Back on the train this past weekend. Back to our favorite place to ride a mountain bike in Italy. Finale Ligure. This would be our second trip here (see November post in archive) and we are already trying to figure out when we'll be back.
We had a biking friend from Rome who was headed up to Finale for the weekend and that's all the excuse we needed to rally. Arriving late Friday night the rain was starting to fall and our good weather luck was about to run out. We found our rental apartment with no trouble but finding the key to get in was another story. After a little anxiety of thinking about having to sleep in rain on the beach the key showed up and all was well.
With only two days to ride we wanted to maximize our time on the bikes and hired a shuttle service for Saturday. Waking up to overcast skies the mood was a bit damp so to speak. Our intention was to ride with our buddy from Rome and his friends in the same shuttle. Well, here in Italy things don't always go as planned. When I made the reservation with the shuttle company I assumed (uh huh) we'd be with Danilo and crew. Not so much. When I called Danilo that morning he was already riding. WHAT! The reservation I made was for the last two spots the company had, period. Not the last two in Danilo's shuttle.
We hooked up with our group and set off for the morning portion of our full day of riding. The group was made up of six Swissies and us. There were a couple gnar bros in the group but for the most part we all had similar riding styles. Heidi was also pretty stoked to be the only betty in the group. The drizzle started as we headed off for our first trail. The trail was awesome and a welcome change from the riding in Lake Garda. Long, fast, dirt singletrack with some flow and plenty of variation to keep you on your game. I was in heaven.
By the time we made it to the top for our second run the rain had become steady. Rain plus roots, big slabs of slick rock (not Moab slick rock) and steep terrain make for a hair raising adventure. Even the clay in some sections of trail were already greasy as. Impossible to ride? No, but damn close. I slid through a couple slippery turns and rode the last big slab of rock on my hands, off my bike, head first. Exciting. Let's do another!
The rain had let up for just a minute so starting another run made complete sense. We followed the cobble stone road down to where the trail turned into dirt and loose rock to the bottom. Wet cobble stone offers maximum traction if didn't already know that. Minutes into this ride I realized I had bent yet another derailer hanger. Four in a year has to be a record. Giving me use of only a few low gears. My day may be over. Luckily this trail stayed consistent enough in steepness that we didn't need to do any climbing and it also gave us ample opportunity to stay on our bikes.
At the end of third run we still had no idea what the plan was for the day. In the morning we just jumped in the van and didn't really ask any questions on where we'd ride, how long we'd ride, and so on. It was starting to rain a bit more and it sounded like lunch was the next stop. Good choice. We agreed to have lunch with the crew and made our way to a little restaurant for plenty of antipastas and pasta. About ten minutes into lunch the skies darkened and the torrential rain started, putting an end to the day. With the morning session being such a rainy mess and quicly turning the trails into a recipe for a few missing teeth, we were ok with the plan to call it a day. Besides, tomorrow's forecast was for nothing but sun and fun.
The afternoon was spent cleaning bikes and chillin' before dinner plans in Finaleborgo. We ran across our buddy, Danilo, in town and learned his group had suffered the same fate as ours that morning. Actually, they had only been able to squeeze in two runs to our three. So there. We all hung out for an aperitivo and had a great conversation on the devoted mountain bike community in Finale. This place is special, it seems like most Italians know this and are embracing it. There is a vibe in the air here that promotes a strong sense of community and a true love of riding bikes and everything that come along with that.
For Sunday we'd do some climbing for ourselves and revisit an area we'd ridden on our last trip with Ben, Nelly, and Owen. Feeling recharged by the sun we made our way over to Varigotti and rode the Manie area above the town. The riding here is a little less downhill oriented and more of an Enduro style of riding. Since the trails here are out in the open and less in the forests, we'd find the trails dryer after yesterday's rain. We especially love this area because of the views over the sea. Every turn you're getting a different vista that doesn't disappoint.
Our train was scheduled to leave late in the afternoon. Only having time to ride through the morning we made a couple laps on the 24 hour trail before heading down the Women's DH trail to Varigotti. When we arrived back in town we both had that glow you have after a fantastic ride and that feeling of wanting more. Finale brings out those emotions like only a few other places we've ridden. This was a perfect way to wrap up another great visit.
We had packed up the bikes, showered, grabbed some food for the train and still had plenty of time to spare at the station. Maybe too much time. We learned that trains do not leave early. They will be on time or late but not early. If you get on a train that is leaving early and doesn't have any way to delineate which train it actually is, maybe check twice or even once before you board it with all your luggage. Because there's a chance you won't be a lucky as we were. We boarded that train and let it leave the station with us on it. Headed in the OPPOSITE direction. Luckily we were able to get off before it changed direction with us along for the ride. I guess we don't have the train thing nailed down yet, but we're close.
Random thought. The train route to Rome from Finale is beautiful. It runs along the coast through the Cinque Terre. It gives you plenty of time to relax and think. The ride home stirred up some great memories for me. Tim Harmon and I spent a few nights in the Cinque Terre after my patrol exchange in France. One of those days was spent in the Monterossa train station while it rained cats and dogs for hours. We had some loose change that had added up and we needed to spend it. We chose to deplete the station of every available bottle of Moretti beer while we waited out the rain. The walk back to our campsite was one for the books. Good times.