What is Enduro? And what makes an enduro race? With the sport growing faster than ever we are left with endless questions about the sports true identity. This year will be a very busy race season in Italy…more than 50 enduro races! Featuring small series, big series and some “one-off” races! “Dolcenduro” was the first one of this season, indeed an awaited race for the locals, but it left some big question marks for the others.

Dolceacqua, a small medieval village located at few kilometers from the French border is the place chosen years ago by a bunch of freaks, the Supernatural crew: a mixture of riders, trail builders and some other crazy dudes. This place forms the heart of a huge bike area, offering year round riding!
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After months of digging and shaping, the Supernatural crew have pulled out from the dirt amazing fresh tracks, enduro race stages created as a “pizza quattro stagioni”! Four trails all different, with rock gardens, dirt, open field lines, forest lines, heavy downhill sections mixed with burning legs uphill, a real “Inferno”…and then, a pinch of history with a last stage following on an old mule track, used hundreds years ago to bring the liquid gold (Olive oil) from onw valley to another.

Almost all the big boys and new-comers from the SuperEnduro series were there. Sottocornola, Ducci, the Gambirasio brothers, Fregona, Milivinti, D’Aroma. The french cousins were well represented too, with a fierce Florian Nicolai looking in good shape. Gianluca Vernassa from Devinci Global Racing, Paul Aston (ex-life cycle team) and Julien Camellini of the same name team completed the shortlist.

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The week before the race, the entire area between the Cote D’Azur and West Liguria was hit with real bad weather with conditions that reminded us more of a U.K. race than a “Pizza, sole and mandolino” competition. Luckily the sun decided to do its part on race day and the tracks rapidly reached the optimal conditions to ride. Nicolai defined the day immediately on the first stage, starting like a rocket from the top of the old Celtic tower. The stage is characterized by a slow start, with a brand new uphill line ready to kill the legs. After that riders find another long descent with another long pedal section in the middle. Second place for Alex Cure, Florian’s team mate and third position for the local rider, Manuel Ducci.

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The second stage was not so far from the end of the first one. Riders followed a fire road under the olive trees and the terraces to the start of stage 2. The stage is a proper downhill drag, short and insidious. No drops besides a couple of natural gaps at the beginning, the secret was to find the right cadence. One mistake and you’re out. Nicolai ignited his boost again to beat the clock and finally he stole a further 10 seconds from Cure and 12 from Ducci.

The race proceeded with the third transfer to the C.O, right after a cool stop at the first refreshment tent, filled with local honey and some fresh fruit drinks.
A long transfer took the bikers to the ill-famed “Alta Via” stage, very long and physical. The start is similar to the first one, a stunning point with views over the Maritime Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. After a short pedaling section, with confidence built the trail then dives into a strong downhill line, straight down to a bunker (The area is full of these). The trail continues with a succession of uphills and downhills, with some short but impressive slopes changes. Here Nicolai defined his win with a massive 20 seconds lead over second place and almost 30 on the third. He closed the gate at 6’21.78, the average time for this stage is around 8’30.00…

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A short transfer to the last stage before the end of the race. This 4th stage is the oldest track, used for downhill races almost 20 years ago, won by a very young Nicolas Vouilloz. It’s a rocky trail around the olive terraces. The organizers here made some changes, with a final line into the terraces. Nicolai concluded his supremacy and finally won the race ahead of Alex Cure and Manuel Ducci.
The female podium was an all Italian affair with Chiara Pastore on top followed by the Italian champion Laura Rossin and Valentina Macheda. Moncorge Mary, Sapin Nadine and Cruvelier Sabine follow their Italian friends.

So, the question remains the same, what’s enduro ? The top riders said that this was a proper enduro race. A nice combination of downhill excitement and strong pedal sections. The amateurs were scared of the transfers, too long for most…Then, the long pedaled lines on stage 3 with constant slope changes was unusual to see at a “Typical” enduro race, hard to swallow for some. “This is more like a XC race than an Enduro !” somebody said. Surely the division between Pro riders and amateurs is even more clear. The first maybe deserve a dedicated timetable: short transfers and heavy stages (as the organizers sadistic tendencies want). The second are in search of the conviviality of the enduro world joined with the adrenaline resulting from being side by side with the pros. Could these two tribes live together?


Words: Stefano Scialli | Pictures: Dolcenduro Race

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