At a first glance at Trailforks the town of Priero does not strike you as a mountain bike venue of historical importance. With four downhill-specific trails showing in the phone app, three blue and one black, it could easily be overlooked, particularly when the mountain bike hub of Finale Ligure is less than one hour’s drive south. What the app is not designed to tell you is that this is where it all began, 10 years ago, with the first ever Superenduro organised in 2008. Whilst it has been a ‘Superenduro’ six times since then Priero has without fail held enduro races for 12 years straight and by doing so they have helped grow and evolve the sport in Italy.
Priero is a small town in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont, roughly 60 km from Finale Ligure when travelling on the fastest route option. It has a population of around 500 inhabitants and for a first timer it is, apart from the town’s all round medieval feel, the village tower that grabs your attention. Not only is it visually impressive but with its circumference equalling its height it is also architecturally fascinating. On the weekend of 1st -2nd September 2018 over 200 racers, where an impressive 40 of them were in categories between 13 and 16 years old, from Italy as well as eight other countries gathered to fight the last battle of this year’s Italian Enduro series better known as the Superenduro series.
Earlier in the week the forecast had shown a less than ideal rain accumulation for Sunday morning of up to 32mm and during Saturday’s practice there was an ominous thunder looming in the distance. Luckily this simply bypassed Priero and left the trails beautifully tacky come race day. A couple words I would use to describe practice day is ‘Flow’ not only was the entire race course the definition of flow trails that demanded a whole different kind of skill set compared to other steeper technical courses, the training day shuttle service also flowed very nicely thanks to some solid preparation by the local organisers AS PRIERO asd, and ‘Relaxed’ since the format of the event meant racing six stages but on only four trails, stage one and two doubled as five and six, the practice day was a cruisy four runs. The race was the fourth and final race in the Italian Enduro Series but also an Enduro World Series qualifier event and with numbers such as 1700 meters of climbing and a total of 43 kilometers pedalled it was set to be a nice, big day out.
When it comes to racing in Europe and particularly in Italy, you know it is race day when you wake up to the enthusiastic, excited italian accent of Enrico Guala. In Priero we were parked up only a couple hundred meters from the paddock area where Enrico was in full swing sending people off the stage and just across the road from the La Rotonda bar and café where we got our delicious breakfast foccacia bread.
The trails around Priero tend to sit roughly 300 height meters above the village and are all accessed by tarmac roads or gravel roads with gentle inclines. This makes the area a breeze for shuttling and a pleasure to pedal. Heading up the 5.2 kilometer long liaison, through the village of Campitello, to stage one was a perfect warm-up for what laid ahead. At 2.81 kilometers, stage one was by no means a long stage but it comfortably made up for it by being incredibly physical with many long, flat and uphill, sprint sections. Following stage one we came out in Campitello and set off up the hill once again, this time a little bit further to the location of stages two and four/six. Stage two was shorter in length and less demanding as it was mainly pointing downhill but had many trecherous off-camber sections to navigate. For stage three we pedalled through the village and up to San Bernardo, another hill on the opposite side of the town, to drop into the steepest most technical trail of the day. The 1.12 kilometer length of the stage meant there was full gas from top to bottom and outrageously fun. We now headed back down into the village for a meeting with the food station and to await the time control, this allowed for an unexpected meeting on my behalf. Down at the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II I see Loui and instantly there is doubled joy, until I remember Loui set off later than me that morning and should not be back yet. Then I see in his hand a pedal and half a crank, it is fair to say he was struggling to hide his disappointment and deflation whilst giving me a mid-race pep-talk.
The afternoon was kicked off at time control as we began the pedal back up the hill to stage four, at just over 7 kilometers it was our longest liaison of the day but the generous transition time and gentle incline made it highly enjoyable. Again a fun, flowy stage made challenging through racing. Stage five marked the start of the ‘repeat stages’ as we had already raced the trails of stage five and six at the start of the race as stage one and two. I personally loved the chance to better my time down these stages now that I had them fresh in my head, I could push harder and perfect my lines whilst at the same time feeling the toll of the days’ previous efforts. A race within a race!
Finishing off a race and returning to the paddock area is always a party in itself, one full of emotion from a big day on the bike with friends, some old and some new. This party was intensified that Sunday afternoon by the ambiance created only at a series finale. Who won this race? Who took home the overall series? The atmosphere was electric with anticipation and what better way to await the final announcements and prize giving at the Italian Enduro Series than by eating pasta? ‘The Pasta Party’ is a staple at the end of each Superenduro and serves not only to feed hungry racers but also to bring these people together, a chance to talk about the days’ adventures without sacrificing breathing while pedaling up a hill. Genius and always appreciated!
As for those results, the Superenduro website gives you the full lowdown on the Priero superenduro as well as the overall series results for all categories. In short: Massive ‘Complimenti’ to Laura Rossin (Soul cycles racing team) and Nicola Casadei (CMC cycling experience) for taking home both the Priero Superenduro as well as the overall 2018 Superenduro series.
Photos by Francesco Bartoli Avveduti @fbafotografi