It is one of the first summer weeks of the year, the weather is getting nicer every day and days are pleasently long. At work it is very busy, and during the few breaks in the hectic daily routine I frequently find myself staring at the far away mountains out of the office window.
Maria is out of town on business trip and I don’t have plans for the weekend. Of course I would love to go somewhere with my mountain bike, but the weather forecast is unforgiving. Just when I begin to give up hope, I get wind that my friends Luca and Jacopo have signed up for an enduro race in the dolomites. The forecast is even worse than he other places I have checked, but it doesn’t take me too long to decide to go.
I close Outlook st the office, I rush home to get my bike and gear ready, and around 8,30 Jacopo picks me up. We hit the road a d after 3,5 hours we reach our bed and breakfast and join Luca and Chato just before bed time. The destination is Canazei, a mountain town at 1400mt above sea level in Trentino, at the feet of some of the most magnificent mountains of the Dolomites range.
When we wake up, we are greeted by a postcard view from our window:
After setting up the bikes we head for the chairlifts, where the atmosphere is amazing from the very first hours of the morning with loud music and all the bike gear stands that have gathered for the Super Enduro race.
It is time to hit the tracks, and as soon as we get to the starting point of the first Prova Speciale the adrenaline starts rushing up and I all of a sudden all the hassle, the stress, the to-do list and all other workaholic stuff fade away in an instant. I am focused on the downhill, and I repeat to me that I just need to let gravity do the job, that the bike has round wheels and a tendency to overcome obstacles such as stones and roots, I just need to hold to it.
We ride hard all day, not stopping even for lunch. The tracks are amazing, with pure alpine sections on narrow ridges with glaciers on the background and gnarly wood sections full of insidious wet roots and rock gardens. There is a particularly tricky section on the first P.S. where everybody crashes. We all give it a try, only one stands – Jacopo, who solved the problem by negotiating the obstacle at supersonic speed. P.S. 2 is the most technical, short but tricky, whilst P.S. 3 is an infinite camber trail that unwinds down a ski piste with almost no technical difficulty apart from handling your bike at insane speeds for its entire duration. P.S. 4 is great, a bikepark flowline in the upper section and a techy forest in the bottom part, but it’s just never ending, I know that this will bring everyone to the limit.
When the chairlifts close we’re all in one piece and we can celebrate with beer and laughter. By the end of the day we’re smashed but satisfied, and it’s only 11 pm when I hit the bed, thinking about the day ahead when I would separate myself from the rest of the crew to go on a lonely adventure. That’s correct, Luca Jacopo and Chato have signed up for the race, but I do not want to let a day in a place like that go by without riding, especially if I am so close to the mythical “Sellaronda”, a spectacular trail that unwinds in an almost perfect circle around one of the most amazing spots in the Italian Dolomites, the Sella group. Tucked in the heart of Trentino, the massive range features awe-inspiring cliffs with mountain tops well above 3500mt covered in permanent snow.
Luca has given me his Garmin GPS with the track to follow, my rucksack is packed for all sorts of conditions but I have a revolving thought in my head: what if the weather turns for bad? Should I go? These are the Alps and I am sure I would not enjoy being caught in a thunderstorm at 2300mt.
When I wake up in the morning at 7:00 a.m. I glance at the sky..which is blue! I get ready thrilled by the day ahead, but already after breakfast the spirit goes down in front of an overcast sky with threatening dark blue clouds. I repeat myself that it’s going away and it will clear out, and I decide to go for it.
Not even the time to get to the first gondola, and the rain starts. What to do? Good sense tells me to abort the mission, but recklensess tells me to go up the mountain – I’d paid good money for the pass – and reassess from there. Well, the higher the worse…but a few intrepid hikers are actually going, so why shouldn’t I go?
I zip up my rainjacket and hit the trail. I quickly forget about the rain and observe in awe the massive dolomitic peaks in front of me:
The trail takes me quickly from Col Rodella to the Sella pass, where the weather turns for better and I can show my flashy jersey:
After a short up-and-down section the trails dives down to Sella di Val Gardena, with mindblowing steepnesses and long tracks down the ski-piste. After not too long, I’ve descended by 1000 mt. All good for now, apart from my already smoking brakes, screaming for mercy.
A short uphill along a paved road takes me to the second gondola. I refill my camelback tank at a water fountain, but doing so I stupidly forget my sunglasses there and lose them forever. From the lifts it looks like there is another thunderstorm coming…
I am lucky: when I arrive at the mountain top the wind has caught up so much that they stop the lifts. It barely gives me time to rush down to the Gardena pass, where I find shelter by a restaurant just when the sky opens up and rain pours.
After 30 min the rain hasn’t stopped and I start to get nervous. The Sellaronda has no chicken lines…once you commit to it there is no way back, you need to finish the circle! However I am exactly at the opposite side from where I should return. I decide to go in spite of the rain and ride down an incredibly long bike park flowline which is pure fun and speed. My only regret is to have lost my sunglasses, because the front tyre is splashing up so much mud in my face that I have to go almost blind to avoid getting soil and dirt in my eyes.
As soon as I get to Corvara, the sky opens up again. I buy a new pair of sunglasses and take my third lift up to Col Alt, towering above the town and in front of the Sella range, which is the perfect set for a rewarding tagliatelle with deer sauce and a pint of beer.
After a downhill descent through grass fields and ski slopes, the trail bends uphill and after climbing 250mt I get to the fourth chairlift, that takes me to the third mountain pass of the day, the Campolungo. Another nice bike-park downhill – this time actually seeing where I am going – and I get to Arabba, back in Trentino.
Here, I have to take a gravel road and climb further 200mt, but it easier said than done: in the mud, at altitude, after 40km ride..it feels like a gigantic struggle.
I finally get to the chairlift and back to the Pordoi pass, the last of the tour, and I begin my last descent back to Canazei, but the standard track is closed as it is being used for the Enduro cup. I am instructed to take a different trail, which is a nice surprise: the first section is extremely satisfying, with a flowline in the woods and some gnarly root sections and rock gardens. Then the race stewards tell me I have to use the paved road to descend…but after a few turns I spot a trail down the woods…how to say no? This section is also very nice, fast, muddy and narrow, just what I need to finish up the day!
At the very last part of the track, thrilled by my enterprise, I try to score a few ollies when I hear a loud “boom” … my rear tube has just exploded. Well, shit happens. 10 mins and I’m good to go and finally meet up with Jacopo and Luca.