Mexico is one of the most mountainous countries on the planet, and mountain bikers across its 31 states and the capital of Mexico City are making good use of their available terrain. The warm North American nation has a long history of mountain bike riding and racing, and their enduro trails are said to be some of the best in the world.
Enduro champions earn their crowns a little differently in Mexico. Instead of a single event to determine the nation’s fastest rider, the championship titles are earned over a five-race series that’s aptly titled the Epic Enduro Series. Two of those five races are included in the shortlist of Enduro World Series qualifiers this season, which may see more athletes from Canada, the US, and nearby Central American countries in attendance this year.
Race director Javier Martínez Gallardo was hoping one of the events could be included in the EWS North American Continental series for 2021, and with the continental mashups on hold for 2021 the two qualifier races will instead be considered “gold” level events, with additional EWS qualifying points awarded toward the following season.
A few years back, Gallardo and his buddies were racing local enduros regularly, and they wanted to find a higher level of competition. They talked with the series promoter about some different ways to legitimize their racing scene but the event staff wasn’t interested, so Gallardo and a few of his most motivated fellow riders created the Epic Enduro Series. They started off with some word-of-mouth events for friends before diving into their official five-race format in 2018.
The first year went well, and the following 2019 season was unexpectedly successful, with between 200 and 300 competitors at each race. Gallardo and his team are interested in designing events that rival the best races on the EWS calendar, and they have added a few unique elements to spice up the fun. In addition to the traditional race and beer drinking festival to follow, each event has a kids race for athletes as young as 14, as well as e-bike categories, and there are shorter versions of each course for folks who want to see what this whole enduro thing is all about.
Possibly the most unique element of the Epic Enduro Series is the hill climb race that takes place between two of the stages. The timed ascent is not included in the overall race time, and instead, it’s a separate race for folks who like to climb fast. Gallardo says, “If you know you’re not going to win the race, but you like to climb fast, you can really push it on the uphill race.” Mashing at max speed on a heavy gravity bike is certainly a respectable feat, offering a great opportunity for folks who know how to suffer.
With the majority of athletes coming from Mexico City, the nearby Lobo Enduro is the most well-attended of the five events. The 2020 Lobo race will take place on the massive Desierto de Los Liones trail network just 30 minutes southwest of the capital, with seven timed stages spread over a total course length of 35 kilometers. With an elevation of 2,240 meters (7,350ft) in the city center, these tracks promise to be a lung-burner for any sea-level competitors.
The other EWS qualifying event will take place a few hours southwest, in the colonial city of Taxco — the site of countless urban downhill videos. Here again, the city elevation is high, at 1,778 m (5,833 ft), and the trails only go up from there. The race takes place on August 28th, which should make for a sweaty shred over the 27km of riding and five timed stages. For the final stage, riders will test their grip on the stone and concrete city streets, dodging buildings with the soothing drone of staircase descents keeping their tires aloft.
Three similarly epic events in the national series take place in locations like the high lava dome of Ajusco, just south of the capital, the beautiful and storied forests of Oaxaca, where some of the country’s most famous trails await, and the Colorinazio trail system that lies due west of the capital.
Whether mountain bikers are racing these events or traveling to check out the tracks on holiday, Mexico clearly has a lot to offer. Gallardo mentioned that the country is layered in trails that were created as trade and courier routes between former farms and villages, with some of the tracks dating back more than 500 years. This year’s Epic Enduro Series will include fewer festivities than anyone would like, though the trails look to offer a worthwhile party on their own.