Team or Solo?

MTB stage races used to suit few athletes, their settings were wild and usually remote, and the organizers often relied on the adventurousness of the participants and on their own luck. Over the time, mountain bike competitions on long distances and over many days have been evolving, with few exceptions of some hard-core races.

The long established races can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Transalp, TransRockies, Iron Bike and the most recent one but also undisputed queen Cape Epic. Over the last 10 years a bunch of new races have born, some of them shorter and faster. Besides distance and number of stages, no-one has yet figured out one of the organizers’ most challenging dilemma: two people team or SOLO.

Team DMT Marconi Ferreira Becking

Tiago Ferreira and Hans Backing of DMT Marconi (second and first in 2020)

The team formula adopted in the first races was based on safety reasons. In case of any issue or accident one of the team mates would be able to take care of first aid or call the rescue team. Again, and I witnessed it, some races take place in remote and wild environment, incredibly stunning but difficult to access in case of accident. Thus the team would give the best guarantee of safety. Not to mention the wonderful chance to share a magnificent experience with the right mate. At the opposite pole, a non close-knit team turns the race into a nightmare one can’t wait to cut short.

GPS technology gave us trackers that allow the organizers and the supporters to follow an athlete on the tracks but most importantly to call for help and rescue just pushing the SOS button.

The calendar is actually offering races with team formula and SOLO formula. Which one is better?

We like the team formula a lot but it comes with some problems for the participants who need to find the soul team mate with the same athletic ability, same availability of time for training and for the race week, same budget. It’s a stressful and complicated jig-saw. Long term and tight-knit teams are lucky.

The SOLO formula is smoother. You decide, enroll, only your ability counts and you decide your own tactic. As Gordon Wadworth puts it “The solo effort is tremendously pure”.

The GPS tracker, when provided by the organizers – Appenninica is among them – grants your safety. Last but not least, nothing forbids two friends to stay close and ride together.

What about the Elite Team?

The Elite teams base their decisions not on the format but on UCI points, prize-pool, etc. They aim to win and get on the podium and thus I think they will organize themselves with captains and wingmen ready to help in case they have problems.

Why and how did we come up with Appenninica?

We’ve told the story many times but it’s time to explain the genesis of Appenninica MTB Stage Race here.

Over the past 15 years we’ve raced in 4 continents and year after year, race after race we fell in love with mountain bike stage racing. Not the competition in itself, but the experience and the challenge. The feeling of achieving the “Finisher” title changes the way you cope with problems and setbacks in life and if you have been there, you know what we mean. 

Taking part in those races from South Africa, to Canada, to Mongolia, and Europe of course, were perfect excuses to travel with our friends and families and pushed us to stay fit. 

Briefing inaugural edition Appenninica

A briefing for one of the stages of the inaugural edition of Appenninica MTB

Then something clicked: “Our Apennines could be – we thought – a very good place for such a race and not very many riders know its trails”. There are several races on the Alps and on the Pyrenees but the Apennines – an important mountain range of its own – did not host any true MTB stage race. We knew the incredible network of trails was there and that the “Italian divide” offered some unique ridgeline trails like we’ve not found anywhere in the World. 

We put our skills to work (we know events but that was a different animal), we rallied the team – Happy Trail MTB, our cycling club, provided the core team but we’ve gotten lots of great external help – and we started pitching the idea here and there. I can say that we were motivated and optimistic but we had to overcome, and we still do, challenges after challenges coming at us from every angle: weather, permits, money to name a few. We are still writing the story of Appenninica but let me just say that there’s been an equal mix of encouragement and skepticism. 

We’ll leave it at this: all of the work, the sleepless nights, and worries are worth it. 

If you want, it’s a classic story of having a dream and making it come true with drive and lots of patience. 

In a nutshell, Appenninica was started to share this part of Italy with the – great – mountain bike stage racing community and maybe to prove that the Apennines of Emilia Romagna could have hosted a top-level stage race. 

What’s in the name? Appenninica is an adjective loosely meaning coming from or made in the Apennines, or “made in Appennino” if you wish.