Atherton Racing, GT, Alpi Bike Resort

After a chaotic but successful weekend at the Val d’Isère World Cup, the GT Factory Racing team were longing for some down time. As Rach packed her bag and got ready to leave, she stated “That was a very difficult race, I’m ruined… let’s just drive to Alpi and chill out, eat some good food and ride our bikes, preferably not with YOU lot!!”

A 90km trip over the Col de l’Iseran and down to Italy through Modane took in some amazing scenery and got the riders in the mood for a chilled week of riding and relaxing at the Alpi Bike Resort in Northern Italy. Gee said, “This is home from home for us – I already feel like I’m on holiday.”

The team’s base for the week was Bardonechia, one of the eight resorts within the Alpi Bike Resort group. There’s a couple of lifts to ride here and depending where you stay in Bardonechia neither of them are far away with both offering great riding, Colomion and Melezet have more for beginners while Jafferau has two black runs which get pretty steep and technical in parts. We could see the lift from our hotel window which was enough to pull the entire team out of their beds nice and early on Tuesday morning to hit up some stunning red and black trails.

After a typical Italian lunch of pizza and pasta—and a quick look at the head cam footage from last year’s visit that sees Rachel following her dad down Baronecchia, laughing manically the whole way—we set off in pursuit of Dan Atherton who had been busy racing and filming up in Sauz du Oulx. Sauz’s trails are a little less demanding on the bike and they’re the perfect place for an all-mountain bike. Rolling meadows carpeted in wildflowers and lush green woods make this section of Alpi overwhelmingly beautiful, the trails are spectacular.

We found Dan looking very happy, riding a rolling singletrack that runs to twenty minutes in length. He seems to be at home here and it’s the ideal place to train for his new passion, Enduro. Dan was with Clay Porter and his motley crew, busy shooting for a new film which will profile Dan and his change to the new discipline. We’ll have more news on this soon but from what we’ve seen so far it’s going to be pretty special.

We spent another epic day at Sestrierre, the location of the downhill skiing course for the Torino Winter Olympics in 2006. More importantly to bike fans it’s also home to the Italian National Championships’ track. Rachel was beaming from ear to ear: “This place is so rad, so beautiful, and Lindsey Vonn trains here!” Marc took to the racetrack like a duck to water; he loved the variety that spread its 3km route. An open top section with fast drifty corners and big floaty jumps soon drops into some testing wooded, rooty, steep and rocky sections, before emerging once more into the open and a few fast chutes to the bottom.

Marc Maurrissen, Beaumont’s mechanic, and Rachel’s mechanic, Andy Lund who both do a lot of riding around their home towns of Genk Belgium and Llangollen, Wales, also joined in the fun with some spectacular crashes and roost competitions on camera but they’re not saying who got down fastest!

Alpi is a great place to ride. Whatever your level, whatever type of riding you’re after there’s something for everyone. And there’s so much to try; with only three of the eight resorts visited this trip we’re all looking forward to our return when we hope to tackle Cesana, Chiomonte, Claviere, Pragelato or Prali.

Maybe see you there.

All Photos Sven Martin

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