After the onslaught of the previous day, as the bus made its way to our final start line on day three of Camí De Cavalls, we were grateful for bright blue skies and solid sunshine, especially afer last year’s cold start.
Taking off this time from Mahón - the main city situated on the east side of the island – we began a fun, fast and flowing 52 km day. Finding our rhythm as we pedaled the steady uphill start, my legs felt a little weighty - not quite waking up to the pace. Taking a sharp right turn, we were soon bashing our way over broken bracken and back onto the rough stuff; the clang of captured wheels a common sound as branches and sticks stuck out at odd angles.
Thankful for a break from the trappings of lethal limestone, the trails felt oddly like home. Rocky, loose - and with the addition of a preying bog - they very nearly gobbled the wheel of the lone rider in front.
I was tired, but now I was feeling strong. Taking a little while to warm up to racing, I soon felt my body start to click into place - the adrenaline of the ultimate day adding some energy to my effort. From here, the only way was up. And up. And up some more. Steep, loose rocky paths lined the hillside as we came closer to the water’s edge.
Erin and I dug deep - gritting teeth, staying low and trying to keep bums in the saddle - we climbed up the sadistically steep sections of trail. I was loving it! Cheers from the male teams in-front, then soon behind - spurred us on - each hill ticked off by a deep intake of breath as we reached the top.
As we sped off the back of the last of three chunky climbs, we arrived at the first feed station - not needing to stop for too long, but making time to chat to the videographer and babble some more indistinguishable Scottish enthusiasm towards his microphone.
Next up was a ride through the Parque Natural - having to stall our chatter so as not to disturb the local fauna. Now would not be a time to fall. As we weaved through sandy, leafy forest, it struck me how sharply the terrain would contrast at each section - it felt like we’d time traveled from one country to the next. We had some more steps to negotiate too. A very quiet groan might have slipped out.
Once at the top, the track led us into the open again, with glorious coves - deserted - a reminder of the untouched and untamed beauty of Menorca. As we descending on a compulsory walking section, one of the many majestic lighthouses - Favàrtix - gleamed in all its shiny, bright white glory against the dark sea.
My next memory was of giant slabs - the tight staircase concluded by the familiar sight of a gate. After a raucous last few bumps, my valve decided it was time for unrest - enforcing a momentary stop in order to resolve the issue. We slowed the pace a little after that, the baking rays still an unfamiliar sensation as we chugged back on water and gels.
Emerging at a local weekend honey pot, families and children spurred us on with words of avid encouragement - “Venga Chicas!” - a common cry from the ladies we passed on the trail. At one particular gate atop a short, steep field - a lady held it open for us patiently - not aware how thankful we were not to tussle with this now familiar timber threshold.
The pockets of people led us back into the urban arms of a seaside town. Riding the boardwalk, people kindly stepped out of the way as we passed bars, restaurants and shops soon to open for the season. Happily, they lauded our achievements as we grew closer towards the finish line.
I thought we’d seen the last of the volatile limestone rocks, but just for good measure, a small section created a momentary assault course, before the calm of the asphalt road.
All that was between us and an icy beer was arid scrubland trails, interspersed between a series of road crossings. A final push from the legs along the main road brought us to the opposite side of El Toro - and we edged ever closer, always upwards, to Es Mercadal.
The final test was through a farmer’s field; juddering on the hard, rutted tractor tyre tracks with one last sneaky ascent thrown in for humour. We let loose - whoops and shouts - as our arms took the brunt of the force. For the last time, we rode into the cosy race arena and crossed the line with hands clasped together - elated, emotional and in need of a well-deserved brew.
Other riders we’d met came to check on us, congratulated us on ur finish as winning female pair and snapped photos of our hugs and smiles. A gregarious group of riders offered up an admiring holler as they tucked into mountains of freshly cooked paella.
It was another truly epic day - made unforgettable not just by the intense, beautiful trails, but by the spirit and kindness of all of those who took part.
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