The alert of the General Directorate of Emergencies of the Balearic Islands forced to suspend two of the three stages of the race because of the storm Blas. The winners of the first stage took the final victory of an event that ended as a party.
The Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º reached its seventh edition with great enthusiasm, after the cancellation at the last minute of the race in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. The start was scheduled for Friday, November 5 in Maó, with its unique stage race format, on foot or by mountain bike and in teams or, for the first time, solo.
The organization had taken advantage of the blank year to rethink the event with many new features. Among them, the race director Joan Febrer highlighted the increase in participants to an unprecedented number of 440 (190 in MTB, 80 in TrailRun and 170 in Experience). The route also changed, returning to its origins and presenting more coastal sections than ever, including some paths that had never been included in a race before.
Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º 2021 (Photo: Jordi Saragossa).Likewise, the date of the event was new, in the month of November, after having done it in September and then in March: “These dates are important for the island, because they place Menorca on the map when the season has passed and it shows that it is a fantastic time for our activities”, asserted the race director.
However, Joan Febrer admitted before starting that „the weather will scar this edition“, although he launched a message of calm for the athletes: „The strong north wind (tramuntana) is a common phenomenon in Menorca and we are used to it. It increases the risks, especially when combined with water. We are constantly monitoring the situation and implementing plans B when necessary. We want to ask the participants for good sense, regarding the equipment and withdrawal decisions. We will put more resources to evacuate and recover the participants who decide to withdraw. Passing the north of the island with a strong north wind is a spectacle with all the elements unleashed; it is an unforgettable experience”.
Stage 1: The rain respects a fast first stage
The first stage went smoothly and at a very high pace between Maó and Fornells on Friday as planned. The thunder and lightning acted as an ominous wake-up call for the participants in their lodgings in Maó. The weather forecasts were bad and the worst omens seemed to be coming true. The rain, however, weakened and the start was in dry conditions at 8:15 am. A relief for all of them, as the water did not join the strong north wind, creating the most feared combination.
Ahead, anyway, they had a route full of flooded areas, which forced the organizers to cut about four kilometers. In addition, the wind did not stop blowing strongly throughout the day. Nobody missed the adventure and epic component that the race promises.
Ventura and Krenn-Ockeloen, strong in MTB
The cyclists participating in the MTB Epic 360º modality immediately set a very strong pace. The first stage of the bike race, originally planned for 52.4 km, had to be modified by demands of the Environment authorities, which forced the neutralization of an intermediate section (about 19 km) as it passed through the Parc Natural de S’Albufera des Grau.
Competitiveness in the first kilometers (before neutralization) was high, consolidating a leading group of four athletes: the Austrian-Dutch Bike Team Kaiser (Wolfgang Krenn and Jasper Ockeloen) and the solo participants Ismael Ventura and the German Daniel Gathof. Once past the natural park, the Bike Team Kaiser pressed again in those last twenty kilometers. Ismael Ventura kept the pace, while Daniel Gathof lost some time in the arrival of Fornells.
In the women’s category, the Czech Hana Koralova showed a high level and, after a competitive start, she stood out compared to her rivals until she reached Fornells with a wide advantage. It was the first international race for this up-and-coming biker living in England.
The mixed teams classification was led by the favorites of the Trideporte (Ada Xinxó and Santi Val), while the Sandra & Claudia Team (Sandra Jordà and Clàudia Galicia) was the first women’s team.
Advantage for Rafa García in TrailRun
In the TrailRun Epic 360º modality, the race pace also exceeded all expectations, despite the terrain conditions with some sections where up to half a meter of water had accumulated. During the first hour of the race, a large group shared the head. As the kilometers passed, the group lost members.
That selective eliminatory race benefited the Mallorcan Rafa García, who was the first to reach the finish line, about twelve minutes ahead the second, Xavier Brangolí. By teams, Cabra Boja Sports Rústics (Pau Galí and Oriol Barbany) was seven minutes ahead Topo-Camelbak (Álex Izquierdo and Roberto Sancho).
Maximum equality in the mixed team category, with Team Lounie (Neil Sheward and Louise Andrews) and Kathi + Luki (Lukas Kaufmann and Katharina Reinegger) separated by just five seconds apart. In the female category, the first single place corresponded to Antonia Winkler, while the Topo-Camelbak (Cristina Hernández and Esther Encina) took the team lead.
Reduced tour in Experience
Finally, the Experience 360º modality, raced on foot over a 35 km route, started from Es Grau to also reach Fornells. Enric Pons and Anna Comet were the single winners, while Los 100% (Joan Melis and Antonio Saavedra), The Montis (Ellen Montanari and Louis Ugo Montanari) and Palante Siempre Trail Ibiza (Laura Simón and Sasha Roig) were the best men’s, mixed and female’s teams, respectively.
Suspension and closing ceremony
The weather that had respected the participants during the first stage worsened even more for the weekend. The storm Blas hit the island of Menorca with very intense north winds and episodes of rain, and the General Directorate of Emergencies of the Balearic Islands requested the suspension according to these circumstances. The organization was forced to cancel the last two stages of the race.
This cancellation, however, did not completely end with the 2021 Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º. The organization kept running all the final stage food station services at the facilities of the concentration hotel in Santandria, where a party full of energy and positivity was improvised. In it, one of the most applauded characteristics of this event could be breathed, which clearly speaks of its values of companionship and coexistence, as Joan Febrer pointed out: „Despite not having been able to do all the kilometers, we ended up as a family“.
„This has been a very special and difficult edition, but also a very exciting one“, said Clara Fullana, organizer of the Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º. „All these people and this energy deserve a very sincere thank you from us“, she added. Joan Febrer, for his part, stated that “being able to enjoy, even just one stage, gives us more strength to work on the next edition of 2022, which will have to be worth three, after the cancellation of 2020 due to Covid and the partial suspension of 2021”.
For classification purposes, the winners of the first stage received the prizes as winners of the general classification in the trophy ceremony that culminated of the event.