VAI VAI VAI, Finale Ligure…!

What a stunning 24h race in Finale Ligure, Italy. This is a weekend to remember. Great atmosphere along the track. Crowds cheering the riders until far after midnight. Warm temperatures. Wonderful trails and a beautiful scenery. But then the weather changes dramatically.

Finale Ligure in the Italian Riviera is a Mekka for mountain bikers. It is know for its great trails with panoramic ocean views. In the little town bikers are welcome everywhere. You can enjoy tasty italian pasta and pizza in small focaccerias. Not to mention that you find the „world’s best gelato“ on every corner.

The 24h of Finale
On this weekend bikers compete in the 24h race in the mountains above Finale. The race track is a 12 km loop, taking the riders through forests, mountains and trails on the oceanside with nice panoramic views. The conditions varied from dusty wood sections to rocky downhills. However the whole track was flowy to ride and not very technical.

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On Saturday at noontime the starters gun resound. A wild crowd of bikers run to their bikes hungry to make the first circle around the track. The competitors started in teams of four or eight and then rotate within the 24 hours. Until evening most teams send out all of their teammates for at least one loop. Everybody found their personal pace. Some doing several loops in a row and others rotate more often. Meanwhile the atmosphere in the camp area is unstressed. People enjoying a good time having a barbecue, exchanging with other riders or relaxing to then take over the race part again.
Whereas the riders are doing their job staying in the saddle a crazy bulk of people got together in one specific corner to cheer the bikers down the track. The darker it went the more crazy they went. Disguised spectators with drums are running after the bikers accompanied by loud live music. „Vai, vai, vai“ they scream into their faces. It must have been pretty frightening for the participants to ride 12 km through dark and silent forests and then be surprised with such a loud and wild crowd.

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As the sun almost disappears behind the mountains the weather changes completely. Within two minutes everything was covered in fog. So the nighttime combined with the fog makes a very difficult situation for the competitors. You definitely need a strong mindset to endure the hard conditions. On the next morning instead of an epic sunrise the riders need to struggle with heavy rainfalls. So the situation got even worse. But once you’re wet to the bone it doesn’t matter any more! So the riders are sliding down muddy forest trails and just keep going to complete the 24 hours. If you manage to stay warm this is great fun. But you could read the faces of the competitors in the finish area at noontime on Sunday. Everybody is relieved when it is finally over.

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Altogether it was a great weekend. It started with perfect conditions along scenic trails on Saturday. And – well, on Sunday you needed to show that you’re a real man and could stand difficult conditions. The supportive atmosphere and a good cheering crowd made it a lot easier to endure for 24 hours. At the end it was a great experience. When they are back home the riders definitely have a lot to tell to their friends and family.


Words: Marius Holler

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