I had the pleasure of traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico, for the Enduro World Series Qualifier by Epic Enduro Series last week. I traveled with my brother, Ryan, a WTB ambassador and long time rider. The race is held high up into the mountains about an hour north of Oaxaca City. Here we found miles of dense forests scattered with top-quality mountain biking trails. It's a true mountain bikers paradise, with everything from flowy single track to technical terrain equipped with jumps and drops. Oaxaca has enough trails to keep you busy for weeks, but even the four stages we had to race were enough to keep a smile on everyone's face all weekend.
Racers came from all over Mexico to compete in the race, and everyone seemed just as eager as me to ride these fantastic tracks. The race started with a few days of practice and a pre-race party and packet pick-up at a local hotel with a beautiful outside area and bike park! The race was in EWS format with the tightly timed climbs and scheduled times for each stage which made the race flow nicely. We lucked out on the weather and had rain every day, which turned these normally dry tracks into perfect hero dirt for the race. The tire of choice for the weekend was the Verdict up front and Judge in the rear, which ripped through the loam and gave me confidence in the wet slippery turns. The rainy days didn't just put a smile on my brother and I's faces; every single rider we saw come down from the track had a massive smile and was giggling to their buddies, saying how much fun they were having. All the stages were fun but had their own unique features and tricky technical bits. However, stage four was in its own category. This stage is called "La Imposible" or "The Impossible," which is the perfect name for many reasons. This trail is 15-plus minutes of high-speed racing down technical terrain and tight switchbacks. If your hands can survive the arm pump, your brakes can barely get you down from being so hot and on the brink of failure. The entire race is won or lost on this mega stage.
Throughout our time at the race, we met many riders of all ages and genders. It was cool to see so many different people racing, from young kids and hobbyists to top-elite racers. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and a pleasure to hang out with. As practice came to a close, we got to join the Epic Enduro guys at a press conference with the Oaxacan government and local media. We chatted about the race, where we came from, and our goals for the weekend. It was awesome to see the whole city get excited about the race. Before we knew it, race day was here, and it was time to put all our practice to good use. Race day went smoothly for Ryan and I with no mechanicals or issues. Ryan placed 2nd in the Pro Men category, and I came in 1st in Pro Women. After the race, we were dazzled by the vast party tent full of food, mezcal, and friends. Racers told us that we should get excited for the end of the race because their after-party rivals a large Mexican wedding party, and they were not wrong. We all hung out, shared results, and reminisced about our fun times.
The day after the race, we went back into the mountains to take pictures and ride some new trails. We learned more about the trail system and discovered that there are almost 40 trails just in this area of Oaxaca, with more trail systems nearby. You would have to move here for weeks to come close to riding all the trails available to you. After taking some photos with a local photographer, we rode one of the most known trails in Oaxaca. This trail is called "el Toro," It is even longer and more technical than La Imposible! With incredible views and endless single track, this trail lived up to everything the local riders claimed it to be and was the perfect way to end our biking experience in Oaxaca.
Although the mountain biking brought us to Oaxaca, the city, people, and culture was enough alone to win us over. The city is unlike any other place in Mexico; even the other Mexican racers told us how unique and special this place is. Within the city's bustling cobblestone streets, you find beautiful buildings full of color, culture, uncommon artist goods, and most importantly, some of the best food I have ever eaten. If I had to pick one thing that makes Oaxaca stand out, it would be it's insane culinary cuisine. Oaxaca is known for many different types of food, but three of its most popular dishes with deep history are Mole, Mexican chocolate and Mezcal. However, no matter what food you are into, this town has something delicious for you. With tons of top rated restaurants on every block, it is hard to decide where to eat next. We joked about how we could come to Oaxaca to just eat food and still have the best time ever.
Oaxaca City is a delight, but its surrounding small villages are just as charming. With a quick 30-minute drive, we went and toured Monte Albán, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site. These ancient ruins are perched between two lush valleys, with inhabitants as far back as 2000 BC. These ruins were mind-blowing, and a favorite part of my brother and I's trip. After Monte Albán, we stopped by the small village of San Antonio Arrazola. This tiny town is best known for producing the famous alebrijes, which are wooden sculptures painted with colorful designs. In Mexican culture, these small creatures guide spirits on their journey to the afterlife. The town is full of shops and murals embracing alebrijes. We even got lucky enough to be invited into a local shop's house to learn how to make these sculptures. These are just two places Ryan and I got to visit, we just scratched the surface off all the culture, arts, and history Oaxaca has to offer.
If you're looking for epic riding, rich culture, and some of the best food you have ever experienced, I can not recommend Oaxaca enough. The city quickly won me over and is one of my favorite places I have ever been. I also can't recommend enough the Epic Enduro's race. It was professional, safe, and hands down some of the best tracks I have ever raced. So if you are looking for your next adventure, check out Oaxaca; you won't be disappointed!