Rugby World Champion joins Appenninica MTB Stage Race

Any rugby fans out there? The rider that we present today is a great example of drive in life and in sports. Sophie Hemming is a retired international rugby player from England. Her team became World Champion in 2014 and in her career she had 6 Six Nations wins (5 as Grand Slams). She took up mountain biking in 2015 and placed very well at the national elite level.

She has something very interesting to tell us about her transition from rugby to MTB. We are thrilled to have her and her strong teammate, Melanie Alexander.

– What has rugby taught you that you brought into mountain biking? They are two different sports in many ways…

Although rugby is a very different sport to mountain biking, it has taught me many transferrable attributes! I used to play prop, which tends to attract bigger, stronger, power athletes who are perhaps not best known for their endurance! During my career, I was told many times that I was too small to play prop and that I would never play for England. This instilled a fiery determination to do everything I could to succeed in my goals, a love of challenges and a work ethic that I will no doubt need to get to the start line, and hopefully the finish line, of The Appenninica. During my rugby career, I had to follow a very strict training program, alongside working as a full time vet. As a result, I had to become very disciplined, organised and determined to get my training done. This has definitely helped me in biking too – especially now I am having to juggle this between nappy changes and feeding a baby!

Rugby has also taught me how to control my fear when faced with challenges, as a result I tend to approach technical sections like roots, drops and steep descents, rationally.

There are some skills that I have been able to adapt from my rugby playing days too. When running with the ball and the opposition were trying to tackle me, I was taught to focus on the other side of my opponent. I think that this has helped me in mountain biking, as when I am riding a technical descent, I try to focus on the other side of an obstacle, and this helps me to ride over it, hopefully avoiding any crashes! In the event of crashing (which I confess I have had plenty of!), rugby has also taught me how to fall – as fortunately I used to fall many more times in a game than I do in a mountain bike ride! Learning how to fall is perhaps more important in mountain biking than in rugby – as landing on trees and rocks tends to hurt a lot more than falling on the ground or on people…

– What prompted you in going for Appenninica next Summer?

Following the birth of my first baby in October, and the all clear from my Doctor, I’ve relished being back on the bike! I’ve been determined to ramp up the training with a view to returning to racing, although I confess that I had completely underestimated the toll that having a baby would have. Having managed to fit in a good block of base training despite the endless nappy changes and inevitable sleep deprivation, I have been searching for a big challenge to target in the summer. My search came across The Appenninica – and I was immediately impressed and excited by this new stage race. The trails look incredible in an area with amazing scenery, great food and fantastic friendly people. I am excited to be racing and supporting The Appenninica in the inaugural edition.

– Tell us about your team. Do you have a team name yet?

I am racing with seasoned XC racer Mel Alexander as Team BW Cycling. Mel and I have raced against each other in many cross country races and two stage races. We have had plans to enter a stage race together for a couple of years, and I’m really excited to be taking part in The Appenninica with her. Mel will bring a great deal of experience to our team, having raced in numerous stage races over the years. She is a great technical rider and I’ll have to work hard for my little legs to keep up with her on the climbs!

The Appenninici – Lillo Lenzi, in love with the Apennines

Among the protagonists of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race are many stories of sports and life. Lillo Lenzi, who took part in the 2023 edition at the age of 70, fulfilled his ambition to complete the adventure on the trails of Emilia-Romagna’s Apennines, which have been his home for many years

The Appenninici – From rugby to mountain biking: the unique journey of Sophie Halhead

Among the protagonists of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race many stories of sport and life can be found. Sophie Halhead, who made her second experience in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines in 2023 after taking part in the debut edition, recounts her transition from rugby to the world of mountain biking.

Third time’s the charm: Hans Becking returns to Appenninica for the hat trick

First Elite Man to win two editions of Appenninica MTB Stage Race, the Dutch defending champion of BUFF-Megamo will go for the hat trick from September 2 to 7, 2024. “This race has won my heart,” says Becking.

The Appenninica 2024 route: kicking off in Bologna with 14,000 meters of elevation gain

The organizers have unveiled the route for the MTB stage race, scheduled from September 2 to 7. Confirmed stage venues include Lizzano in Belvedere, Fiumalbo, and Castelnovo ne’ Monti for the grand finale, with Loiano making its debut this year. Participants will face a total of 400 km and 14,000 meters of elevation gain

The Appenninici – An Olympic champion discovers Appenninica

Among the protagonists of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race are many stories of sport and life. Miguel Martinez, Mountain Biking gold medallist at Sydney 2000, participated in the 2023 edition and was impressed by the routes and landscapes of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines and the familiar atmosphere of the race

From Tour the France to the MTB: Appenninica 2024 to kick off in Bologna

The main town of Emilia-Romagna is poised to inaugurate the sixth edition of Appenninica MTB Stage Race on September 2, 2024. Bathed in the afterglow of the Tour de France’s visit in July, the MTB challenge is set to bring more cycling emotions to the city

Appenninica MTB Stage Race Adventure Returns from September 2 to 7, 2024

The renowned MTB stage race in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines confirms its six-day format, announcing its schedule for the 2024 season. Early Bird registration commences on December 1

Becking and Piana conquer Appenninica MTB Stage Race 2023

The Dutch rider of Buff-Megamo is the first male athlete to win two editions of Appenninica MTB Stage Race. Becking sealed the overall win by raising arms again in the last stage, followed by Tiago Ferreira and Tim Smeenge, who join him on the podium in second and third position respectively. Debora Piana takes the women’s GC, while Ilina triumphs again in Vidiciatico. “We are really proud of the athletes’ feedback” said the organizers

Happy day for DMT Racing Team in Vidiciatico. Becking and Piana keep the lead

Tiago Ferreira went all-in in the penultimate stage of Appenninica MTB Stage Race from Fanano to Vidiciatico, trying to pursue the leader’s jersey, but Becking kept everything under control. Same plot in the women’s category, with Russian Kristina Ilina taking her second win and Piana in control

Appenninica’s colour is Orange: Smeenge and Becking the stars of stage 4

The Dutch MTB Marathon National champion raises hands in Fanano, while Becking increases his gap in the GC on Tiago Ferreira. Debora Piana keeps dominating and makes it three in a row. Tomorrow, September 8th, the penultimate stage of Appenninica MTB Stage Race 2023 runs from Fanano to Lizzano in Belvedere

Becking and Piana strenghten their lead in Fiumalbo

The two leaders got the second win at Appenninica MTB Stage Race 2023. The Dutch rider of Buff-Megamo Team sprinted over Tiago Ferreira, while things are getting spicy for the bronze medal, with four riders fighting for the third position. In the women’s field, the Italian of Team Cingolani-Specialized secured the leader jersey with another success in Fiumalbo over Ilina. Tomorrow, September 7th, the peloton heads to Fanano

Ferreira and Piana tame the Mountain Queen Stage

The Portuguese athlete of DMT Racing Team answered back to Becking’s success in the opening stage, while Tronconi and Smeenge remain in contention behind them. Debora Piana took the win and the lead in the women’s category. Tomorrow, September 6th, marks the first-ever border crossing from Emilia-Romagna to Tuscany for the race, with the stage starting and finishing again in Fiumalbo