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Italian Super Enduro rd#2, Punta Ala, Tuscany

Andrea Bruno wins Super Enduro rd#2 in Italy.

Dirt columnist, Europikey and all round nice chap James McKnight beamed over this race repo from the event and also included a mini “guide to racing the SuperEnduro”

Italian Super Enduro Round 2, Punta Ala, Tuscany

Words: James McKnight
Photos: SuperEnduro

This past weekend saw the Italian Super Enduro series return to Punta Ala in Tuscany for the second round of 2012 Super Enduro Pro racing. The setting was sublime, the trails were wild and the race was tough.

 

Leisure Lakes rider Paul Aston didn’t have the best luck here, but will be battling for top position at the next race in Pogno (9/10th June).

View of the coastline from the top of the Prologue race.

Based out of the Four-Star Punta Ala camp site, right on the golden sands of an undisturbed stretch of Mediterranean shore and under a canopy of trees, competitors really were spoilt.

The racing commenced with a Saturday evening street race – a preliminary round that counts towards your race result on Sunday but more than all, it attracts crowds and showcases the sport. This was an exciting course of only around thirty seconds starting from a high-point at a castle in a nearby town that then hurtled down to the beach-front, with riders greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Affy on the start line.

Mama Mia! Worth watching for the finish straight manual!

Dan Atherton was one of the stars of the whole event, creating a buzz amongst racers, media and the organisation alike, and he didn’t disappoint with a convincing win of the ‘Prologue’ and a crowd-pleasingly steezy manual through the streets.

 

Andrea Bruno is a nice guy and a pinner on a bike. He won here and also didn’t stop smiling all weekend.

Sunday is the big day at Super Enduro events and Punta Ala really did prove big, with a course of nearly sixty kilometres and a great variety of riding; Stage 1 was long and heavy on the pedalling; Stage 2 was brutally rocky; Stage 3 was tight and twisty with a savage uphill; and Stage 4 was short, steep and scarily fast through the trees.

Women’s winner, Maria Federica Zanotto, keeping it fast and smooth.

Valentina Macheda is one of the best technically skilled girls on the circuit. Stage 2 suited her style but unfortunately she pushed it a bit too hard and has the grazes, bruises and sore shoulder to prove it.

Bruno again, fast through the tech and remember that isn’t a downhill bike he’s on there – bike handling skills are vital at these races.

To do well at a Super Enduro you have to possess an array of attributes – you must be technically skilled, hugely fit and level-headed in order to tackle the monster of a day, variety of terrain and to keep your cool throughout four separate and differing stages. Dan Atherton is all of the above, and finished up in fourth place this time – not too shabby for only his second outing in the series and this format of racing. Davide Sottocornola powered his way in to third place, after winning the first round in San Bartolomeo he must be feeling pretty confident about the season ahead.

 

Bit of man love going on between Al Stock and Andrea Bruno there. Well done to the top three (L-R: Stock, Bruno, Sottocornola) for putting on a good show and coming out on top.

It’s funny to see it happen to one of your best pals, especially one who enjoys a tipple more than most, but Al Stock’s rise to the top ranks of the Enduro scene and the sport in general has been pretty darned instant yet certainly well earned.

Only a few years ago Al had quit racing mountain bikes and was enjoying a short career as both a club level motocross racer and a regular at his local boozer. This weekend he solidified his pro deal with one of the biggest brands in the sport – Kona – and only just missed his first Super Enduro win. Second place with one heck of a crash (which I witnessed and can’t believe he got up from) is non-too-shabby and a sign of things to come.

On Brit-abroad/ friend chat, it was a great shame to see another of my best buddies, Leisure Lakes backed Paul Aston, have to pull out after Stage 1 due to a mechanical. He placed fourth at round one of the series so expect to see some top results from him later in the season.

 

James McKnight having a bit too much fun in the Prologue and moments later slidin’ ‘er into a wall. He still had a lot of fun though!

Which leaves only our winner for the week; Italian king of Enduro and one of the nicest pro riders I’ve met, Andrea Bruno. With his twin kids and wife present at the event, Andrea probably had more to think about than most of the top contenders, but he was smiling and enjoying the weekend at all times and managed to pick apart the course, to ride the entire event without fault and to take yet another impressive win for his sponsor Transition. In the women’s race Maria Federica Zanotto took the top honours followed by Marianna Uttini and Chiara Pastore, all finishing with well respectable times that put them in the top half of all the entrants.

