Put away that white kit — Labor Day is in the rear-view and summer is officially over. Yes, it’s sad. But let’s reflect on the great riding we enjoyed in the summer of 2022. Hop into the comments and tell us about the best ride you had this season.
I’ll get this Question of the Week primed with the story of my favorite ride of this past season. In fact, I’m still recovering from this epic day (not to mention the jetlag).
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A couple years ago, my old college friend, Matt, told me about a mountain bike stage race in Italy called Appenninica. As the name implies, this seven-day event traverses the Apennine mountains. No judgment if you have to pull up Google Maps to find it. These mountains are rugged, remote, and not as heralded as the Alps or Dolomites. For us Americans, the closest comparison I can think of are West Virginia’s Appalachian mountains.
Long story short, we finally committed to Appenninica in 2022. At the beginning of September, we found ourselves on the start line in Castelnovo Ne’ Monti, a little mountain village on the edge of the Reggio Emilia province.
The full seven-day experience is too vast to cover in this article, and anyway, the rules of the game are “best ride,” not “best seven rides,” so it’ll pick one. It was an easy choice.
On day three, we tackled the queen stage, a 68-mile point to point journey from Castelnovo to Fanano that climbed more than 13,000 feet along the way. The route included everything from sinuous single-lane roads to ancient Roman goat paths to singletrack and more. Matt and I were a bit apprehensive but eager for an epic point-to-point route that traversed the backbone of the Apennines.
As had been the case in the first couple stages, I was a few minutes ahead of my buddy for the first half of the stage, which included a massive climb deep into the Apennines and across the border into Tuscany. I was feeling good — maybe a little too good — because as I was letting it hang out on a long, chunky, rocky downhill, disaster struck. I suffered a massive front flat. While I monkeyed around with tire plugs, Matt caught up to me. Fortunately, he had the extra CO2 cartridges and tube I needed to get rolling again.
Matt and I make a cameo at 1:19 in this recap vid!
While a catastrophic flat is never your first choice on the roulette wheel of mid-race mishaps, it felt like kismet. The two of us ended up riding the final half of that epic day together, pacing each other on the climbs and enjoying the wild and rugged descents back into the valley. We topped out at a little over 6,000 feet elevation at the peak of the Sestola ski area before plunging down a rock-strewn trail into the finish in Fanano.
It’s no contest to rank that as my best ride of the summer because it combined all the key elements I love: An epic route, some healthy competition, riding time with friends, and unfamiliar, spectacular terrain. Plus, in keeping with our tradition, we ended the day with Aperol Spritzes and Gnocco Fritto at a cafe in a charming little Italian town.
Now it’s your turn! Hop into the comments and tell us about your favorite ride of summer 2022. Don’t be shy — upload a photo while you’re at it!