX track. I enjoy the grass track stuff, and can manage an MX track (See my First MX Race here!), so the Extreme section was the big question mark. It had rained significantly the night before and the rain continued the morning of the event. Fortunately the skies cleared and presented a fine day for a motorcycle race. Unfortunately, the woods that contained the extreme section would still be wet and slippery. The first Extreme section started right off as a serious enduro challenge. Tight trails, steep hills, wet and off-camber sections with many exposed and very slippery roots. Then add deliberate obstacles such as large angled logs that were also off-camber. Throw in a firewood pit and a tire pit, and a few other surprises, like jumping over a pickup truck and what sounds like a simple affair quickly became a serious challenge. To compound the problems, riders were piled up everywhere along the route. Lines were blocked, and it was difficult to maintain momentum over the obstacles. As a result there was a lot of bike lifting and pushing. It didn't take long for my heart-rate to peak and, I wasn't even 5 minutes into the event.
After a less than pleasant experience in the short first test, the route continued down along a river to the next test. What happened next can only be described as total carnage. The wet trails, steep hill, logs, and off-camber chaos continued. Bikes and riders were pushing and pulling everywhere to keep going. It was not uncommon to have several bikes stuck on the next hill that you need to get up. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I have seen this kind of thing before. The best plan is to keep smart about things, and don’t do anything stupid that could make the situation worse. After 20 minutes of this, the trail looked like it was getting worst, and I was 99% on my way to a heart attack.
I noticed an arrowed section that looked like it bypassed the next hell hole, so I made a judgement call to connect to it and ride to the next section. I was currently on a transit section, it wasn’t timed, so it should be OK as I wasn’t really cutting the course. Unfortunately my decision proved to be a big mistake. The shortcut I predicted turned out to send me back into the transit section I just rode! My gamble failed and I ended up losing too much time messing around. I did get to the grass track and the MX section and had a blast doing what I could with the energy I had left over from the Extreme test. Because of my mess up, I only managed to do 2 laps, but the course actually did get much better as time went on. The trail dried up, alternate easier lines had formed and I got smarter on how to get over and through some of the nasty stuff.
Overall, the sprint format was a ton of fun. It’s a nice change to be able to get back to your rig between laps for a quick drink and a chance to catch your breath. Unfortunately, this is probably the last Mexican 500, the land has been sold. Hopefully those enterprising Mexican Mennonites can come up with another location for next year.