A Love Letter to Val di Sole From a Super Fan

Jul 8, 2018 at 15:37
by Marco Tucci  
Big Crowd at the bottom
The usual big Crowd at the bottom

I'm Italian born and raised in Rome, the eternal city. Living far from the mountains, in a big city, where football and motorsports are the main and only focus, is hard. In a country with such beautiful mountains and breathtaking trails, it is agony waiting the whole year just for those two weeks of holiday during the summer.

Hugo Frixtalon not following fans advices

Since we do not have an iconic history in mountain biking, especially in downhill, or famous athletes, you end up playing football and supporting Valentino Rossi. I haven't forgotten Paola Pezzo of course, but I was just 9 years old when she won her Olympic Gold Medal. That was more than 20 years ago and millennials probably have never even heard about her victories.

Gee Atherton enchanting the crowd

Last year I finally decided that RedBull TV, YouTube and Pinkbike weren't enough to feed my love for knobby tires and I took a train to Val di Sole (actually from Rome was three trains for a total 9-hour trip). It was so AMAZING that I came back again this year. Last year was amazing not just because it was Italy. I'm sure any other UCI Downhill World Cup venue would have had the same effect on me.

Flat out
Bryn Dickerson

Walking through the pits, watching the mechanics setting bikes, seeing the humble riders just a few meters away from you preparing to race, thousands of people coming all the way up to north Italy just to walk down the track, cheering and making noise for the love of the sport.

Rachel flat out.

Downhilll is still different from other mainstream-sport worlds. You can easily stand at the finish line watching the last riders coming down the track on the screen next to the Athertons, and that's awesome.

Watching the rest of the race in the crowd
Gee And Rachel enjoying the race with the crowd.

So this year I decided to come back, driving all the way up from Milan, just for the race day.

Tracey Hannah coming aggressive into the corner

The rolling chains, the fork and shock sounds, the chainsaws, was all I came for.

Camila Nogueira smashing the first jump

Descending the track, changing position one rider a time, cheering and sharing moments with the fans made my day.

It is always selfie time

I wanted to enjoy the show, and contribute as much as I could for every mountain bike lover around the globe who devours any piece of video, picture or content around the web to feed their passion.

Shredding the black snake
Mark Wallace shredding the snake

I took few shots, hoping it will be good enough to satisfy those who were unable to attend this round.

on air
Samuel Blenkinsop like no ones

Dedicated to my friend Aiden, that last year came all the way from London, for the same purpose. To our passion, against all boundaries and limits.


