On July 20, 2019, the Appenninica MTB Stage Race adventure officially started from Bologna with a 12-kilometre time trial up to the summit of San Luca to mark the debut of this new mountain bike stage race on both the Italian and international mtb marathon scene.
Five years later, the Appenninica MTB Stage Race is now a solid organization that’s able to attract athletes from around the world. This unique promotional driver for the Emilia-Romagna Apennines highlights the landscapes and places still unexplored by the general public to paint a picture of the unparalleled outdoor offerings this area has for summertime visitors.
Five years later, on Thursday, July 20 — again in Bologna — the Appenninica MTB Stage Race unveiled plans and details at the ExtraBo headquarters in Piazza del Nettuno for the 2023 edition, September 4-9. The new six-stage format promises fun and entertainment for competitors ready to challenge themselves and their rivals, from Castelnovo ne’ Monti to Lizzano in Belvedere.
Doing the honours at the Appenninica MTB Stage Race presentation was Bologna City Councillor for Sport, Roberta Li Calzi, Emilia-Romagna Head of the Political Secretariat of the Presidency, Giammaria Manghi, and President of the Bologna Metropolitan City Tourist Destination, Mattia Santori. In addition, one of the organizers, Milena Bettocchi, and the president of off-road riding for the Italian Cycling Federation, Massimo Ghirotto, also shared their thoughts
A POSTCARD OF THE APENNINES
When the organizers of A.S.D. Happy Trail MTB conceived the Appenninica MTB Stage Race in 2019, the ambition was to create a small “Cape Epic”, but with a strong Italian flare: a demanding and challenging stage race that would showcase the beauty of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines while communicating the sense of welcoming and hospitality that these regions are known for worldwide. During the past five years, athletes from five continents — from Australia to Israel via South Africa, Argentina, and the United States — have participated in the stage race.
All of them got a taste of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines by riding technical and challenging trails that are nothing less than those of the Alps, but are far less known to the public. Evidence of the excellent tourist impact generated by the Appenninica MTB Stage Race in recent years comes in the form of stories of athletes who have extended their holidays in the area following the event, or who have embarked on business partnerships with local farms.
The Appenninica MTB Stage Race sold out of its 150 participant entries in five editions, with 28 nations represented in the 2022 edition. Many athletes have been at the start several times, thus demonstrating their love for the routes, landscapes and family atmosphere provided by the Appenninica MTB Stage Race caravan.
Over the years, thanks to the partnership between the organizers and #InEmiliaRomagna, the brand belonging to the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board, the stage race has been able to showcase the beating heart of the Apennines. This has enabled area leaders to promote sport tourism, both local and on a grander scale, in key locations around the area. This is part of a long-term project aiming to create a true regional brand for the Apennines.
The race route travels from Castelnovo ne’ Monti to Lizzano in Belvedere, through the intriguing Fiumalbo and the historic Appenninica MTB Stage Race venue, Fanano. The 2023 race route covers about 400 kilometres and more than 14,000 meters of total elevation gain throughout the Emilia-Romagna Apennines.
Beginning with the 2023 edition, the six-stage format will make its debut and take the place of the previous seven-stage format. Organizers decided on this change in order to ease logistics for the athletes, while maintaining the same level of difficulty that’s elevated the Appenninica MTB Stage Race to international status throughout the past five years.
Stage 1 – La Matildica – 57 km with 1850 m of elevation gain
Monday, September 4: Castelnovo ne’ Monti – Castelnovo ne’ Monti
Stage 2 – Mountain Queen – 89 km with 3250 m of elevation gain
Tuesday, September 5: Castelnovo ne’ Monti – Fiumalbo
Stage 3 – Tuscany “Incipit” – 79 km with 2550 m of elevation gain
Wednesday, September 6: Fiumalbo – Fiumalbo
Stage 4 – Cimone Challenge – 62 km with 2350 m of elevation gain
Thursday, September 7: Fiumalbo – Fanano
Stage 5 – Appenninica Distilled – 61 km with 2500 m of elevation gain
Friday, September 8: Fanano – Vidiciatico
Stage 6 – Monte Pizzo – 36 km with 1500 m of elevation gain
Saturday, September 9: Vidiciatico – Vidiciatico
Between September 4 and 9, it will be a four-way challenge on the trails of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines. Starting in this 2023 edition will be all the male winners from the first four editions who will be ready to do battle and deliver an encore performance, which is something that hasn’t happened yet.
Among them, the front-runner is Colombian racer, Diego Arias, winner of the last edition, who’s returning to Appenninica to notch a second victory. He’ll have to face Dutch rider, Hans Becking, who’s eager to leave his second mark after success in 2020. Joining them in battle are the winners of the two remaining editions: German racer, Felix Fritzsch, who was king in 2021, and Austrian rider, Lukas Kaufmann, winner of the first edition in 2019.
Behind these four, the Italian racers, Martino Tronconi and Nicola Taffarel, will also play their hand for the win. Frenchman Miguel Martinez, gold medallist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and winner of the 2022 Cape Epic in the masters’ category along with Mirko Pirazzoli, seems to be the first outsider.
The big favourite among the women is German racer, Naima Diesner, winner in both 2022 and 2021. Diesner is aiming for a hattrick for her third edition. Outsiders who could spoil Diesner’s plans include Australian rider, Imogen Smith, and Dutch racer, Anouk Van den Bielerd.
As in previous editions, Natali Sports Wear will be the technical sponsor of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race leader jerseys. The blue jersey represents the leader in the men’s general classification, while the pink jersey will be worn by the leader in the women’s GC. Three more jerseys will be awarded in the race: Master (green), Grand Master (orange) and Great Grand Master (lilac).
THE APPENNINICA FAMILY
During the past five years, the Appenninica MTB Stage Race family has grown not only with the many athletes who have joined the race, but also thanks to the partners who have supported the event. Sustaining sponsors include carbon fibre wheel manufacturer, 9th Wave Cycling, Natali Sports Wear and Barbieri PNK.
Long term partners of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race are Barilla and the bike care brand, Squirt Cycling. Enervit, the leading Italian brand for sports nutrition, and Lavor, the leading manufacturer of high-pressure cleaning machines, have recently joined the family.