After a couple of years away, the Alta Via Stage Race is back for 2021 and registration is open. The AVSR loosely follows the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri taking riders westwards through the region of Liguria from the area of La Spezia on its eastern reaches right up to its border with France. It’s a race of contrasting landscapes, the route rising up from the Mediterranean sea, through the Ligurian pre alps, past medieval villages and into the area’s high alps and at times, all the way back down again.
The race’s 590km is split over 8 stages and a short prologue with 22,000m of total elevation gain. Having ridden the Liguria Bike Trail event, I got a small taste of what the area offers; simply stunning riding, but you do have to earn those descents!
Flowing coastal singletrack, forest trails and high alpine riding, sometimes exposed, with stunning vistas of rolling mountains in one direction and the deep blue sea in the other. The route passes over some of the area’s more significant peaks and climbs to 50m shy of the highest, Monte Saccarello at 2,200m on stage 7. It’s a race that will test the climbing legs, but equally, offers exhilarating descending too, some of it demanding, fast and technical! It is predominantly sunny and hot here, but do come prepared for possible, localised weather systems in the mountainous areas. You can be caught out in the rain whilst having a view of clear skies down near the coast! As I did.
Although the 2021 route stays largely in the high country, there are 2 big descents right back to the coast, to the small town of Chiavari and later on to Finale Ligure, taking in some of the trails of the infamous 24hours of Finale course. The hump of the Queen stage kicks in fairly early on at stage 3, 104km long with a lumpy 3,684m of vertical gain, but the legs should be nicely warmed up by then!
As with some other stage races, to keep the environmental impact to a minimum, there will be barely any course markings. Instead, all riders will be required to follow the route via a GPS device with occasional ground markings where needed, but using an ecological paint. Charging points for devices will be supplied at each race village, so no need to worry about battery life.
Choose between riding as solo or in a pair and across 3 different entry types, allowing riders to experience the event depending on their available time and race experience. Go for the Hero option to experience the full course, race 3 stages (1,2 and 3 or 6,7 and 8) with the Weekend option or try out the non competitive Fun option for a more relaxed ride. To maintain a balance between trail traffic and a competitively sized field as well as a friendly and intimate feel to the event, places are limited; 100 riders maximum for the Hero, 25 per Weekend event and 25 for the Fun. Full details for all options here
There are all the usual services; en route with feed and mechanical assistance stations with optional, pay for mechanical services as well as a massage service in each race village. Accommodation is in spacious 2 person tents per competitor, set up for you each day. Food post stage will be available as well as a communal pasta dinner each evening. Different dietary requirements can be accommodated, riders just need to get in touch with the organisers.
The AVSR is a proper mountain bike adventure within a stunning location, from the coast to the mountains and back again, along singletrack, forest and mountain trails. You will need to be an experienced rider to get the most out of the event as the climbs can be challenging, but the rewards are exhilarating descents. All with the added bonus of Italian hospitality and Italian food. Check out all the details here.