Every mountain biking race is different.

Some of them are unique. But only one can boast with having its riders start the race from the deck of a floating behemoth.

Those of you who already attended one of the previous 4 Islands know what a crazy experience it is. The rest of you unlucky bastards will just have to trust my words and use a bit of imagination.

There you are, in your starting block, all dressed up in your fancy new 4 Islands souvenir jersey

One finger on your front brake and your shoe clicking on the metal deck, you can feel the ship slowly sway underneath as banter from hundreds of racers dressed in a kaleidoscopic jubilee of team jerseys bounces in the ship’s metal bowels. The race official is trying to out-yell the MC who keeps playing loud rock music while a flock of seagulls screams overhead, adding to the cacophony. The air smells faintly of a combination of diesel, salt, lavander, sweat and sage. Everyone’s getting ready as the music dies down and the race official, red in the face from yelling, finally sorts out the the last stragglers into starting blocks while the MC yells out minutes and seconds to start. Finally the ship siren wails like a banshee just feet above your head and in one frantic sprint you fight to get traction between your tires and the slippery metal shipdeck. The bike caravan heaves, the boat sways in response, and with one final push you finally pass the start line and make landfall.  The sunrise beats into your eyes as you look ahead and see the first insane uphill of the stage and wonder: “What the hell just happened?!”

And this is only 10 seconds into the race.