  • + 12
 Can absolutely relate. Last year's 8 hour trek to MSA was all it took to get hooked. Can't wait to do it again next month. The energy and commradery among the fans and approachable elite athletes just can't be beat. Thanks PB for these great articles hitting home why we love this sort so much.
  • + 7
 Bravo Marco, anche io condivido molti dei tuoi sentimenti purtroppo anche quest'anno a causa di una stupida caduta in bici non ce l'ho fatta ad andare in Val di sole ( e la gara era pure ol giorno del mio compleanno sic! Wink ) .il prossimo anno non ne la perderò per niente al mondo, queste tue parole sono la spinta definitiva.grazie e spero di incontrarti su il prossimo anno Big Grin cheers
  • + 5
 Your sentiments were eleoquently expressed sir, and I share them with you 100%. There is no other sport as captivating as Mountainbiking. You perfectly captured the spirit of what it’s like to be in a crowd at a top level DH race. Again it’s like no other sport. The stoke is infectious and fans get to mingle with the world’s best athletes. Try that at any other top tier conventional sport. Very well written sir. Doubly so considering that English isn’t your first language.
  • - 9
flag WAKIdesigns (Jul 13, 2018 at 5:53) (Below Threshold)
 There is no other sport as captiving as mountain biking? Really? So 99,9999999999999% of sport enthusiasts and athletes out there are missing out? Come on... having distance to yourself and things/ those you love is good for you and everyone around.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: "So 99,9999999999999% of sport enthusiasts and athletes out there are missing out?" yes they are missing out. I have seen motorcycle GP races, F1 races, soccer games, football, hockey, air shows....not the same, you can literally punch the bike riders going down as a spectator (not saying you should do that) you cant do that with any other "spectator" sport that I have been to. And in some cases you can even ride the trail/track when they are done!
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: To most hard core DH fans especially, no there isn't a sport as captivating as DH MTB. At not point did he dismiss fans of other sports or make derogatory comments on them. Is there life outside of our Pinkbike (and VitalMTB) bubbles? Of course there is. Family, friends (many who share the same passions), work, etc. However, the majority of us true DH fans find it to be the most engaging sport to participate in and spectate than the other mainstream options out there. Yes, the World Cup Soccer/Football will get more worldwide audience. True, the Tour de France has more spectators. But for the select small group of DH folks in this world, this article is written with the voice of all of us in more ways than one regardless if the voice is Italian, British, Spanish, American, French, etc. etc.
Rubber side down all and #sendit
  • - 1
 @bman33: BS...there are tons of activities more exciting than watching 100 well paid, heavily protected guys carving through pristine landscape! Come on guys lets not overvalue the DH sport, pleeeease! Every ski race is as exciting as that.
  • + 1
 @themountain: to each his own
  • + 3
 @bman33: so suddenly you agree with my point? Each to their own meaning DH may not be the most captivating sport out there?
  • + 5
 Grazie Marco!
Puzzles me that Italy doesn't have top DH racers for many years now. We got to back to 97 for Corrado Herin or even more for Giovanna Bonnazi to find Italians on a podium of a DH WC .
Why is that? Sure ain't for lack of mountains!
  • + 4
 It's a bit the same with Spain. Considering they have many hills and mountains, nice weather almost all year long, one could expect they would have many WC top riders.
  • + 2
 @zede: maybe the nice weather and lack of mud is part of the reason why. When you can ride in the muddy and wet, you can ride in any condition, Cheers to you, sloppy brits (and wild frenchmen).
  • + 7
 - MTB is not built into the Italian educational system as it is in France
- enduro vibe in italy is good, but DH vibe it isn't: all alpha macho
- generalizing, the average Italian downhiller is all geared up with full DH kit but sending it at the bar mainly
- not a lot of lift access DH places
- Italians are italians
  • + 2
 @nicoweiss: there are a lot of bikeparks in italy
  • + 3
 @nicoweiss: Perfect description! And I am an italian dowhiller, LOL
  • + 1
 @nicoweiss: so true (I am originally Italian)!
I'd also add the lack of a modern sense of business.
Except few locations (Finale, Livigno, Lago di Garda - others?), most of the riding areas do not exploit the all-mountain/enduro phenomenon at all. I'm originally from Romagna where we have so many good trails that other more well known locations can only dream of having. And this holds for so many places in central-north and central Italy.
But no one ever harnessed these opportunities... Everything is still to tied to road cycling and XC.
Bottom line -> no organization for young people MTB development.
  • + 2
 @nicoweiss: "sending it at the bar" lol...
  • + 1
 @Muckal: ...says the German Big Grin Big Grin
the nice weather in Muttiland explains the lack of good Dhers there too Big Grin
  • + 2
 @themountain: well, Mutti Merkel is responsible for loads of shit, but whats holding zee Germans back most is the lack of support for MTB and the lack of balls maybe. Certainly the latter is what's holding me back.
  • + 2
 I went to Val di Sole for just 3 days as a next stop on my road trip to Saalbach and Leogang. Absolutely loved every minute of it. People, nature, sun, 4X racing, hanging out with the riders, having a bath in a super cold stream. Last but not least climbing up to the gondola station, riding down the Golden Eagle and cheering for riders. 3 shuttle runs after the race during golden hour in a completely deserted venue weren't too bad either Big Grin
Ciao belle Italia!
  • + 5
 Great story! 9 hours by train, that's commitment! Lucky me it takes only 2 hours to travel to Lenzerheide.
  • + 5
 its only a 4 hour car ride though??? and 200km
the 9 hour train ride isn't that bad either. in canada you can't even drive across 1 province in 9 hours, let alot up to the top of it.
  • + 2
 I’ll be making the trek to lenzerheide from the US this year and checking another WC stop off the list.
  • + 2
 @mlr428: thats a trek and a half! sounds like fun
  • + 2
 @makripper: Yeah I was gonna say, try being anywhere outside of quebec or new england, then its a multi hour flight accompanied by a multi hour drive, oh and hundreds if not thousands of dollars to make it happen. A flight from Rome to Milan is $100 and 1:15 or less, then its 3:30 to get to Val di Sole. Or for Andorra its $125 and 1:50 to Barcelona, then 3:15 drive. Those are short weekend trips haha, Europeans have it good when it comes to WC DH.
  • + 1
 Hell, let me keep this going. Rome to Munich is $100 and its 2:15 to Leogang. OR, Rome to Zurich is $97 ON WORLD CHAMPS WEEKEND and 1:40 then a 1:50 drive to Lenzerheide. La Bresse is only 2:40 drive the other direction from Zurich. He's got the pick of 5 world cups within a short/cheap flight and a short drive.
  • + 1
 Thanks this was awesome! I was supposed to go to Mont Sainte Anne for the world champs this year but plans got changed. I was hoping for the exact same experience you described. So in a way I could live through your experience and imagine it.
  • + 1
 100% great article, but 8 hours of driving makes a super fan? I've been going to MSA for years now. It takes on average 12 hours to drive there. It took my 13 to get to MSA last year. Just saying... Where's my pat on the back....? haha
  • + 5
 Where’s your article complete with photos? Pat on the back will accompany.
  • + 2
 @nouseforaname: I was just being a smartass, good on you for calling me out. I did say the article was great. I'll do one up for MSA this year. See where that gets me. I require significant back patting to get through the day ya know........
  • + 0
 Rome does not have mountains or a cycling history?
I wonder how old is the person writing this blob and if he is from the actual city?

