Besides the Megavalanche in France, there are a couple of MTB races sharing a similar concept. With a mass start and kamikaze downhill, the Red Bull Holy Bike race in Spain also addresses hundreds of riders willing to take chances against each other. Richard Gasperotti took part to get his own experience. The following paragraphs are his first-person insights.
Sweat is dripping down my spine drop by drop. Blood is knocking at my temples from both sides. The start is near and someone, somewhere counts to three, two, one, and here we go! Three hundred riders thrust their way through the starting gate at the Red Bull Holy Bike, one of the greatest mass MTB races in the world. Ahead of me, there are ten minutes of struggling, pushing and fighting elbow to elbow with hundreds of other participants.
As a Mondraker team rider, I was invited to Spain for a photoshoot with the rest of the international crew this autumn. To my surprise, I got the news that we were about to join one of the biggest races in the country called Red Bull Holy Bike.
Since the entire Mondraker factory team promised to join, I had no other choice but to sign up. Searching through the web before my flight to Madrid, I learned all the available info I could find about the race. Taking place in the La Pinilla ski resort, the Holy Bike event averages approximately 600 riders each year. About 350 riders registered this year after the two-year break caused by anti-covid measures.
After I arrived in Spain, it took me about three more hours of driving to get to the La Pinilla ski resort located in the Segovia province. Even though the season was over, the gondola lift was scheduled to run the entire weekend to help riders get on top of the highest peak. The altitude of 650 metres promised the potential for long trails. After a couple of rides, I was pleased to experience a well-maintained bike park with both designed and naturally occurring trails.
The race scheme was based on four separate measured runs, three of them being individual and one mass. The overall result from the three individual runs decided your pole position in the final run. During one of the chaotic individual runs, I ran into a slower rider on a trail that was too narrow to take him over. Despite losing a lot of precious time, I made it to the top 40, which brought me into the fourth starting row for the final race.
The seconds after the start were crazy. A big cloud of dust raised by riders concealed everything around me. While being continually attacked from all sides possible, I made my way through the swarm and set myself free for the ride.
After hitting a huge jump on the trail, I found myself flying through the air with four other riders side by side. I can’t remember if I have ever experienced such a motocross-like feeling at any other race so far. After several minutes of madness, I made it to the finish in 36th place. Galician rider Ángel Suárez, the triple champion of Spain in downhill and top 10 in the world, has taken the first position in the absolute category. No matter the results, everybody around was cheering.
More than a race, the Red Bull Holy Bike is a great MTB holiday to celebrate the end of the bike season. Try joining next year, I strongly recommend it!