Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. Finale Ligure.

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It’s been a long snowy winter here in Chamonix and spring is yet to make much of an appearance. A trip away to the sun was called for, so the car was laden with people, tents, climbing gear, bikes, our best pizza eating bibs and we headed south to the Italian Riviera.

I try to keep road trip stuff to less than an hour from Chamonix but it’s only 3 ½hr down to Finale, and as it’s so good down there it seems fair to bend the rules. Besides, it’s Italy, the country made for bending the rules.

Amazing what you can fit in the back of a car when you try...Just as well it was a Thursday I guess

The last time I was here the SuperEnduro finals were in town, but it was a climbing trip so there was no space for the bike and anyway, the few articles I’d seen in magazines looked good but not MUST DO good. After checking out some of the race stages in person and seeing the footage online afterwards there was no way I was making the same mistake again. Alas work commitments meant all my mountain bike friends pulled out of the trip, leaving me to ride solo, thought Susie’s road bike made it into the back of the car.

A trail somewhere above Finale

Full of enthusiasm, I set out armed with a paper tablemat showing the route of the SuperEnduro trails. Very quickly an important aspect of Finale riding revealed itself. You have to pedal uphill. This could be avoided by using one of the many uplift/guiding companies in the area, but where would the fun be in that? Besides the views are too nice to miss out on by being stuck in a minibus and you don’t really have the time to appreciate them on the way down…

Not looking at the view

Once at the top of a hill, it was time to make like the grand old duke of York and go back down again. Navigation is very easy in Finale as the weather is always nice (saying that, the locals were telling us it had been raining constantly for the last month) so you can always see the Mediterranean, and as long as you remember which side of you the sea should be on to get home you can just follow a good looking trail and see where it gets you. Granted this approach means you may not hit the “best”, and only the best, trails of an area but best is very subjective and if that’s all you’re after, perhaps a more acquisitive pastime would suit you better, like stamp collecting.

Enough riding, time for gelato

Following a random trail with tell tale Maxxis Minion tracks on it paid off everytime for me. Based on photos in magazines I’d expected the trails to be more techy than flowy, but the opposite seemed true. The clay heavy dirt of the area berms up corners nicely when moist then sets like concrete, really helping you carry your speed with a few pumps instead of pedalling. Some of my favourite sections were almost flat, twisting through grass and aloe vera, with the Med and Finale town below me.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t plenty of tech too! I’m not a fan of wearing pads and rarely use them, however down here I was feeling my knees a little exposed and will be wearing them on future trips.

Stage 5

With more time to spare, you could do this until your legs are too tired to pedal, your fingers too sore to brake or your mind too fried to keep up with the trail. I had some rock to climb as a distraction before the main purpose of the trip. Italian food. Finale Borgo has a few super nice wee cafes, but for ice cream we found the main town of Finale Ligure to be the best bet. Coffee is amazing no matter where you go, we couldn’t start our day without a trip to the campsite bar for an expresso. And whether you’re cooking food in the campsite or heading into town, the quality of the ingredients and cost make you wonder why you haven’t moved here already.

Affogato. The greatest thing on earth.

Of course, all that eating needs some exercise to justify it. Back on the bike it is. Despite my derogatory comments above about only riding the best trails, the stage 5 track from the SuperEnduro was pretty cool! It helped I’d got up at 7 on our last day to get a ride in before we went climbing, so the temperature was cool and the sun low in the sky above the med as I gained height on the road above town. With a few days exploring behind me I’d pretty much worked out the line from the map , but it turned out the combination of tyre tracks in the mud (I hadn’t expected mud, but it seems it had actually rained at some point in the last few days) and some very helpful bike trail signs meant I didn’t have to think too much about navigation and could focus on having a blast instead.

So there you go. Amazing food, amazing coffee, friendly locals, great scenery, world class trails, 3hr 30mins from Chamonix.

Bubbles

(and if I’d just written that last sentence first I could have saved myself a load of typing.)

  • Chamonix Bike Blog

    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

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