Mad March Adventures

MMR Coaches Sample Tasty Italian Singletrack

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

As dedicated downhillers and faithful Decline readers (April 2011), my wife and I put Livigno, Italy in our sights for a summer road trip. We understood there was a Kona Bike Park, which is all we really needed to know as this is generally sufficient for a visit in its own right. However, all mountain singletrack is the name of the game here so we hooked up with MTB Livigno Guides Mauro and Fabrizio for their 3-day freeride tour. Here, freeride means shuttle assisted all mountain. No wooden stunts, no man made jumps…just all-natural terrain on some big alpine mountains…SIGN US UP! We left our downhill bikes at home in favor of our all mountain bikes, a Specialized Enduro and a Marin Wolf Ridge dressed up in Fox 36’s with 8in front rotors, Kenda Nevegal 2.35s, Gravity Dropper seat posts, and yes… flat pedals!

After driving through The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and I think Liechtenstein, we finally arrived in Livigno, Italy. After such a long drive, we were stoked to see our hotel was only 300 meters from the Mottoline Bike Park, which we rode for the first full day we were there. After a few warm up runs on the aptly named Flow Line trails, we decided to see what the 2005 World Championship Track had to offer. Fun in places…gnarly in others. Just getting down some of the sections was tough but at world cup race speed…insane! One run was enough as we had 3 days of big mountains in front of us.

Mottolino

Flow Line Trail at Mottolino Bike Park…some view!

The next morning, we met our guides at the base of the bike park where they have their facility for our first day of adventure, riding in the Livigno and Federia Valleys. The first trail took us from Foscagno Pass down to Lake Livigno on flowing old hiking trails thru mountainside farms, forested single-track, and along a river leading down to the lake. Big smiles all around and we were ready for more.

Foscagno Pass

Coming down from Foscagno Pass

Next we took the gondola up Mottolino to begin a ride through the Livigno valley. This trail snaked along above the tree line before dropping down into the valley. At one point, Mauro asked us if we were ready to bomb back down into town on a fast trail full of sweet turns or keep climbing to another trail further up. Keep Going! We were having too much fun to stop and it was worth it. After another climb (or two) we dropped down and crossed the river. This began one of the most memorable and fun sections of trail so far as we ripped thru rocky fields along a mountain stream with the flow of a natural pump track. You could seriously rip this part chain-less and not even know it. We ended back in town to rest up for the next days adventure….The Bormio 3000.

Livigno Valley

Riding down towards Livigno Valley.

Our guide on day 2 was Fabrizio, who casually mentioned as we began to push up the trail after 3 different shuttles (2 buses & 1 car) that the downhill ahead was around 2 hours, but only a 1.5 hour push up from here...What! We thought we were at the top but really this trip was just beginning. Having been in this situation before, we thought back to all the big hike-a- bikes and subsequently epic down hills and got more excited as the peak we would descend rose off in the distance. The trail we were pushing up was a military road constructed during WWI to cut through the mountains. Our shuttle driver relayed the story about his grandmother who was a young girl living in the area at the time helping the soldiers work in exchange for salt. The push up was easy going really and could be pedaled by those more fit than ourselves. Maybe next time…

Military Road

Military Road Trail, we’re not even at the top

Eventually we reached the top and headed down some seriously exposed and rocky single track, full of steep, tight switchbacks. I would rate this part of the trail double black as there was little room for error.

After a few minutes, the trail mellowed and speeds picked up though it was still quite rocky above the tree line. Once we dropped into the trees, the single-track twisted and turned thru the forest, so much so that the trail is called “Tornantissima” roughly the ultimate hairpin turns! Further down we picked up what appeared to be an old cobble stone road made of half buried baby head rocks. Fast, bumpy, and so much fun! Our eyes were watering behind our glasses as we flew over the rocks behind our guide, confident that nothing unexpected was looming ahead. This is always a concern on new trails and another great reason to hire a guide! Braaap!!! 20 km later, we reached the bottom where we found an old concrete bunker. Sign said “Trincea Blindata Guerra 1915-1918” which translates as Armored Trench, War of 1915-1918. Of course, we went inside and peered out from the darkness thru the tiny windows. Spooky.

Trench

WWI Armored Trench

Later that night, we dined on a delicious local pasta dish, Pizzoccheri, in Trepalle the highest village in Europe at 2,209 meters!

Treppalle

View from Trepalle in the evening

On our third and final day, we were joined by a few more locals to help share fun…a good sign! We met Sergio, Marco, & Tania, along with our guide Mauro over cappuccinos before heading out for the first ride. Before we knew it, we were in Switzerland at Bernina Pass with the breathtaking Piz Bernina as our backdrop. No pushing up here, just sweet singletrack in the shadow of the glacier for 13km. This trail even passes thru a Ristorante… not something I’ve seen in North America before.

Bernina

Group below Piz Bernina

Near the bottom of the trail, we stopped at a some cool rock pits or “Glacier Gardens” formed by centuries of erosion. You can even climb down in some, which of course we did! This trail was so fun, but the best was yet to come.

Glacier Garden

Climbing down into the Glacier Garden

After a quick lunch in town, a Post Office van with a trailer (by now, no form of uplift in Europe can surprise us anymore!) took us towards Col d’Anzana for the final, and ultimate downhill of the trip. Unlike the morning’s drop off and ride, this was a drop of and hike for 1.5 hours. However, for those fit enough including our riding companions Sergio, Marco, & Tania, you can pedal most of the climb. In an effort to make us feel better I’m sure, our guide Mauro pushed up with us…well, most of the way. Honestly, after 3.5 days of either pushing/pedaling up or pinning down, we were pretty beat. We struggled to the top, took in the view and then were blessed with what I honestly believe is one of the greatest trails ever! A drop of over 1800 meters / 6,000 feet makes it one of the longest in the area. After a short side hill, we started dropping along the edge, often ripping around big, wide corners as opposed to the tight alpine switchbacks of the day before. Once fully down in the trees, the trail turned into a perfect mix of roots and rocks. Blue grade for sure with no big hits but the trail just seemed to give you the perfect pace…steep enough to let ‘er rip, not so steep you had to always be braking…fast, floating over roots and rocks in a more natural arrangement than most hiking trails we’d ridden. Plenty of switchbacks but not as steep, or maybe after about 100 we were finally getting the hang of it! Either way, we were all loving it.

At one point, Sergio informed us this was The Final Countdown, as in the song, as in the last segment of trail. We were sad but luckily, unlike the song, this lasted another 15 minutes. This gave us one last chance to really appreciate the ride and the scenery. Ultimately, the trail led us down into a quaint mountain village. As we left the dirt for cobblestone roads we knew an epic journey had just concluded. As usual, we headed for ice cream before catching our shuttle back to Livigno.

Col d Anzana

Col d’Anzana

This trip blew us away. We will be returning with Tamara’s parents in August for some more great trails with MTB Livigno Guides, Mauro and Fabrizio. Ciao!

Post by Matthew Peloquin.