Hallowed ground

Finale Ligure. With a few peely wally Scots.

Every game has its Mecca. A site that unless you visit you can’t call your self a true believer. For Elvis fans it’s Graceland, gamblers have Las Vegas, alpinists Chamonix, Muslims err Mecca. For #enduroist (or mountain bikers as we were known before the number symbol was misappropriated) it’s Finale

And just like Mecca at hajj, mountain bikers must go Finale for the superenduro/EWS finals.

Spence & Nina playing catch on SP4

So we did. And lo, it was good.

Welcome to Finale. Our front door for the week.

The reason to head at EWS finals time (apart from Nina racing in it) is that a bunch of new trails get made and marked out for you, which you can go and session whilst watching the chosen ones of mountain biking doing the same.

Finale. All this and more.

During the official 2 days practice we had the chance to show Greg Minnar and Steve Peat how not to take loose corners, Rene Wildhaber and T-Mo how not to choose a line and watch the Ravanels and Nico Quere show us how not to rail a loamy rut….

Andy & Nina get held up by some guys called Steve Peat and Greg Minnar.

It’s particularly useful that the trails are marked out as the official map and guidebook to the area is a bit vague and open to interpretation, leading to disagreement as to what path to follow (seriously, some of these analogies just write themselves). We ended up relying on a combination of the last 3 years worth of race cards, following our noses and, when all else failed, asking people.

Can't see the trail for the trees....sp1.

This was quite a good technique as not only were there about 500 riders signed up to race, but there were about the same number doing what we were, and at least 1% knew where they were going.

Nato base. When in Rome...

For the first time the race left the hills directly above the beach and headed for the hills and the infamous Nato base freeride trails, so obviously we had to head up there too. The trails are different in nature to those lower down which make extensive use of Roman (or older) paths. Up high the trail builders have been free to do what they want, so nature’s been given a helping hand. A big helping hand.

Spence rails one of the many berms below the Nato base.

To get up to the Nato base on race day you were faced with a 20km, 1000+m climb on road. Before the race most folks were shuttling this, unfortunately for us we hadn’t looked at the contour lines and figured it couldn’t be that far up, so we pedalled too. We quickly wised up and spent the next day in and out of cars and joining the traffic. Shuttling is all part of the Finale experience it seems. Part of me was disappointed in messing up the environment for everyone in pursuit of instant(ish) gratification, but then the trails are rreeaallyy good. And I can always do penance in the next life.

Shuttling, check the booty on that Caravelle.

Trail building also seems a much bigger part of Finale bike culture than we’re used to in Chamonix, with folk out doing maintenance in the rain just days after the racing. We even bumped into the builder of the epic(ly long) final stage who then berated us all for not trying the hidden northshore road gap after a 45km 1000m+ day.

Sandy heading for the sea. Sideways

The 1000m of vertical down to the Med’ shouldn’t have felt too bad to us, it’s only a little more than a lap off Brevent after all, but there’s something about the Finale trails that make you feel like you get way more down for your up. It might be the sustained technical nature, or maybe the lack of fireroad or tarmac linking descents you get in most places, or maybe it’s just some higher power playing with physics.

Andy heading for the light. Not every liaison was a road pedal.

Heaven, nirvana, paradise? I’m pretty sure Finale features there somewhere.