October 26, 2015

A mountain biking weekend in Italy – Part 1

Saturday's Adventures

Autumn is my favourite season for mountain biking: few people around, fresh air, incredible light and colours. And I always feel in top physical condition due to a whole summer of riding.

Having a free weekend, I decided to go back to Vinschgau (in South Tyrol, Italy) with some very ambitious plans. On Saturday, I wanted to climb all the way up to Madrichjoch, while on Sunday I wanted to ride the famous Goldsee trail from Stelvio Pass. This time all my friends were busy, so I packed my stuff, made sure I had plenty of food, the right apparel, maps and gps tracks and started this solo adventure.

And a real adventure it turned out to be! Saturday morning I left on the bike directly from the hotel in Schlanders, first on the bike path which runs on the valley floor between apple trees all the way to Prado allo Stelvio.

From there a nice fire road and a fun trail in the forest takes you to Sulden. Arriving in Sulden is already a nice ride, and at this point I already rode around 40km and +1400m. The views are incredible with the Ortler group towers above the village with its peaks and glaciers.

Weekend 1

Since the tour is long, I decided to take the cable car and save 500 vertical meters of climb. If you want to do the tour make sure you are in Sulden before 12:45 because then the cable car closes for lunch and if you miss the last one, it is too late once it opens again. I had to sprint the last kilometres to be there on time!

Once I arrived at the top,  I ate lunch at the Schaubachhütte, a nice portion of pasta was all I needed to face the last part of the climb, a +600m push up all the way to Madritschjoch.

With its 3123 m, it is one of the highest point a person can arrive via bike in the Alps. It was not easy to get to the top–a mixture of tiredness and altitude tested my endurance, both mental and physical. More than once I wondered what in the world I was doing, and the looks of the hikers increased my doubts. I was lucky to share the last part of the climb with two German guys. It helps to know I was not the only crazy one pushing a mountain bike up a steep mountain!

weekend 2

Once on the pass, everything made sense. The view opens 360° on the Ortler, Königspitze, Cevedale and I could finally rest, eat something and get ready for the endless downhill which was ahead of me.

The downhill!

This is what I came here for and it was totally worth the effort. It starts very steep and technical, always ridable but it requires confidence on steep, technical and loose terrain. For sure it is not a place to fall. Being on my own I had to be very cautious, but I know my limits so everything went smooth and it was fun. After this first part, the trail becomes pure flow, just perfect, nothing more. Before arriving to the Zufallhütte there is another steep section but nothing impossible.

From the hut a nice trail heads all the way down to the Zufrittsee. At this point, I was back in the civilized world, meeting hikers along the way. The trail goes on from the lake and after a very steep section ends on the normal road going up Martelltal. To be honest, it is nice to ride also some road, to rest the hands a bit and  release the tension.

Keep in mind that the fun is not finished yet. In Martell a nice trail along the river is all flow and so enjoyable. Just before arriving in Morter, there is the chance to ride the last kilometres on the famous trails along the Waale, the old artificial channels used to water the plants. To ride on them in the evening light with nobody around was the perfect end for this epic day. I was tired but very happy and satisfied. I’m already looking forward to Sunday’s adventures!

Facts about this tour

83 km

+3000m (500m with the cable car)

Take the bus to Sulden and then the cable car
(closed from 12:45 to 2:00)

Downhill s2, with some sections s3


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