Ever since catching the rally bug during the Dakar and deciding to try racing the Hellas Rally in Greece, I’ve been obsessing over whether I’m rally-ready. The short answer to this is hell no, I’m far from ready; but I’m willing to try my best anyway.
Joao Soares, organizer of the event and co-founder of Horizon Adventures in Portugal, said this is the perfect way to play rally without the pressure of timed stages. “Trans Alentejo is for riders who are thinking of doing a rally, but don’t want to compete in one just yet. It’s also for anyone who loves off-road riding with like-minded people. The rally is a three-day event with three stages around the beautiful Alentejo region, each stage covering about 200 km of twisty mountain trails.
. It’s all about having an awesome time riding off-road and challenging yourself”, – Joao told me.
Needless to say, I’m in. The Trans Alentejo Rally starts on the 4th of April, and I’ll be doing their Raid version with GPS navigation hoping to learn some of the roadbook basics from other riders as I go along. I will be provided a KTM450, courtesy of Horizon Adventures, and a Garmin Montana with pre-loaded GPS tracks for each stage. Since this is a non-compete event, I’m allowed to either do the more technical stages or switch between rally and adventure versions each day as I see fit.
The rally has three classes: Enduro/Rally bikes, Adventure bikes, and quads. There are two categories to choose from – a more technical, longer itinerary which includes some challenges on the way, or the easier level with shorter stages on less technical terrain. “The light version is mostly for the bigger adventure bikes. So many people love taking their large capacity machines off road without worrying whether it’ll be too difficult, so we just wanted to include a lighter rally version to welcome these riders. Trans Alentejo is not a racing event, it’s more of a cool rideout in rally conditions. Regardless of what class and level of difficulty you choose, you can have either roadbook or GPS navigation – or both, if you like. For those who choose rally navigation with the traditional roadbook, we’ll provide the roadbook paper rolls, permanent monitoring, and a classification based on the navigation accuracy – penalties for missing parts of the track, speed penalties, and other navigation penalties. For the RAID version with GPS navigation, riders will not be ranked”, – Joao explained.
The rally basecamp will be based in Evora and the three stages will be loop rides around Monsaraz, Ossa, and Montargil. Each stage will cover 200 or 150 kilometers, depending on the chosen category. According to Joao, some twenty-five riders from Portugal, the UK and South Africa are expected to participate.
“I‘m not a racer, I‘m an amateur rider, so I just want to include everyone. I started riding a bike when I was eighteen, and later did some enduro and off road rallies and races but always as an amateur. And of course, I loved following the Dakar, I would sometimes chase it in Morocco or Peru, and I have always loved roadbook navigation. I‘m just fascinated with it all.
In 2008, I did a one-week trip in Morocco riding the dunes and feeling like a Dakar rider. I loved it so much I started organizing group rides here in Portugal. We’d create tracks, upload them to our GPS devices, and ride. We would meet for lunch or near bigger river crossings and other challenges just to make sure everyone’s safe, and then head out on the trails again. It was just a bunch of friends finding cool off road tracks and sharing them. Eventually, this grew into a business, and we now do tours and rent bikes for this type of riding, but we still stick to smaller, enduro type motorcycles like the KTM450’s and ride single track and terrain that would be hard to tackle on a large adventure bike. Portugal is perfect for this – we have great weather all year round and riding here is just beautiful. I honestly think we have some of the best off-road trails in Europe. The terrain in Portugal is so diverse, and you can find something new each time you ride. Add great food and welcoming people and you have the perfect adventure mix”, – Joao said.
Intrigued? Registration for the Trans Alentejo is still open, so throw your hat into the ring and come ride in Portugal. Or, stay tuned to find out whether I’ll finish the rally right here on ADV Rider. I will be posting regular updates and videos straight from the rally as I go along!