2021 Stages are going to be released in March. The general racecourse description is here.
What follows is a preview of the elevation profiles and stage descriptions to prepare you for how demanding the race will be.
A quick word about this info:
- The charts that follow are preliminary and are subject to change.
- The plan for the racecourse is almost complete but it could still be refined. The exact racecourse of the Appenninica will be finalized in the spring season, as some sections of the terrain can shift and change during winter and early spring.
- In the springtime after the snow melts the Apennine of Emilia Romagna blooms again and comes to life, rainfall diminishes, and the land adjusts. During that season we will thoroughly revise all trails and forest roads that we’ve previously selected. Therefore, for the final version of the stages and the official publication, you will have to wait until we verify actual conditions, possible re-routing, and maintenance needs, if any.
- We’ve carefully selected trails with an eye to the past edition’s average speeds and estimated times to complete the stages.
We’ve planned everything with the goal of offering a tough week of mountain bike stage racing without compromising the enjoyment factor of riding great trails that are part of an incredibly beautiful natural landscape.
We have five stage locations and we alternate longer stages and shorter but more technical ones. Three loop stages (Porretta, Fanano, Castelnovo ne’ Monti) will benefit the riders with less stress in preparing a stage, more time to recover, and a better chance to get to know and explore the villages where the race villages are hosted.
In the meantime, prepare yourselves for a tough race with considerably mixed terrain, with a constant sequence of ups and downs that will test your endurance, but with just as many fun and adrenaline-filled downhills.
For a description of 2020 stages go to the Rider Guide
Stage 1 – Porretta Soul
Sunday September 12 2021
Individual Time Trial
Length 45 km – Elevation gain 1645 m
Start Porretta Terme – Arrival Porretta Terme
Opening the week at Appenninica is the town of Porretta and its trails among villages, huts, mountain roads, and narrow streets that lead to the welcoming main square where the Porretta Soul Festival, one of the best-known festivals in Europe, has taken place for more than 30 years.
The time trial stage starts right from the main square and runs for the first 9 km on paved roads for a significant elevation gain to reach the Monte Cavallo refuge (1280 mt). The road first crosses some villages scattered around Porretta and then climbs up into a beautiful forest in the midst of chestnut trees, a particularly common tree in the area. After the refuge, you remain at high altitude with a nice single track on the ridge until you reach the highest point near Monte Tresca (1390 mt) after about another 13 km. Following the descent to Mulino Squaglia you enter a challenging single track in the undergrowth of a fairytale chestnut forest. You return to high altitude following a forest road used for timber cutting. The second climb, of about 6 km, is beautiful and wide, still on the forest road up to Monte Piella (1380 mt). This site affords a great panorama and for that reason it was a feed zone point in previous editions. Next is a 10 km descent to the finish that starts on a forest road for a few km, then again in a single track, treacherous at times, until Porretta. In this last part, you ride over loose rocks while descending fast among oak trees. Suddenly, you end up in the middle of the narrow alleys of town before arriving back in the square.
It is a route that well represents the mountains around Porretta Terme, in the middle of dense woods and forest roads, with open views of the mountains and the entire Reno River Valley, the river that crosses Bologna.
Stage 2 – Il Corno
Monday September 13 2021
Length 57 km – Elevation gain 2340 m
Start Porretta Terme – Arrival Lizzano in Belvedere
The “Corno,” as the inhabitants of the Reno Valley affectionately call their most beloved mountain, is the name of the second stage of Appenninica 2021. The full name of this mountain in the province of Bologna is Corno alle Scale.
The imposing cliff under the summit cross (1,945m) will be there to watch the bikers who will face the endless ascent of almost 33 km towards the hardest and longest GPM of this edition.
The climb initially resumes the path of the 2019 time trial, going up farmland roads towards the charming village of Castelluccio, then continues with alternating stretches of asphalt and forest roads up to the 16 endless bends of Segavecchia, on the ancient forest road. From here a beautiful double track road immersed in the chestnut and pine forest leads to one of the hardest stretches of the climb to the Corno, the steep 3.5 km of asphalt to get to the ski resort.
The road to the GPM now becomes really tough with the last piece on a rocky single track to be done also in portage, but only for the last few meters. And finally, here is the breathtaking view of the Crinale Massimo (the main ridge) and the path most loved by the athletes of past editions, the one that leads to Scaffaiolo Lake (Monte Cupolino 1853 m), in an undulating, unforgettable path between the two sides of the mountain – the watershed – which they go down steep. From the lake, a narrow and technical section begins, with stones and with some short portage parts to pass some rocky avalanches.
