Let’s relive together the 8 stages that characterized the first edition of the stage race that rides along the Apennine crest of Emilia Romagna.

We had to wait a few days to tell what Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race was about because of all of the emotions we felt in 8 intense days of competition, and almost 12 months of pre-race, has accumulated inside and we wanted to hold on to those memories of such intense, tiring and satisfying days as those between 19 and 27 July 2019. The first edition of this stage race in the Emilia Romagna region is truly unforgettable.

Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race had a dual objective: to create a high-level Italian stage race and bring MTB enthusiasts, both foreign and Italian, to discover places not normally associated with MTB practice in Italy, places and trails that for technical features and beauty of the landscapes have nothing to envy to much more noble and … “crowded” destinations as Dolomites or Finale Ligure. All with the particular seasoning of unique hospitality and the delicious cuisine that only Emilia Romagna can offer.

The adventure of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race 2019 started on Saturday 20 July from Bologna with the prologue that largely followed the route of the opening stage of the 2019 Giro d’Italia. A new cycling race could not ask for anything more than sharing a few kilometers of track with the Corsa Rosa.

Sunny and warm, the ideal weather to grant participants a day of sport and to celebrate all together the debut of an event that wants to affirm itself as a future reference point for enthusiasts from all over Europe and…the world.

There were couples even from South Africa with the Garmin Team composed by Yolandi Du Toit and Ben Swanepoel, two experts of stage races.

Under the Bologna’s arcades, the race village came to life, the one that accompanied the participants’ efforts throughout all the race and always under the arcades began to highlight the excellent organizational machine made up of about 30 people.

The prologue was an uphill time trial of 9.7 km from the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, to tackle one of the most popular classic cycling ascents of Emilia. The second part of the prologue was an off-road up and down, then a steep descent towards the city and back through the Portico del Meloncello till the finish line.

From this “aperitivo” it was clear that Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race 2019 would have been a tight challenge between the American Coulton Hartrich and the Austrian Lukas Kaufmann in the Solo and between the couple Buist / Bos and Jauner / Biffinger in the Couples. In the women’s field, the battle was announced between the French-Italian couple Menapace / Troesch and the English Hemming / Alexander.

It was hot in Bologna, but the ranking was also hot.

With the competitive spirit only lit by the prologue MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race moved from Bologna to Berceto, arriving in Castelnovo ne ’Monti, for the beginning of the stages online. On the menu there were 78 km and 2490 meters of elevation gain, the “1000 Lakes” because they passed along the banks of the Lagoni basins, Lake Ballano, Lake Verdarolo, Lake Scuro, Lake Squincio and Lake Paduli, all on ridges and forest roads, among the chestnut trees and the luxuriant Emilian nature, on the heights where the Parmigiano Reggiano di Montagna is produced, the one most suited to sportsmen. Long climbs, great landscapes, but also very high temperatures. The bikers suffered the heat, but found relief not only at the official feed zones offered by Ethic Sport, but also thanks to the many fountains encountered along the way. Stopping 10″ to cool down meant gaining 20″ in the following km.

A bit of inexperience in the marking of the route has left some competitors wandering. Problem immediately addressed and resolved, so much that from the second stage onwards there are no more route errors. Organizing a “first” also means this, learning to change your plans in progress.

The competitive side has confirmed the challenges of the Prologue even though among the SOLO the young Kauffman has taken the jersey from Hartrich and the Italian Lorenzo De Sanctis has started to show what he is made of. In the TEAMs Meyer / Seifried put the turbo and dominate the stage, leaving only the crumbs to Buist / Bos. Very tight challenge in the women’s field with the English Hemming / Alexander who cross the finish line first and approach the Menapace / Troesch leaders.

