This famous Tuscan venue – its debut in the Enduro World Series dates back to 2013 – makes a big come-back in the international mountain bike scene with a Superenduro EWS Qualifier event of the highest level; a fired-up competition that, despite the rain, highlights the potential of this riding destination, a venue that never fails to amaze.
The race course
‘Satisfaction’ is the right word to describe the feeling shared by all those who participated in the Punta Ala Round of Superenduro 2019, last weekend. Since Saturday’s Open Practice, that took place without the help of shuttles, over a ground saturated by overnight rain, it was clear that the weekend was not going to be an easy one, for anyone.
The race course, designed and developed thanks to a wealth of experience brought by Thomas Daddi and to the crew of the Punta Ala Trail Center, was extremely challenging: 5 Special Stages to be tackled in total autonomy, without any outside assistance (from mechanics) at the Time Control, throughout the National Park of Colline Metallifere, amongst the municipalities of Castiglione della Pescaia, Scarlino and Gavorrano, from sea level to over 500m of altitude.
Extremely physical and increasingly technical, the trails demanded constant focus and great effort of the riders, left with no choice but to find pace and confidence over a very difficult terrain and unexpected changes of grip level. The heavy and sticky terrain of the Transfer Stages, was a forewarning of the slippery conditions that the riders were going to find during the Special Stages, with muddy sections and rock-strewn ruts cutting across the sandstone, the typical rock of these areas. A real testing ground for machines and riders alike. It was hard not to get a mechanical; remaining in the saddle was exhausting and holding the line became an incredibly tough business.
Despite this, or perhaps thanks to this, the show put on for the large public that crowded the track sides was remarkable, with spectacular and exciting passages welcome by cheers worthy of a world Series event. In addition, the unforgettable rhythm of Orchestra Bandao Punta Ala Beats playing along the toughest Transfer Stages surely spiced the spectacle up and got the riders psyched.
One of the biggest gift this epic Round of Superenduro made to all participants attending Punta Ala, was the chance of immersing themselves into the wild nature of a region that spans from the sea to the hills of Tuscan Maremma. An experience made even more genuine by the couple of days of relaxation that people could enjoy in the pine forests of the Punta Ala Camp & Resort, the venue that played host to the event.
This is what a Superenduro experience entails: each and every one of the 400 participants is offered the chance of bettering themselves, in state of mind, personality, riding and terrain-reading skills.
After the missed challenge of Pietra Ligure, all eyes were fixed on Punta Ala. With more than 400 riders at the start (350 was the initial participation limit, but it was brought up to 400 due to the great demand for entries), many new names, a solid group of fierce young competitors, it was really hard to make predictions about a likely winner.
In a race as hard and insidious like the one we have just witnessed, two experienced riders managed to succeed: Laura Rossin, Soul Cycles Racing Team, and Nicola Casadei, Signor Lupo Asd. The Series seems to start again exactly from where it was left, with reigning Superenduro champions back to the top of the podium.
In the open women’s race, Rossin claims the perfect race, winning every Stage and finishing almost 1 minute ahead of second-placed Irene Savelli, DSB Comes Frisdads Airoh Ion Team, who defended with determination her spot on the podium. The third spot required some battling instead: fierce competitor Jessica Bormolini, Signor Lupo Asd, pursued Francesca Bonanni, Vertical Bike Team, during the first four Stages until she managed to tear from her the last spot on the podium by only 6 seconds, making good use of the most technical stage Roch-Oh!.
In the Men Competitive category, the race has been far more battled, with the top 4 positions all within 40 seconds. Casadei, winning 3 out of 5 Stages, was undoubtedly the most consistent, with a performance that kept improving as the race course was becoming increasingly techy. Fast rider Marcello Pesenti, Marchisio Bici Team, is second at 15 seconds, while Matteo Berta, Fristads Mondaker Comes Team, makes it into third thanks to his amazing performance on PS5 Rock-Oh!, enough to grab the position from Erwin Ronzon’s hands, CMC Cycling Experience.
In the Amateur Racers categories, last year’s names prove themselves, again: Louise Paulin, Finale Outdoor Resort Team, is first in the women and Giacomo Dodino, Bikappa Bikes Team, leads the men’s fields, followed by Marco Orsenigo, ASD Husqvarna Ridewill Factory Team and Davide Carissimi, Bikappa Bikes Team.
In the Youth, enjoying the first proper Superenduro experience, with individual start from the top of the opening stage and from all Special Stage start lines, Federico Ippolito, Ponente Gravity Team, is the fasted by a whisker. Just 1 second splits him and second-placed Alessandro Crolla, MTB i Gufi. Elia Castelli, DSB Comes Fristads Airoh Ion Team, is third while in the women’s youth category Sophie Riva Ancillotti Factory Team is the winner.
Mattia Folchi, B-Garage Mgo Deaneasy Speedwheel-SV, takes the top step of the ebike category, with 3 Stage victories and a 24-second gap over his teammate and 2018 title holder Alessandro Bonarotti. Marcello Ghidini, Gravity Games Team, is third.
Nicola Casadei: “During the winter I use to come here quite often, in Punta Ala, and I think it’s fantastic. Today I felt good on my bike, straight from the start. In PS1 I struggled a lot, but it was normal. Then in PS2 I tried to push a little harder but I crashed immediately. In that moment, I understood how to manage the race and make use of my experience; I tried to be quick without pushing too hard and that’s why my race has been fairly consistent.”
Laura Rossin: “Yesterday, in Open Practice, I had pretty much simulated the actual race and today I was able to manage it, keeping consistent in all Special Stages. I reckon this is what led me to victory. I don’t really know what to expect from the remaining 2 Rounds of Superenduro. They’re going to be quite a surprise, as it isn’t possible to practice before the actual race. I am training well and I am maturing in terms of technical skills. I am positive about the future.”