Well, if I’ve started as I mean to go on this career break caper will be awesome…
Had read about MTBBeds and their guided MTB weeks over the past year or so and Finale Ligure being known as the place for enduro riding and natural trails, well, the booking didn’t take much consideration.
From landing in Nice, meeting some of the rest of the group and being picked up by Ben to head along the coast for Italy, the whole vibe was relaxed. Quick check of the villa on arrival and then straight upstairs for what was to be one of many savage dinners provided by Tiff.
Monday morning and it was all go – hitting well known trails around the NATO Base. The mountain was shrouded in mist and on the short pedal up to the Base the eerie whirl of the wind turbines added a bit of a sinister soundtrack as the old buildings emerged from the mist.
And we dropped in… After a downpour overnight it felt like the Mournes on a standard weekend but even in the slippery conditions the trails were already shining through some of their secrets. A stop for lunch at Aldo’s house proved a complete gem – greeted by his donkey, drinking red wine under vines looking out at the epic view from his yard and gorbing pasta, tough day.
The afternoon saw a Roller Coaster get a rattle amongst a few others with a total contrast in conditions – the sun and wind clearing the wet loam to leave dusty trails. Then it was a bus back to the main square in Finale for a beer before yet again, Tiffs amazing dinners. Monday definitely set the scene for the week to come.
Tuesday and Wednesday continued in the same vein, with super blast along various trials including Roller Coaster again, 115, Toboga, Ingenera, Kill Bill 2 and Madonna. The trail range was ridiculous, from rocky shutes, loamy and loose rock to flat out blasts and steep as you like brakes on fun. I’ve never been on such a range of trails with so many features.
Wednesday saw me join 5 of the group in entering the EWS Challenger race on Saturday, so after a chilled Thursday spent in Finalborgo.
Friday saw us on an uplift with Ben and Sandra to practice the 4 stages for the race. We had a super day sussing lines and getting tips from both guides, before heading up to the nemesis, The infamous Men’s DH trail which was to be Stage 4 for the race. After a slow ascent we reached the false sense of security that is the single track blast towards the open mountain fun that awaited – and then it arrived.
We all took the run to the mast where the first of 4 steep rock descents begins. And so do the falls – no.3 saw me come a cropper and end up with a fat ankle which was to see the end of my biking for the week; but such a week.
Saturday, it was a case of feet up and take in the whole EWS fun – the square became a hive of bikes, gear, riders and plenty of Jared Graves tributes 💪. The whole vibe was again relaxed with banter between crew, pros and the fan boys heaving round the pits. There were World Cup bikes on show and loads of new toys and tech to glare at.
And of course, I waited on the crew coming back from the race – Sandra nailed top spot in the women’s category, Ben cruised to 5th in the men’s being only slightly hit for fastest man on stage 4, and the lads from the group pulled it home – 2 got hit with injury, 3 can hone broken but finishers on the day which was super achievement for a 50km course after a week on the bikes.
From views, food, trails, guides and the company I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the career break – if anything I came away a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of trails we hit and those still on the list.
Sure, hitting the trails for the EWS Challenger race would’ve been great but only a total bonus on what was an epic week. Already sussing MTBBeds and Finale for another go next year – must pack the able strap….
Massive thanks to Ben, Tiff, Samantha, Tom and G for spoiling us all week and to all the crew on the trip for being the best of craic.