New bikes, new territories, autumn conditions; the dream for any MTB photographer. This October Intense asked me to shoot a new big-wheel version of their main enduro machine, the Tracer. The brief was especially last minute and especially open. Love that. Creative freedom in a novel place; the total opposite of how most of summer season goes for me with the World Cups. The only certainties were that we had just two days for the job and that the bike was on a flight to Europe, to the home of multi-time Italian national champion, Francesco Colombo. A quiet, modest, former World Cup racer with a lot of style, together with a do-it-all gravity-oriented bike, sounded like a good combo to me. Better take it somewhere cool.
Some recent doom-scrolling on everybody's favourite distraction application had the Dolomites fresh in my mind, particularly as autumn colours would be peaking, but where to head specifically? Most lifts were already closed and I was keen to find something less obvious than the well-trodden Val di Fassa area, of EWS fame, if we could. I had a screenshot of this incredible high-altitude lake surrounded by bright orange fur trees as inspiration and although I had no clue if there was anything substantial to ride nearby, further research showed it to be just up the hill from Cortina D'Ampezzo, the famous ski town that once hosted a DH World Cup all the way back in the year 2000. Surely a great place to go 'Columbusing', as I believe discovering the already long-established is known.
With that hair-brained urge to explore an area I hadn't heard much about in a couple of decades, I packed up my long-suffering 70-200 and the rest of my photo gear. Francesco, although Italian, hails from far away down on the coast near Finale Ligure and hadn't ridden in Cortina since the last national championship they hosted in 2007. Still, he seemed intrigued, intrigued enough to meet me there on a whim on the opposite side of the country. Here's hoping to find something more than crumbling, overgrown DH track relics.