You just have to give these amazing people who enter this race 10 / 10 for effort. The 101km La Legion event is always tough but this year, over the weekend of 10th – 11th May, the weather was sweltering right from the start. The relentless heat took its toll on a higher number of competitors than usual but, even so, the winners put in astounding performances.
The men’s MTB winner, Jose Marquez Granados from Marbella, completed the 101km course in a fabulous time of 4:04:48. He was closely followed by Alejo Fuentes Ojeda (an even more local lad from El Gastor) in 4:10:14 and then by Emilio Castilla Mancilla from Granada in 4:19:08.
Whilst this means that they all achieved a consistent speed of nearly 25kmph (a good speed to keep up on a mountain bike for 4 hours wherever you are), when you take into consideration the 2,552 metres of climbing involved, it is truly herculean. And for a further comparison, our guest here who competed the course himself in a very respectable time of 5:58:18 described the race as “muy duro”, saying that the 270km race he was about to do the following week-end would be “easier”, as it only involved the same amount of climbing but spread over nearly three times the distance i.e. much smaller hills!!
And just imagine doing the whole 101km on a tandem – because there were those too!
Another fact made me smile, the guys who came first and third in the MTB and the winner of the running event (Juan Manuel Cortes Cortes) are all classed as “veteran” competitors. To someone like me, who is not used to the recognised sporting event age classifications, veteran is a term used in phrases like “veterans of WWII”, so I have visions of these guys like the old heroes we see in D-Day memorial events, clocking at least 80 years old. In actual fact, you become a veteran sportsperson at 40 years old but it’s much more fun to think of them taking off their cycling helmets to reveal a shock of white hair, a smart moustache and a chest full of medals.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the children’s running race was fabulous.
Boys and girls who looked no older than 3 or 4 years old, up to around 15, came hurtling along the 3km course through the streets of Ronda, ending at the Alameda del Tajo gardens. There they enjoyed the full experience of the adult event, running through the inflatable victory arches, getting their numbers scanned by an army (ha! ha!) of legionnaires and then lining up for celebratory photos. Most of the smallest ones were accompanied on their run by very proud mums and dads. What a great way to get kids into sport and exercise – make it an adventure and a real experience. Well done to the event organisers on this one!
Whilst individual star performers in the race astound us with their prowess, there were also some great displays of teamwork. We watched a group of 3 cyclists waiting at the top of the final big cobbled road climb up to the edge of the city walls, waiting patiently for their friend who was so exhausted he could hardly stand. He was collapsed over his bike, trying to muster up the strength to complete the last 1km. The others could have carried on ahead to clock a better time but it was clearly more important to them to support their friend and finish together. Many of the runners raced in official teams and behaved the same way. We also saw a cyclist giving a helpful push to another rider towards the end. But for pushing on through sheer exhaustion, even after a bad fall near the start, we have to look at the face of the winning woman in the MTB race, Maria Araceli Ramos Ramos, who completed the course in 5:53:04. Here she is being whisked off to the medical tent immediately after she finished.
After all that effort, no doubt they were all appreciative of the massive carb-feast that the Legion served up at the end.
The streets of Ronda are always pretty stunning but the sight of runners and riders passing through landmark locations is truly special.
With the high temperatures, the leading runner took almost an hour longer than last year to complete the course but still finished it in just under 10 hours. It is hard to imagine undertaking such a challenge, running up and down those mountains for so long. And let’s not forget the ones who were still going fourteen hours later, trying to beat the 24 hour time limit for the event. This requires not only great fitness and a massive commitment to training, it also takes amazing mental strength.
In a final military reference to every competitor, we salute you!
We have spoken to a number of people who are interested in competing in the 101km next year. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to gain a place, as the event is always massively oversubscribed – this year 11,000 cyclists applied for just 2,400 places. Entry allocations happen in January and I will post again shortly how you go about applying.
To see more photos of the event and the full list of results (although sometimes it can be a bit temperamental opening properly) click here
To see my photos from last year's event, which show some other locations along the route, click here
Heather Cooper, Hike + Bike the Sierras 12/05/2014