The motivations behind individuals’ decisions to take on a challenge like the Appenninica MTB Stage Race are diverse and plentiful. Some engage for personal growth, some for enjoyment, and others to bear witness. Among them are “The Appenninici,” athletes who aren’t necessarily driven by achieving top results but for whom success means conquering the finish line day after day.
From September 4 to 9, 2023, out of the 150 participants at the starting line, many will embrace the spirit of this challenge as they navigate the trails of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines. Leading this group of athletes will be a true mountain biking legend: Miguel Martinez. The Frenchman, a former gold medalist in Cross Country at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has also clinched victory at the Cape Epic within the Master category, paired with Mirko Pirazzoli.
At 47 years old, Martinez is an authentic mountain biking legend and a pioneer of racing across various cycling disciplines, including road and cyclocross. During the Appenninica MTB Stage Race, he will encounter another mountain biking great, Mark Anolik, who aims to complete the race for the third time, officially joining the “Hall of Family” of Appenninica – an exclusive group of individuals who have finished the stage race at least three times.
Tobias Guggemos and Patrik Nespor also aspire to join the ranks of the three-time finishers’ club. Among those who have already achieved this milestone are Peter Wouters, Anton Tieleman, Stefan Kiene, and Zbig Mossoczy, all of whom will be present at the start line.
Also marking their return to the Appenninica MTB Stage Race is Mirko Pirazzoli, who will lead his Piraz Coaching Academy Team, featuring Federico Mandelli – the best-placed Italian rider in the 2022 edition – and Federico Arcidiacono. Representing Italy is also Gabriele Verzella, who, at the age of 67, continues to relish mountain biking challenges. Joining him is Riccardo Giulio Acuto, recently crowned champion of the Swiss Epic in the Great Grand Master category and a previous victor at Appenninica within his age group. In this category, some participants have chosen the Appenninica MTB Stage Race as a way to celebrate their 70th birthday, such as Lorenzo Lelli.
Among the athletes at the starting line are those who prefer to tackle the challenges of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines in pairs, such as Tim and Louise Ferreira, who are making a return after last year’s experience. Another eagerly awaited comeback is from the American duo of Gordon Wadsworth and Emily Hairfield. Meanwhile, Ori Leonzini will journey from Israel alongside his father, Sharon.
The starters’ group includes those who are drawn to Appenninica due to their fascination with Italy, its history, and its beauty. Canadian participant Trent Basarsky is a prime example; he plans to explore the enchanting country before and after the race. On a different note, Argentine rider Lino Arboit is making his way to Italy to reunite with his family during the Appenninica MTB Stage Race.
Among the returning friends of the race is Mark Leeper, who is excited to revisit Castelnovo ne’ Monti after spending a few additional weeks there in 2021 before heading back to Hong Kong.
Lionel Poletti will also make a return to Lizzano in Belvedere, where he discovered the roots of the triumphs of his childhood’s idol, Alberto Tomba. Similarly, Sophie Halhead, a distinguished member of the England women’s national rugby team with 71 caps, will once again grace the starting line. Another noteworthy returnee is the 2019 champion, Lukas Kaufmann, who not only savored the beauty of the Apennines that year but also developed a fondness for Parmigiano Reggiano di Montagna. Since then, every time he comes back to Appenninica, he ensures to carry back home at least one wheel of this cherished cheese.