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!

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

Becking and Ilina secure victory in the opening act of Appenninica 2023

The Dutch rider from Team Buff-Megamo the Russian of DMT Racing Team have made an impact on the inaugural stage of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race. Completing the men’s podium were Tiago Ferreira and Martino Tronconi, while Debora Piana and Nina Brenn claimed spots on the women’s top-3. Tomorrow, September 5th, comes the anticipated Queen Stage

Castelnovo ne’ Monti and the Bismantova Rock welcome back the Appenninica show

The program of the MTB stage race (4-9 September) was anticipated by the “Appenninica lovers” Granfondo. Starting from tomorrow, the main event will kick off with Hans Becking and Tiago Ferreira leading the title race, while Naima Diesner emerges as the top contender in the Women’s field

With 150 riders from all continents, the Appenninica challenge goes global

Approaching its fifth edition (September 4-9, 2023), Appenninica MTB Stage Race – the mountain bike stage race in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines, Italy – is set to showcase 150 athletes hailing from 24 Nations, marking a sold-out status. This year, the event introduces an innovative initiative: Appenninica Teen Camp

Miguel Martinez leads the charge of “The Appenninici”

Cross-country gold medalist from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Miguel Martinez, is set to kick off the 2023 Appenninica MTB Stage Race (September 4-9, 2023). A multitude of riders will converge for this stage race in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines, seeking a distinctive adventure filled with a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes.

Riders bulletin n.6/2023

Riders bulletin n.6 August 29, 2023   This is the sixth rider bulletin. These bulletins will provide useful information, news, and mandatory action reminders. Race time is Sunday!   The starting list is on the website. Click here. The event is sold out....

The Appenninica MTB Stage Race partners’ squad keeps growing stronger

In its fifth edition, scheduled from September 4th to 9th, the race has further stocked its partners’ panel: a testament to the event’s rise towards international prominence, while keeping deep roots in its territory

Debora Piana and Kristina Ilina challenge Naima Diesner for Appenninica throne

The German, winner of the last two editions, will be the athlete to beat at the 2023 Appenninica MTB Stage Race (Sept. 4-9), but the Italian rider and the Russian national champion will be upfront to try to spoil her plans