The second stage was the longest, 101 km and 3700 meters in altitude, the only three-digit fraction of 2019, a real Marathon. The stage that has perhaps given the most beautiful images of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race when bikers have passed into the shadow of the mysterious Pietra di Bismantova, the imposing rock formation that is one of the symbols of the region. Departure from Castelnovo ne ’Monti and arrival to Fanano, perhaps the most beautiful stage from the point of view of the biker because in addition to the stunning panoramas one pedaled on fast and fun single trails where those who had the energy really made the difference. In the last kilometers, we climbed up to the top of Monte Cimone to then “glide” on Fanano along the hilarious bike park trails, all to make the child happy hidden inside each of the racing bikers.

Upon arrival, the faces were worn out, but the smiles were visible between the dust and the sweat. Despite the fatigue of the Appenninica course, the race was making inroads into the hearts of the participants.

It is often said that the explosiveness is of the young and the endurance of the old … in the longest stage of the race the young Kauffman has, instead, demonstrated the contrary going to win in a sprint finish on the American Hartrich with “our” De Sanctis third. Meyer / Seifried control their advantage among the men’s teams, while the Menapace / Troesch pair puts the turbo and taking advantage of the experience in the races on the very long distance of both bikers, distance more than 20 minutes the direct rivals Hemming / Alexander.

If the second stage was the longest and most enjoyable to drive, the third certainly was the most spectacular landscape. 51 km for 1850 meters in altitude (a walk compared to the day before) all entirely along the Apennine ridge from Fanano to Porretta Terme. Those who thought they were coming to the Apennines to find “sweet trails” had to change their minds and put their technical skills to the test. The bikers have faced exposed stretches and rocky passages on high mountain paths on a ridge where the panorama is so vast that the eye can reach the two coastlines of the Italian peninsula. The Strofinatoio Pass has perhaps given the maximum ecstasy regarding the panoramas. Portage was not lacking, all to make a “short” stage absolutely spectacular and unforgettable. The arrival in Porretta Terme, with the town hall square dressed up for the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race was something unique, an atmosphere that only the small towns of the Emilian Apennines can deliver.

The ranking did not tell anything new, with the Austrian Kaufmann increasingly dominant undisputed of the race, winner also today with almost 10′ of advantage on a splendid Lorenzo De Sanctis, with Matteo Dellabiancia in third place among the SOLO. Team leaders Meyer / Seifried held the spot but suffered after a slow start that forced them to reassemble in the final. Only 3’’ divided the two female couples, with the English women in front of Menapace / Troesch; the challenge became really incandescent.

The arrival in Porretta Terme marked the turning point of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race, but also the beginning of Appenninica4, or the 4-day race that was going to be added to the queen test of 8 segments.

To leave the bikers some breathing space and start Appenninica4 as tradition demands, the fourth stage was a time trial to Monte Piella, again arriving in Porretta. Only 24 km and 1000 meters in altitude, but practically all concentrated in the first 15km. A long climb first through the fields and then into the woods, with the tall trees of the Apennines making a natural screen against the heat of the Porrettana summer. Once on top, a fun and technical descent entertained the bikers with narrow passages and hairpin bends. An ice cream offered to all the participants was the best news at the finish line and one that widened the smile of those who were part of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race.

As had happened in the Bologna prologue, once again the time trial was dominated by Coultron Hartrich who managed to nibble at the young Kaufmann, still firmly leader of the standings, third once again De Sanctis, now subscribed to the lowest step of the podium. Among the TEAMs a return to the victory for Buist / Bos in the time trial and Menapace / Troesch ranking first again among women. Appenninica4 opens with the victory of the Dutchman Casper Van Oosten.

Each race has a more difficult day than the others and for the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race was definitely the 5th stage. Due to bad weather a few weeks before the start of the race the organizers had to make changes to the course, especially to ensure the safety of the participants. Therefore from Porretta Terme a bus transfer was arranged to Santa Sofia, delaying the start of the stage at 12.30. Unfortunately, this fifth stage of 53 km and 2055 meters of altitude landed on the hottest day of the week. The bikers had really suffered so much; fortunately, the organization has increased the refreshment points and constantly brought the bikers water through the two doctors on motorcycles who followed the race every day.