The route reenters the high altitude vegetation of fairytale beech woods and descends with a technical and demanding single track to the village of Poggiolforato. The last kilometers of descent are on asphalt and lead to the stage 2 finish in Lizzano in Belvedere.
The stage gives a real first taste of the splendid Apennine landscapes, those that always amaze and leave you excited for the breadth of your gaze. From this stage the high mountains begin, the ones that amaze those who have never been here and always excite those who have already traveled these paths that seem to be in the middle of the clouds.
Stage 3 – Gold Rush
Tuesday September 14 2021
Length 57 km – Elevation gain 2500 m
Start Lizzano in Belvedere – Arrival Fanano
Who would have thought that the Alaskan gold rush would start in Fanano in the village of Trignano?
Felix Pedroni, the brave and reckless citizen of Fanano founded the city of Fairbanks upon finding a rich vein of gold, and helped make it an outpost for pioneers during the gold rush. And so, today’s stage pays homage to this Italian pioneer by riding those paths that he probably covered many times on foot or on horseback.
Before arriving near Trignano you leave Lizzano with an uphill start on an easy and fast paved road crossing the village of Vidiciatico and then you immediately start a technical and bumpy 5 km descent in a rather treacherous wood of shrubs.
And before crossing Trignano again there’s a fairly steep 2.5 km climb (400 m elevation gain on a rural road) that will warm up the athletes’ legs in order to tackle the most demanding climb to Monte Cimone (2,165 m) 15 km for 1000 d +, long but easily pedaled. Descend from the summit plateau where wild horses run. It’s a swoop 600 m D- inside the Cimone Bike Park on the Montecreto side on the fun and challenging Pino Solitario trail. And it’s not over yet, another 350 m of elevation with a very demanding and steep climb brings the stage back to altitude, followed by a mixed-terrain descent between asphalt and really technical trails towards Fanano. In short, exhausting ups and downs, with a lot of terrain variety, from paved roads to woods, from rocks to roots: in this stage there is a bit of everything and you need to be ready to face … everything!
Stage 4 – Pippo Yeah!
Wednesday September 15 2021
Length 50 km – Elevation gain 2300 m
Start Fanano – Arrival Fanano
We liked the 2020 Fanano-Fanano stage so much that we decided to leave it exactly as it is, designed by none other than Pippo Marani! Another pioneer from Fanano, (but this time in downhill in the 90s), Pippo represents a generation of downhill riders and is the creator of the most loved and hated downhill track in the international circuit: the Black Snake of the Val di Sole World Cup.
This stage has two important climbs. The first part is on a secondary paved road that leads to an ascent on a forest road and forest path that then becomes a single track towards the Colombino Pass, the top of the climb after 14 km and 900 m d +. We then descend in a beautiful and fun single track to the hamlet of Ospitale. The second ascent starts on a secondary asphalt road that soon becomes a forest under one of the most beautiful beech woods in the Apennines, leading to the maximum ridge up to the Passo della Croce Arcana. This is the start of the unforgettable single track of the most famous and appreciated ridgeline of the Apennines which loops back near Lake Scaffaiolo. The spectacular downhill trail begins here and passes from Lake Pratignano, offering from its impressive overhangs an unmissable view towards the valley. Of the 18 km of descent, 15 are single track.
With its wonderful 360-degree panorama, this is one of the most loved stages by the athletes of the past editions and one which even the riders battling for the GC will have to take the time to enjoy. Ferreira, Becking, and Samparisi (the stage winner) broke away early on this stage in 2020. They confessed they wished they’d taken photos.
Stage 5 – High Mountain Queen
Thursday September 16 2021
Length 95 km – Elevation gain 3600 m
Start Fanano – Arrival Cerreto Laghi
And here is the QUEEN stage, the long, high-altitude adventure with its respectable 95 km that leads from Fanano to Cerreto, two historic ski resort locations that have seen the career beginnings of strong Italian alpine skiers. You immediately face a first climb of 17 km for an elevation gain of more than 1000 meters; the terrain is all easily pedaled and does not involve much technical riding. Once you arrive in Pian Cavallaro, the panoramic view and the summit of Mount Cimone with its wild horses will repay the effort. The descent is a long 10 km dive that leads to Pievepelago with a long single track. You then proceed to the second long climb of the day, almost 20 km fast on secondary roads up to Sant’Anna Pelago where we leave the paved road and enter a long stretch on the spectacular and historic forest road once used by pilgrims on the way to San Pellegrino in Alpe, a hamlet perched at high altitude where travelers found hospitality. The rest of the stage is all on an incredible path in the mountains, with imperceptible encroachments in Tuscany, on flowing and historical roads up to the Lama Lite Pass in view of the “Sleeping Giant” Mount Cusna (2121 m).
