The call of mountain bikes. Not only in Val di Sole

The call of mountain bikes.  Not only in Val di Sole

There was a time when bike enthusiasts only considered racing bikes and bikers with fat wheels were second-rate stuff. Now no longer. The coach of the Italian mtb national team Mirko Celestino speaks. The Trentino stage of the Uci Mountain Bike World Series

If you're wondering why your gaze on the road notice more and more cyclists riding gigantic and aggressive (and hyper-tech) mountain bikes, you should take a ride on Val di Sole, where the World Cup show is about to begin. There is a ready answer Mirko Celestine, coach of the national team, the athlete who broke his life as an athlete in two: at first the road, then the mtb. “It's more fun for young people. It's an adrenaline-pumping mix. Between improvisation, control, nature and safety”. There was a time when the categories of bike enthusiasts included a single, inviolable category: that of road racers. Fat-wheeled bikers were second-rate stuff. Not anymore. Mountain biking has renewed its looks and possibilities for years: businesses invest and young people are responding well. “On the street, the difficulties of having large numbers are there. Why is hard to say. There is certainly a traffic and safety problem. The parents tell the kids: "Go on the dirt road, it's safer". But it's also more thrilling."

The proof is the flood of enthusiasts who arrive in Val di Sole, for what has been the most cool between world cup stages. This year's edition is the first of the new Uci Mountain Bike World Series management, which has made the format more elastic and spectacular, race days have gone from three to four, competitions ranging from short track to downhill to Olympic cross country (15 races in 4 days). “This has always been a race eagerly awaited by everyone, especially by us Italians. The route is gorgeous, the organization is perfect. And then Val di Sole is truly a paradise for MTB. It attracts a lot of fans, you run in the midst of an incredible crowd”. For downhill there is the legendary Black Snake, a temple. A track measuring 2,100 meters with a difference in height of 550, the average gradient is 24 percent, the maximum gradient exceeds 45. Translated: the evolutions you can do on a mtb are incredible. The boys see it.

The lure of the mtb is a bit atavistic, it has to do with the jungle, nature, courage. But it is also business. According to the report of the Banca Ifis research office (March 2022), in Italy the bicycle has 4 million amateurs and professionals. In 2021, Federciclismo had recorded a 13 percent increase in memberships compared to the previous year, exceeding 70,000 members. And mtb is constantly increasing.

In Val di Sole, says Celestino, "the route is almost completely natural, and the athletes appreciate it". So much so that champions like van der Poel and Pidcock enjoy violating the sacred route of the road to go for a ride on their mtb. Sagan himself will leave the road at the end of the season to aim for the Paris Games: in mtb of course. Insiders call it interdisciplinarity or mixed, that is, doing a little of one and a little of the other and having a more flexible and eclectic vision of the bike. Celestino says that “multidiscipline is a positive thing. But there is a problem: the level in cycling is always higher and it's not so easy to move from one world to another. We have often seen Van der Poel and Pidcock on their mtb. Yet now they too are forced to make choices.

Many ex of the road (see Vincenzo Nibali) throw themselves on the mtb. “I did it too - adds the Italmtb coach -, this is a world where there is less stress, see the fun. And it makes you want to get back into the game." A game for the tough, by the way. In the World Cup there are countless stars. From Nino Schurter, the Federer of mtb, who in the stage of Leogang, Austria, two weeks ago, reached the milestone of 34 victories in the World Cup. To Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, absolute legend of Made in France cycling. Italy is there: the Braidot brothers, with Luca fresh bronze in cross country at the European Games; Martina Berta, Sara Cortinovis, the young Chris Hauser. The goal for many of them is the World Cup in August. And then the Paris Games. Milestones that basically also pass from here, from Val di Sole. “This is a heartfelt race, everyone wants to be able to do well. It's those appointments that no one wants to screw up. The stress rises and the big difference comes out: wingman or captain”.

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