With less than six months to until the third edition of Appenninica MTB Stage Race, race courses and profiles have been released for the stage race running from 12-18 September, 2021.
The race organisers have worked to enhance the route from previous years, focusing on the Apennine ridge’s beauty and the unspoiled nature of Alta Via dei Parchi, which they say is the ‘feather in the cap for the tourist promotion of the Emilia-Romagna Apennine’. The Appennninica MTB serves up seven stages with almost 16,000 metres of elevation gain and a distance of over 420 kilometres via five stage venues. This means you don’t need to pack up and ship out every single morning, but you do still get to travel point to point over the entirety of the race.
For the 2021 edition there are new stage towns Lizzano in Belvedere (Bologna) and Cerreto Laghi (Reggio Emilia) have joined the confirmed Porretta Terme (Bologna), Fanano (Modena) and Castelnovo ne’ Monti (Reggio Emilia). Mountain bike stage races may be about results for a handful of racers, but primarily it is about travel, the challenge, and a social experience. If you haven’t been to Italy, or the Emilia Romagna region, then this collection of towns are an ideal snapshot of this beautiful pocket of Italy.
The Appenninica MTB stages in profile
On Sunday, September 12th, 2021, Porretta Terme will host the Appenninica MTB Stage Race start with the “Porretta Soul” stage, a 45 km individual time trial (1,645 mt of elevation gain) dedicated to the Porretta Soul Festival. A symbol of Porretta Terme area, the Monte Cavallo climb will be immediately tackled by the riders while the stage will continue through the thick surrounding woodlands, enjoying high altitude views of the mountains and Reno valley.
We think this is a great start to the week. A time trial is an excellent way to get the nerves settled, while also helping race organisers determine a start order for the first mass start. While also starting and finishing in the same location, it is a big help for riders to let them settle into the rhythm of the stage race. Still, this is quite a long time trial, likely in excess of 2 hours for many riders. So pacing is still critical, and there’s a chance you may end up riding with the riders in front or behind of you in the start order, for mutual gains. And some chit chat!
On Monday, September 13th stage 2 takes riders off for their first true taste of the Appenine Ridge. With 57 km and 2340m of elevation gain from Porretta Terme to Lizzano in Belvedere, the route packs a punch – specifically to your legs with so much climbing! Named the “Corno”, the second stage protagonist is the Corno alle Scale mountain, with its wide and ’emotional views’ in the words of the organisers.
We think today’s stage will highlight who dug too deep on the opening time trial, and the finish line may reveal who has a better claim to the leader’s jersey. The profile reveals that this stage has multiple summits to crest, and it will take a disciplined rider to manage their effort and equipment – especially so they can benefit from any gain on the main climb, on the long descent that follows.
Tuesday, September 14th sees the Appenninica 2021 riders move from Lizzano in Belvedere to Fanano with a very technical stage of 50km and 2,500m of elevation gain. So yeah, that’s even hillier than yesterday. Thecourse travels through different terrain, you’re not just slogging up endless farm roads. So success requires versatility from the riders. The race organisers say, “Look out for the ghost of Felix Pedroni, a local legend during the gold rush saga.”
Without having ridden this route, it sounds like it could be an epic day out. Epic, at 57km? You bet. Firstly, there is a bunch of climbing. Also, it doesn’t go as high as yesterday and the promise of varied terrain brings the promise of lots of types of trail. Forest singletrack, open farm trails, villages, ridge line trails, rocky descents – this stage is likely to keep you guessing. Get too tired and it will beat you down. Roll with it and you’ll be smiling ear to ear.
Designed by famous trail builder Pierpaolo “Pippo” Marani, the spectacular “Pippo Yeah” stage is back in 2021. So on Wednesday, September 15th, riders will take on a route of 50 km and 2,300m of elevation gain. This stage was regarded as one of the most appreciated stages of the 2020 edition, and it will again show the beautiful landscapes around Fanano. The breathtaking singletrack downhill to the town centre will be the perfect finish. And from the orahinsers, some local knowledge; “Interesting fact: Fanano will also see the Giro d’Italia going by and our riders will ride the same road.” Learn more.
By now, you’ll notice that while the distances aren’t too great – the amount of climbing isn’t low. Today is another day like that, but as it promises a long singletrack descent, you just need to keep that reward dangling like a carrot. Keep yourself fed and watered so you can eek every last bit of stoke from the final descent.
From Fanano to Cerreto Laghi, the “High Mountain Queen Stage” on Thursday, September 16th, is said to be the real test for looking for a position of distinction in the Appenninica MTB Stage Race overall. With 95km and 3,600m of elevation gain, the difficulty also lies in height. After the first climb and descent, much of the route is ridden around 1500m.
When you breake this down, we can see that over 1000m are tackling in the first climb. But that means almost 2500m are still to be ridden once that descent is finished, with multiple climbs punctuated by a longer climb in the closing kilometres. Surely, you will finish this stage with little left in the tank.
On Friday, September 17th, the race will move to Castelnovo ne’ Monti with 65km and 1,900m of elevation gain. Overall, it’s a less challenging day. After the first uphill, you will go downhill through the trails of Cervarezza Bike Park from Lake Calamone, enjoying the Bismantova Rock view from afar.
Of course, there’s a climb you’ll need to crest to enjoy the long downhill to finish. There’s one more stage to go, and you have arrived in the final stage town!
On Saturday, September 18th, the epilogue is the “Purgatory” stage, dedicated to Dante Alighieri on the 700th anniversary of his death. According the organisers, the dedication goes a little further: “The name of the stage says everything: to reach the “Paradise”, finishing (or even winning) the Appenninica MTB Stage Race 2021, and the riders have to tame the Bismantova Rock, riding in the shadow of the mountain that inspired Dante’s Purgatory before tasting the glory at Castelnovo ne’ Monti.”
Sure that is the flattest stage yet, but we reckon those climbs will be steep! Day 7 will reveal some tired legs, and some hunger for those who feel they have something to prove, or something to gain. This will be a battle, where egos may get bruised, and warriors will give high fives after the battle.
The Appenninica MTB Stage Race traces a great looking route in 2021, and anyone who has yearned for epic solo mountain bike stage races with amazing trails and hospitality need look no further. The trap? Entries are limited to 150. You can get more details on the event website, or look at the recap from the first year by Scott Cornish.