A spectacular course, characterized by two long climbs that opened onto immense panoramas, technical descents that were also fast and fun and that several times forced riders to hard breaking testing their brakes to the limit.

The last kilometers along the Bidente river were as beautiful as they were hard because of the continuous changes of pace imposed by the terrain, but crossing the finish line and jumping right into the water to cool off and regain strength was priceless. The hardest stage physically and psychologically, but the one that makes you say you are a real man – or woman – for stage races.

No surprises in the standings with Kaufmann, Hartrich and De Sanctis in the order, new entry instead to win among the SOLO4 Matteo Bravvacini, while the Dutch Buist / Bos resume the leadership among the TEAMs after the withdrawing of Meyer / Seifried due to an injury; in the women’s field victory and Menapace / Troesch extension.

You could almost smell the scent of the end from Santa Sofia. There were those who had been competing for a week and could be recognized by their faces and legs, and those who arrived boldly at breakfast. You understood it immediately who was one of Appenninica4, all of the others were a little more silent, they still had a great desire to ride, but slowed down the movements to try not to waste energy unnecessarily (or they were simply tired). There were 2 stages to the end and the goal was to reach Bagno di Romagna.

The penultimate stage was a transfer from Santa Sofia to Bagno di Romagna, 55 km and 2100 meters in altitude. We climbed along wide forest roads where the wheels rolled fast and the legs turned with them in unison. You hardly felt the kilometers passing and the pleasant shade of the trees transformed the race into a pleasant stroll, even when your heart beats went well beyond the threshold. Once in Poggio alla Lastra, a beautiful technical part began, followed by the ancient Decauville railway for the processing of wood for the Dome of Florence and to reach the heart of the Casentinese Forest. A last, a very hard uphill on a ‘via Crucis’ drained the last drop of energy from the bikers, but passing through the streets dressed up for the party in Bagno di Romagna and to see the finish line, which the day after would have represented the success and crowning of a dream, filled the legs with fresh energy and hearts with joy again. Little, very little was needed to conquer the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race.

Classifications unchanged and positions consolidated among the SOLO, the TEAM men and SOLO4, while the challenge between the Women remained really open with the English that won the stage and shortened on the Italian-French couple. Fireworks finish for them.

Saturday morning. On the last day of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race, inside the race village where the participants slept there was a strange atmosphere, a mix of happiness and melancholy. The next day everyone would have finally slept in their beds, comfortable and pampered, but there would no longer be the thrill of sharing their own path with people that once strangers now became best friends.

There were 33km missing at the end of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race. A loop of 16 km above Bagno di Romagna to be repeated twice. An old-style Cross Country course, long climb and sometimes technical with a super fun descent that winked at those who loved to let go of the brakes and were not afraid to get into the rocks.

It was a party. All competed to get ahead of the opponents, but we already knew everyone would hug and thank and congratulate all participants after the finish line. Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano was over, the overall standings dominated by Lukas Kaufmann followed by the American Coulton Hartrich and Lorenzo De Sanctis. Team Maurits Buist and Henk Bos closed with their arms raised, while the Women Team Lorenza Menapace and Daniele Troesch, despite the second position in the last stage, kept the lead and graduated winners of this first edition.

Appenninica4 was an Italian affair with Matteo Bravvacini who imposed himself over the Dutch Van Oosten.

Eight days later in Emilia Romagna everything was back to being a little quieter. There were no more bikers who pushed to their maximum limits along the ridge of these fantastic Apennines, too often snubbed by MTB enthusiasts because they were considered “easy” and “low” compared to the older sisters, the Alps. We are, however, sure that whoever took part in the first edition of the Appenninica MTB Parmigiano Reggiano Stage Race is now back home, wherever that is, with a different idea and above all the desire to come back on July 19 at the start of the 2020 edition. Registration from October 1st and number closed to 150 riders.

Go to the classification page.

Photo credit Sportograf.

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