The terrain is flowy, but don’t forget to look around so as not to miss the spectacle of the wildest Apennines. Approaching Cerreto Laghi there are also some good stretches of single track that are fun and not excessively demanding, a nice finish after many kilometers already pedaled! The stage is certainly long and physically demanding but smooth and extremely spectacular for the breadth of the view. The widest views of the week will unveil between the two highest peaks of the Emiliano-Romagnolo Apennines, Cimone (2,165 m) and Monte Cusna (2,121 m). On the clearest days, you can see the two coastlines and the two seas on both sides of Italy.
Stage 6 – Park & Roll
Friday September 17 2021
Length 65 km – Elevation gain 1900 m
Start Cerreto Laghi – Arrival Castelnovo ne’ Monti
This stage is a pleasant excursion that leads from the high mountains to the territory of Pietra di Bismantova. The initial part loops around Monte Cavalbianco on forest roads and single tracks with ups and downs that riders will feel in their – by now – tired legs; in the second part, after an initial 13 km panoramic climb, the stage continues with an ever-undulating route in the spectacular territory of the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park, a UNESCO MAB RESERVE. This is where the name Park & Roll comes from!
In detail: from Cerreto Laghi you go along Pranda Lake to continue on a track in the forest up to Passo Pradarena (1574 m) and ride a circuit around Monte Cavalbianco completely in the forest. Descend into the Collagna Valley and go up on the opposite side along the Valbona Road, crossing the “Mountain Quality” Parmigiano Reggiano pastures. After the Pratizzano Pass, you take a single track until you reach Lake Calamone. From here the trails of Cervarezza Bike Park will guide the descent. The last 20 km are on rural double track roads and on the beautiful and fun pine forest path dotted by the remains of a fort and, from Cervarezza on, more single and double tracks all overlooking Pietra di Bismantova.
The stage is certainly varied in terms of terrain, from the high-altitude forest to the high-hill rural and agricultural tracks, and not very demanding to help recover from the effort of the previous day.
Stage 7 – Purgatory
Saturday September 18 2021
Length 50 km – Elevation gain 1400 m
Start Castelnovo ne’ Monti – Arrival Castelnovo ne’ Monti
This year’s final stage of Appenninica MTB Stage Race honors one of the most emblematic places in the Apennines, the Pietra di Bismantova right on time for the observance of the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri who took inspiration for the Purgatory in his Divine Comedy from the famous rocky formation. Here’s where the stage name comes from, but that’s not all! In fact, it is the last one but certainly not a walk in the park and it is appropriate to say that to hold in your hands the Finisher medal it is necessary to go through Purgatory!
You leave the village of Castelnovo ne’ Monti and begin a pleasant mixed stretch of country roads, short small paved roads, and woodland paths. Up to km 13 the route is undulating with some short uphill sections; then, the first steep climb of 6 km starts and leads to Monte Fosola with the eccentric ‘red big bench’ overlooking Monte Cusna. From this place of unquestionable charm starts a ridge trail, among the most famous in the area, that leads to the Matildica Castle of Carpineti. A fun and challenging single track – exposed at times – which offers a beautiful experience overlooking the hills of Matilde di Canossa (another historical character of Italy).
The route then winds downhill to the Secchia river with some sections of a challenging enduro trail on clay soil and bumpy trails that can be slippery if wet. These trail sections are connected via double-track country roads. Before tackling the last climb, the stage allows for 5 smooth and almost flat kilometers on asphalt that run alongside the Secchia river, and your already severely tested legs can somehow relax. But that’s not all! A stage called Purgatory must be such and so you climb for 2 really difficult steep and technical kilometers followed by 3 km easier on a paved road… and then, you start climbing again! With the now well-known climb to the Pietra that this year is truly the mountain of the Purgatory of Appenninica!
For general information go to the webpage Race Course.