I’m riding all season in Italy with my friends at Team Life Cycle (www.life-cycle.eu) which is being headed by Manuel Ducci who placed a respectable seventh on the day, with Francesco Crepi in 17th, Joseph Murachelli in 26th, Alessandro Seddaiu in 136th and Valentina Macheda taking 4th in the ladies with a big old tumble on Stage 2. I rolled in to tenth place and with all the cramps, arduous transfers and punishing downhills I can safely say that I had one hell of a good time. This format of Enduro racing really is the most fun bike racing I have ever had the pleasure of and I’m glad to have a long season of Italian travel and top mountain biking ahead (yes I am a lucky git, I know).

Click for full results

www.superenduromtb.com

And Now…

 

How can I put this? ENTER A SUPER ENDURO. You won’t regret it if you do.

 

I know it’s not all that easy to get time off work, to travel across several countries and not least to afford the price of fuel these days, but if you make a few sacrifices and even only make it to one of these events this year you will thank yourself for doing so. Let me tell you why:

 

–      Superb organisation

–      Friendly atmosphere

–      Awesome/ incredible/ fantastic trails

–      Saturday night prologue race and then four timed stages on Sunday – that’s a lot of racing

–      Italian food, culture and countryside

–      Venues are mostly by the sea or in stunning mountains – make a holiday of it

–      A ‘true’ mountain bike adventure; the events are long at 50+Km’s but during that ride you will take in great views, explore a new and fabulous destination and remember why we all ride mountain bikes

 

What is a Super Enduro?

Just in case you don’t know, in Italian Super Enduro racing competitors must make their own way up all the hills, have no outside assistance and must use the same wheels, forks and frame for the entirety of racing. There are two series’: Pro events are longer in distance at around 50Km’s and include a Saturday Prologue stage and four timed stages on Sunday; Sprint events are around 30Km’s, have three timed stages and take place on a Sunday.

 

The timed stages are predominantly medium difficulty technical downhills, but do include some sprints and often there will be a short, brutal uphill thrown in – these stages are usually six-plus minutes long, but at some venues can be up to fifteen… Transfers between stages are pedalled or pushed/ crawled depending on your fitness and you have a set start time that you must arrive by or risk a time penalty.

 

There are three ‘Control’ points at the start, mid-way and finish, these are usually in a town centre and each and every rider is not only checked for compulsory protection (and to check they haven’t changed their swing-arm – it has happened…) but also presented to the crowd and interviewed which is brilliant for the spectators and it makes you feel special!

 

How to get there

It may seem like a lot of organisation to get yourself and your friends over to an Italian event, but there are Easyjet routes that land all over Italy and with the Big E now taking a reasonably relaxed approach to bikes on their flights (they appear to have stopped fleecing me for excess anyhow) it really doesn’t have to be all that expensive.

 

Driving down is a possibility but fuel prices are sky-high in Italy at the moment with petrol up to nearly two Euros a litre so I personally would recommend flying to a nearby airport and hiring a car.

 

Which bike and kit?

You’re going to need to be able to pedal all day, pin it on the downhills and also to sustain yourself throughout with no outside assistance, so a reasonably light-weight 160mm travel Enduro/ Trail bike (I run an Ibis Mojo HD which fits the bill pretty well) and a decent sized back-pack full with spares, water and snacks (and anything to avoid cramping as badly as I do at these). A back protector is compulsory but if you have an Evoc bag with built in back plate this passes the test.

 

Full face helmets, gloves and knee pads are all mandatory for the downhills and at least a half-face lid for the Transfers – some people prefer to ride the entire race with only the full-face but personally I would die of heat exhaustion if I did that; get a decent back-pack which you can attach your half-face lid to for the timed stages.

 

Which event?

The next race is at Pogno on the 9th/10th June and from what I hear the tracks there are top-notch. Check the Super Enduro website for full event listings – there are plenty to choose from and the season stretches until late October so you have plenty of time to save those pennies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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