Castelnovo ne’ Monti (Reggio Emilia) has established over the years as a must-be location for Appenninica MTB Stage Race. From the base of its majestic Bismantova Rock, the MTB Marathon stage race (4th – 9th September, 2023) will kick off its fifth edition.
A total of 150 athletes from 24 nations are prepared to take on the Appenninica challenge in its renewed 6-stage format, aiming to secure the coveted finisher’s medal and possibly the overall victory. Among the favorites in the men’s field are 2020 winner Hans Becking and Portuguese rider Tiago Ferreira, who benefits from a strong teammate in Andreas Miltiadis, ready to contend for the title. Another potential contender is Martino Tronconi, although his teammate Nicola Taffarel was a late scratch from the race due to a last-minute injury.
Other riders with top ambitions include Felix Fritzsch and Lukas Kaufmann, winners of the Appenninica in 2021 and 2019, as well as Dutchmen Tim Smeenge (XCM National champion) and Bart Classens, who was among the leading riders in 2021.
In the women’s category, back-to-back champion Naima Diesner is the clear favorite for the overall victory. Her main rival is expected to be Russian MTB Marathon champion Kristina Ilina, with growing attention on Swiss rider Nina Brenn, who recently showcased excellent form at the Swiss Epic. Italian hopes rest with Deborah Piana, who secured second place at the 2023 National Marathon championships.
Today, September 3rd, the Appenninca MTB Stage Race program was opened by “Appenninica Lovers”, a non-competitive MTB and e-MTB gathering on the route of stage 1. Organized by MTB Vetto, the event acted as a true mountain bike festival and a fitting warm-up for the atmosphere in Castelnovo ne’ Monti.
Appenninica 2023 covers approximately 400 km and includes a challenging 14,000 meters of elevation gain from Castelnovo ne’ Monti to Lizzano in Belvedere, passing through new locations like Fiumalbo and another long-standing host, Fanano.
This edition marks the introduction of a new 6-stage format, as opposed to the previous 7. This decision by the Happy Trail MTB organization aims to simplify logistics for the athletes while preserving the route’s remarkable difficulty, which has earned the Appenninica MTB Stage Race global recognition over the past five years.
The journey begins on Monday, September 4th, from Castelnovo ne’ Monti, covering 57 km with an altitude difference of 1,850 meters. It commences from the foot of the Bismantova Rock and traverses the lands of Matilda di Canossa.
Only one stage into the race, and the Queen Stage awaits on Tuesday, September 5th. While shorter (90 km) than previous editions, it remains a demanding stage with a 3200-meter altitude difference to conquer before reaching the finish line in Fiumalbo.
There’s no time to rest, as on Wednesday, September 6th, riders will face a circuit around Fiumalbo that will once again test their ambitions. The “Tuscany Incipit” is a highlight of the 2023 edition, taking the race across the border into Tuscany at the Abetone ski resort, featuring a 79 km course with 2550 meters of altitude difference.
Thursday, September 7th, brings Stage 4, with Mount Cimone as the focal point. The “Cimone Challenge” route starts from Fiumalbo and concludes in Fanano, covering 62 km with a 2350-meter elevation gain.
The subsequent stage on Friday, September 8th, from Fanano to Vidiciatico, embodies the true spirit of Appenninica. “Appenninica Distilled” encompasses 61 km and 2500 meters of altitude difference, offering a mix of the race’s best elements: long but manageable climbs, technical descents, and breathtaking landscapes.
The grand finale is set for Saturday, September 9th, in the “Monte Pizzo” stage. This 36 km loop with 1500 meters of elevation gain starts and finishes in Vidiciatico, a hamlet of Lizzano in Belvedere, serving as the ultimate judge of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race, much like in 2022.