Rome is the greenest city in europe. Meaning there are more parks than any other place.
And you can ride in the parks, that are huge comparing to what we have in the States.
And nobody is going to give you a ticket for riding a bicycle.

No mountains? Rome has Mountain Ranges within the city municipality / 30 min away. Monte gennaro 1400 mt? Monte Albano 1100 mt?
Gran Sasso 1 hour away?

And within the city there are several great place to ride that beat what you can find in most towns.

I have spent months in Denver, SF, LA, Vegas, Boston, London, Berlin, Hamburg, NY, Paris, Rome, Milan... you know which place has the best riding by far?

In Rome you see way more people cycling than all cities above. Meaning cyclists, not commuters.
Rome has some of the oldest teams in Italy.
Several frame builders.
Hosted the WC in villa ada.
One of the first italian mtb was built by Caldaro Cicli.
First winner of Giro d’Italia.
Has some bike shops / mechanics ie La Tana dei Bugiardi, that are second to none as far as history.

It does not have an history in dh? For sure.
But there are several races you can see nowdays, dont have to go to val di sole.

Rome has a considerable cycling history and it should not be dismissed by a kid that doesn’t seem to know the whereabouts of what he claims to be his city.
  • + 1
 WHAT??? Rome is the greenest city in Europe?? www.spottedbylocals.com/blog/the-greenest-cities-in-europe
Its not even on that list Big Grin
  • + 1
 That is right. Look at official data not some consumer site. City meaning places with more than 1 miliion abitants.
  • + 1
 The author is Italian. However, his thoughts are echoed with many of us regardless of language or geographic location. Cheers mate!
  • + 1
 Wish I could travel across my country in 9 hours. That much driving only get's me one province over...
  • + 2
 if the mountain doesn't come to you.... You go to the mountain :B
  • + 1
 Supporting Torquato Testa could be one way to feel proud of the present of the Italian mtb scene...
  • + 2
 Bravo Marco. Tieni viva la passione!
  • + 2
 Great words and photos, Thanks!
  • + 2
 Nice shots, thanks for sharing Smile
  • + 1
 nice words, a share the same passion brow
  • + 1
 Need to get companies like Nike to sponsor
  • + 1
 Well done!
  • + 1
 Grazie mille!
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