A week before round 8 of the Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, the course was yet to be announced. Riders that were already in town, sipping espresso and guzzling gelato, eagerly awaited the map. They know Finale Ligure to be one of the most gruelling, exciting, challenging and spectacular rounds of the series.
Mumblings in the town had however begun months before. Rumours that a whole new zone was being opened up, a step away from the tracks and areas of previous years, which have been held primarily in the hills behind the town itself and by the Din Cafe and so called Nato Base.
Locals in the know would greet questions with a wry smile, "somewhere up there" pointing in the direction of Fast and Furious and Isallo Exstasi. Talk of covert scouting missions became common.
The trail building here is known to be outstanding, but also highly secretive. Builders will walk into the wood for hundreds of metres before laying a shovel or pick axe to dirt, to keep their creations hidden until the last moment. To the mountain bikers riding Finale Ligure at the time, racing or not, the release of the stage map couldn't come quickly enough....
Monte Carmo peaks at 1200m. Directly behind the towns of Finale Ligure, Pietra Ligure and Loano, it towers above the Mediterranean as the tallest peak in the region. It has long been a walking and climbing destination, inaccesible by vehicle, it's views well worth the steep hike to get there.
The trail used for the opening stage of the Enduro World Series begins just under the white cross at the peak, and descends all the way down into the back of Loano town. (Infact not far from Paolo our friend at Ride on Noli's house!)
This is a real mountain bike trail, there is no one ideal bike or rider to conquer it, it's downhill, it's flat, it's uphill, it's flowy, it's technical, it's fast, it's awkward, it's challenging and it's beautiful.
Practice for the race began with excitement, the day full of anticipation. Though Many would end the day battered and broken, others would finish proclaiming it some of the best riding they have done in Finale Ligure.
To get to the track, riders take an uplift to the Din Cafe, or if booking with MTB Beds and Ride on Noli, a little further into the woods behind, we know the climb that awaits you! From here you ascend into the Ligurian backcountry, passing kilometers of untouched terrain, the scope for trails here is just incredible, but there is something awe inspiring about having so much nature, unclaimed and raw surrounding you.
The climb eventually comes to a lookout station, the nearest a good 4 wheel drive jeep could take you. From here, the hike a bike begins. 40 minutes to take it all in, to hoist your steed up the goat paths to the summit. Bring water!
You are rewarded at the peak with astounding scenery, but after a couple of Instagram snaps all anyone will be talking about is the singletrack snaking into the hills below you.
It begins with a couple switchbacks in the open, before diving into the bush for what would have to be heaven for the cornering aficionado. Turn after turn in the dust, each one hidden by the tight forest that surrounds you. It makes for a helluvah challenge, the giggles and yelps of your friends infront and behind spur you on until you hit the first technical rocky section, a relief in a sense. Even Sam Hill would tire of that many corners!
It was here that Fergus Ryan, MTB Beds staffer's race ended, the victim of a rock and a derailleur meeting. Would a gearbox bike be the ideal Finale Ligure machine? This is the trail to bring every spare you can stuff into the pack.
The rock sections on Monte Carmo are unique, all natural, they flow incredibly well at a medium pace, jutted only here and there with a section that requires you to slow down and pick your line carefully.
A slight uphill, awkward climb breaks up the rocks. This kind of section is one of two that had racers feeling downbeat, this is a very difficult trail to race against the clock. If you're not racing however, the breather is actually more than welcome!
Diving back into flowy yet technical singletrack, the trail meets it's most challenging feature, a steep rocky chute onto a plinth rock, into a river bed. Hero hucks are not advised, just ask our mechanic Lee Huskinson's forks, which did not survive the impact! Only a Greg Minaar sized lunge would get you over in one piece! Most opt to walk, which if you don't have sponsors and results to aim for, is the advised route this far into the woods!
From here the trail continues down into the forest, superb flowing trail, here we see and end to the rocks and more to the kind of smooth dirt found around the mid point of Finale Ligure's hillside. Not unlike Nato Base, here is a chance to really pick up some pace, before a short, sharp climb into the final section.
Finishing on a sandy, fast and undulating layer of smooth bedrock, the town of Loano is now just in sight. By now your arms are exhausted and your brakes have had enough, legs begin to feel the strain and you get the warm fuzzy feeling you have after a whole day on the hill.
Breaking out onto the road, next to an olive grove, on a back road somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the trail ends. You may forget that though it feels like you've been riding all day, you've only ridden one trail!
Monte Carmo is an optional part of our Finale Ligure holiday. A must do if you're after an adventure, speak to our staff on site to make this bucket list trail part of your trip. Check out the track check of Monte Carmo, coming soon!
These trails and this riding area is built and maintained by local riders and companies. None of this is possible without their dedication and efforts. A special thankyou to our Finale Ligure partners and friends, Marco, Paolo and Sandra at Ride on Noli.
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