A festive eve in Castelnovo ne’ Monti with “Appenninica lovers,” which brought fans along the race route of the first stage of Appenninica MTB, scheduled for tomorrow, September 4, 2022. Marathon world champion runner-up, Diego Arias, is the race favourite, while the women will fight for Naima Diesner’s crown

There couldn’t have been a warmer welcome by the Bismantova RockCastelnovo ne’ Monti (Reggio Emilia, Italy) was festively coloured on the eve of Appenninica MTB Stage Race 2022, just in time for racers to take to the trails of the Emilia-Romagna Apennine in this edition. Scheduled from tomorrow, September 4, until September 10, 135 participants will take part in the Italian stage race.

The bike has already played a main role, thanks to the Castelnovo Bike Fest, organized in collaboration with Appennino Reggiano Bike assosiations, which brought fans along the race route of the first Appenninica stage. Piazza Gramsci, location of the start/finish for Stage 1, “La Matildica,” (52 km with 1800 meters of elevation gain), hosted the eve day in a festive atmosphere, where food trucks and musical entertainment took the spotlight. 

From tomorrow onward it will be serious business and all eyes will be on Diego Arias. The runner-up mtb marathon world champion will start out as the race favourite, but he will have to reckon with Felix Fritzsch, who doesn’t intend to leave the throne unchallenged. The athletes of the DMT Racing Team are also out to win, with Miguel Munoz Moreno leading the Italian team, while the Dutchmen, Gosse van der Meer and Evert Koning, could each play the role of outsider, and so could the Italian, Filippo Bertone.

In the women’s field, Naima Diesner is back with every intention to confirm her position as Appenninica’s queen, but she will have to face a tough bunch of fierce rivals, starting with Ukraine’s Elena Novikova, who’s an expert in long-distance racing, to former Olympic road athletes, Maaike Polspoel and Rozanne Slik. For Italy, the ranking hopes are on the shoulders of Camilla Marinelli, while Lithuanian Ieva Venckute starts as an outsider.

THE ROUTE

After the first section, a loop around Castelnovo ne’ Monti through the region of Matilda di Canossa to warm up the legs, the second stage “The Rock,” on Monday, Sept. 5, will start to raise the level of competition with its 62 kilometres and 2350 meters of elevation gain, thanks to a very fast first segment followed by a second one full of ups and downs.

This will only be the appetizer for the “High Mountain Queen Stage” scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6, and starting from Castelnovo ne’ Monti to Fanano105 km with 3600 meters of elevation gain will determine the general classification through the Monte Cusna area before the climb toward Pian Cavallaro, the last ascent before the finish line in Piazza Corsini.

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, it will be time for some extra fun with the “Pippo Yeah 2.0,” the stage designed by trail builder Pierpaolo “Pippo” Marani55 km and 2200 meters of elevation gain with start and finish in Fanano, will face the climbs of Passo del Colombino and Passo di Croce Arcana, with technical descents and numerous single-track sections in between.

From Fanano to Porretta Terme, on Thursday, Sept. 8, Appenninica racers will tackle 67 kilometres with 2,200 meters of elevation gain along the Linea Gotica (Gothic Line), after which the stage is named. Two technical descents before the finish could make the difference for the final stage victory.

The penultimate route, “Il Corno,” scheduled for Friday, Sept. 9, from Porretta Terme to Lizzano in Belvedere, has plenty of pitfalls. The first 30 km will cross untouched forest trails absent of human settlements, while in the second part of the 63-km stage with 2700 meters of elevation gain, the climb of the Passo dello Strofinatoio will test the athletes.

The grand finale is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10, and counts 37 kilometres with 1550 elevation gain for the “Monte Pizzo” stage, which is immersed in the trails of the Monte Pizzo bike park. Much of the general classification may already be decided, but the route – with start and finish in the village of Vidiciatico, in the municipality of Lizzano in Belvedere, hides several pitfalls, in grand Appenninica style.