Mountain biking has always been linked with green mountains covered in woods. Most mountain bikers dream of descending a single-track trail weaving through trees, skipping over roots and digging their tires in dirt through the corners.
By Zlatko Tomšić/AiC
Mitas 4 Islands manages to capture the essence of everything that is great about mountain biking despite having nothing in common with the dream above. It is run on the islands, and the highest point of the race is just a couple of hundred meters above sea level.
While it passes through some wooded areas, it is mostly shrubs and barren rocks that dominate the landscape. And for the dirt, most of it has been long blown off the island by Bura and Jugo – local winds that govern the weather. What is left is mostly rocky terrain where only the toughest and most persistent survive.
When the going gets tough
Tough and persistent are the first two qualities that perfectly describe the competitors of this four-day event. 270 kilometers and 5000 meters of climbing is a serious test itself, but hosting the race on islands of ►Krk, ►Rab, ►Cres, and ►Lošinj in four days presents racers and organizers with an unrivaled set of challenges.
Most notably the racers face rocks in all shapes and sizes. There are sections of dirt trails, especially on Rab and some on Krk, but most of the course takes the riders through farm tracks and single trails that have been created by clearing just enough rocks so that the local sheep farmers can pass with their tractors and 4×4’s. Full suspension bikes and tubeless tires are warmly recommended by anyone who has ridden the island trails.
Visiting four islands is also a logistical challenge. And while the organization is doing their best to make everything run smoothly, racers that can pack efficiently and quickly for the next day can save valuable energy over their less organized competitors. It is worth taking into account that there are two boat transfers in the first two days and if the weather turns nasty these can be hard on the stomach.
One year the Rab stage was canceled because the high winds did not allow the boat out of the harbor. Relying on their preparations mixed with liberal doses of imagination, the organizers prepared an alternate stage overnight so that the race went ahead without taking a day off.
The true challenge for everyone
All these challenges only make the experience even better once you overcome them. Stunning vistas, a mix of technical and fast trails, dipping your feet in crystal clear Adriatic after the stage, tasting local delicacies and warm hospitality of organizers and locals are main reasons that most participants want to return.
All of the islands are prominent tourist attractions during the summer months when roads and hotels often operate over their nominal capacities. During a week in April, the islands are as if reserved only for cyclists. This relaxed feeling is also notably present among the participants. Traveling together on boats, hanging out in hotels made for holidaymakers and being put to sleep each night by the waves from the Adriatic softens even the most hardcore racers and creates a unique sense of community among the riders.
Plans for 2019
Organizers are listening to feedback from finishers and are constantly improving the format of the race. Plans for 2019 include a prologue stage of 20 km to determine starting places for the first real stage, so the event will last for five days. Besides the 20 km prologue, the stages are between 45 and 70 km long. Organizers do not publish GPX tracks because parts of the course run on private land and for rest of the year are not fully accessible to riders.
300 pairs start in five categories: one women’s category, one for mixed pairs and three men’s category based on the age of participants. The field consists mostly of riders coming from abroad and if you are thinking of joining the fun better be fast because starting numbers sell out well in advance of April start date.
In 2019 the race will take place from April 9th till April 13th. Starting fees are between 350 and 450 EUR per rider depending on how quick you are with your registration. It is possible to arrange your own boarding and transport, but the organizers offer several convenient packages that include accommodation and transfers.
For 400 EUR you can spend six nights in three, and four-star hotels with breakfast and dinner included. If you do not like packing and unpacking every day you can choose a boat package where you sleep, eat and travel on a boat for the duration of the event. Prices of the boat packages range from 600 EUR to 900 EUR depending on the boat you choose.
Mitas 4 islands is an atypical mountain bike race for many reasons. But this is its strongest side, it is unlike any other.
Mountain biking has always been a sport that embraces novelties, and that is why Mitas 4 islands should be on every riders bucket list.