A whole day of torture and bliss; that’s probably the perfect way to describe the Itogon Enduro Attack experience last October 21, 2018 in Benguet. Torture, because of the painstaking ascend and the burning heat of the sun from the Liaisons. But was instantly replaced with bliss upon riding those steep, gnarly, one-miss-and-you’re-dead-cliffs, and super technical special stages. One thing I know for sure is that the Itogon Action is one for the books that I, together with the 170+ riders who participated on this event will never soon forget 🙂
A few weeks has already passed since the Itogon Enduro Attack Race but my Facebook feed is still swarmed with tagged photos and stories about it. Well, who can blame the riders and participants? The entire experience was 100% A-OKAY! The 7th leg of Enduro Alliance Race Series was new for 2018, and probably one of the most challenging yet definite contender as trail of the year.
Tinongdan, Itogon Benguet is one of the tourist destinations in Cordillera Province and is particularly known for it’s Mt. Ugo and Binga Dam. The area just recently suffered landslides from the previous super typhoon which terribly hit the northern part of the country just weeks before the race, but this doesn’t hinder the hearts of the racers to continue on with the event. Moreover, the MTB event serves as a support for the townspeople to help them rise again after the calamity.
The Cordillera region is the home of so many astonishing mountains in the country like Mt. Pulag (2,926 meters) and Mt. Ulap (1,846 meters), so it’s not just an exciting mountain biking experience to look forward to, but one of the nerve-wracking as well, given that the terrain and the steepness requires an advanced mountain biking skills. A lot has been invited to join, but only few brave riders heed the call. Some have other plans during that weekend, money issues, busy schedules or simply doesn’t have the guts to join. There are talks of haughtiness before and after the race, that only riders who’s got the balls are able to face Itogon hahaha I’ve got no balls, but I’ll take that 🙂
The racers were released at the Tinongdan Barangay Complex (which serves as the Race HQ) at 6:00 am and made their way to the Liaison to Stage 1. You need to make way through the road section (8 km) before entering the main jump off to the LS, a hike-a-bike trail through Sitio Man-It (4 km) to the Ave Maria Shrine where the Stage 1 begins. And I tell you, that 4 km hike-a-bike is mostly consists of carrying your bike over your shoulders! hahaha
The Stage 1 is the shortest with 1.7 km in length but definitely the most technical one. There are portions wherein you have you check brakes in order to avoid hitting some tree trunk with your handlebar, otherwise you might lose your balance and fall off a cliff. Wait, WHAT? Fall off a cliff? I’m dead serious you guys! hahaha But given the fact that the tracks are super dangerous, you can’t help but be mesmerized with the beautiful scenery of the mountains, riversides and the racers’ vigor who are all determined to do their best, give their energies full out for that one day all-or-nothing race, and mostly hang on to dear life hahaha
After reaching the finish line of SS1, the racers made their way to the second stage, and again hike-a-bike through the Sitio Sajo (a small community where refreshments await) with only 1.5 hrs to spare. Plunging into the Stage 2 with 2.4 km to the finish line reaching the Sitio Togi, Barangay Dalupirip, the tracks here is a little bit less technical, less cliffs, and more enjoyable. You’ll even be tempted to stop and linger on to admire the mountain view from the tracks. Some riders even call it the “Happy Trail” and it sure is 🙂
Upon reaching the finish line of the Stage 2, racers continued riding on to the Itogon Municipal Hospital where a motorized service awaits. The motor haul or truck service took us back to the Race HQ where the jump off to the last Liaison is located. The last LS is the shortest one which is only about 0.5 km hike-a-bike, and I don’t know about the other racers but that last LS definitely took the most out of my energy… and even my will to finish the race hahaha It may be the shortest one but the terrain is so lose and so steep that I had the hardest time pushing my bike to the top. Lesson learned : wear hiking shoes for this kind of race 🙂
And lastly, the last stage called the “Cellsite”, with the longest race track that goes on for 3.2 km. is probably the riders’ favorite with the jaw-dropping scenery of the dam and Mt. Ugo. But the pedal sections here will definitely test the rider’s endurance until the last drop, it was all to play for with one stage to go. The last stage comprised of a technical trail with fast pedal sections, uphill off cambers, and culminating one of the toughest rock sections of the year.
Aaaannnndddd you’ve finally reached the finish line! You’re now jumping for joy. You’ve made it safe and sound – – But wait! ‘Cause there’s more! Just when you thought you’re finally safe from all the cliffs, the exit from Stage 3 back to the Race HQ will make you think twice about your life choices and your last will and testament (hahaha) because that single track will make your heart skip a beat.
The Special Stage 3 goes through the Cellsite and ends at Sitio Cayoco Trail. A motor haul and truck services await the racers and brought them back to the Race HQ where the awarding ceremony was held. It was visible that everyone was exhausted, from racers to the organizers, but you can also feel the joy and relief in the air. Now that the 7th leg of the Enduro Alliance Race Series was a success, we are now fast approaching the finale race to be held on November 25, happening in Mt. Samat Bataan where in a heavy flow of Enduro action will soon take place. And I can’t wait to ride those tracks and have a good time!!
It was one hell of a race day. A history was made indeed and it will mark the Itogon tracks for a lifetime, and a pleasant memory and experience will be carried on by me, and the rest of the racers for a long, long time 🙂
Photo credits and Special Thanks to Ms. Isa Halamani (ig : @isa.halamani), Foto Xycle, Nald Rigor, Matthew Topping, Liv Ponce and the rest of Enduro Alliance in participation with the Municipality of Tinongdan Itogon, Benguet for the fun and well-organized MTB event. More power to all of you!
See you in Bataan!! To register for the finale race, click HERE.