Brought to us by the Enduro World Series is the continental enduro series which is designed to bridge the gap between the qualifier events and the EWS series. This will allow up and coming riders to both test and hone their skills in events much closer to home before charging into the ultimate MTB enduro riding test. For more on the Continental Enduro Series have a look here and read on for a rundown on what took place at the first ever European continental series and round 3 of the Superenduro series.
Last year, Val Di Fassa, was one of those unknown locations to Loui and myself. I had heard about Trentino, the province in which Val Di Fassa is located, but only in terms of being an epic place for skiing and other winter sports. So that year we could not credit the Superenduro Series enough for placing Val Di Fassa, and in fact, the whole region, firmly on the mountain biking world map of ours. In 2017 the Drop Down Superenduro was a highlight of our eurotrip and with the 2018 edition being the first race in the European continental series it was looking plausible it might actually fill the boots of its predecessor.
What a place to kick it all off! There is something about the air in this place. Whether it is just in my head or has any kind of truth to it the fresh mountain air makes you feel bloody good and for someone who enjoys the lead up and planning of a mission almost as much as the mission itself this place is a full on candy store. Everywhere you look there is an enticing map of a mountain bike ride, walk, via ferrata route, rock climbing crag, horse trek or other outdoors orientated activity that you did not know you desperately want to do. As if that wasn’t enough you simply need to set foot inside the Sport Check Point and have a chat with any member of their awesome lineup of staff to realise you have not allocated enough time for this place!
It didn’t take long after we arrived before Loui had managed to gravitate towards some fellow kiwi’s. Naturally we set up camp in one of the corners of the car park with Paris and Spencer, another Nelsonian couple doing the van life around Europe this summer. Along with them as well as Aussie Ben Forbes and German Franzi Meyer the weekend turned ripe with quality banter, freezing cold river showers, snacks and monopoly deal
This year, The Drop Down Superenduro comprised of 5 incredible stages creating a total of 40 kilometer race distance and a vertical descent of near 2000m. The variation found from one trail to another, as well as that within the longer trails could not have been greater had it tried. The short trails were for the most part completely new for this race and the tape between the trees was the only thing giving them away. In the longer trails there was ridgeline riding, fast open mountain landscapes with the signature jagged peaks of the Dolomites in the backdrop and technical forest littered with off-camber treeroots. Some trails were euro-turn heaven whilst other trails had sections where even I found the death grip appropriate.
Although a lot of the teams and riders arrived Thursday, practiced Friday and the official practice began Saturday the Fassa bike crew and the town had been hard at work since last year. There has been many hours behind the scenes to ensure a smooth sailing. With the increased amount of rubber going through the forest some of the fresher lines soon started to look like trails and it made me think whether those virgin trails would be the reason someone else decides to travel to the region in a couple years time. The amount of energy and passion going into the mountain bike scene here in Val Di Fassa bodes well for a certain 2019 Enduro World Series.
Thursday afternoon there was a quality thunderstorm which brought a fair bit of moisture to the trails and trail-condition-concerns to many of the participants. This made for a couple dicey runs on Friday morning but the sun and wind did its job and by the afternoon it was business as usual in the Dolomites. It is fair to say we hit weather jackpot during the week of the event and come race day the conditions could not have been better.
Starting the day off with the shortest trail might have seemed like a way to ease into it but this was not the case. This newly cut, 1.1 kilometer long trail had both the brain, muscles and lungs fired up by the time we reached the finish sign. To keep speed over thick moss was one of the main objectives here. Continuing from there with what many would describe as one of the most challenging sections of the day, the stage 2 ridge. A severly scenic ride along a ridgeline made interesting by use of a large number of chicanes to throw you off not only course but also the bike and the ridge if you lost focus for even a slight moment. Stage 2 then continued to the valley floor to create the longest run of the day at 4.8 kilometers. The third stage was a 2.1 kilometer long, fresh cut, pedally affair that turned increasingly rocky, rooty and technical towards the end. The 4.1 kilometer long stage 4 finished off the natural stages in style by offering everything from mega fast and open to technical turns, rocks, roots, steeps, uphills and jumps.
In true Val Di Fassa fashion the race was concluded by a short, but fun, urban stage to take us through to the finish line. To ride up on the stage with rushing adrenaline and a heart rate that’s still way too high is never getting old.
At the end of the day Italy took out the entire Open men’s podium with Nicola Casadei once again at the top followed by Matteo Berta in second and Matteo Raimondi in third. As for the other 15 nationalities the first non-Italian was Benjamin Forbes from Australia in 12th followed by Antonio Vergara from Chile and Loui Harvey from New Zealand in 13th and 14th respectively.
In the Open women’s category the podium was instead covered from top to bottom by international riders with Noga Korem from Israel on the top step, Raewyn Morrison from New Zealand in second and Anita Gehrig, only just returning to racing after her big crash at the EWS in Chile, in third. For full results visit the Superenduro website.
Once again the crew from the Superenduro series, Fassa Bike and the destination Val Di Fassa pulled together to create a world class event, apart from running a ridiculously smooth show on race day they certainly have an eye for detail. They know the steps to take to make a good race into a great event. If this was their take on the European continental series I can not wait to see what they have in store for the 2019 Enduro World Series.
All Photos: Nicola Damonte / Superenduromtb.com