Racing -

Race Report | Alta Via Stage Race #4

Where adventure meets competition, you can either adapt to your surroundings or get entirely lost and never return. Luckily, in the Alta Via Stage Race, GPS devices are given to teams and are a necessity to actually complete the entire race. Check out what happens when enduro gets thrown into the wilderness!

It is very hard to mention only the few winners in a race where the emotions have been so strong for all those who crossed the finish line. Never as much as in this race, it could be said that all the finishers are winners: men, ladies and teams. However, this was a race for real and it is fair to mention those that have been the fastest within each category, incredibly fast to say the least.

A race of epic proportions - the Alta Via combines wilderness exploration with competition.
A race of epic proportions – the Alta Via combines wilderness exploration with competition.
Working in teams, GPS trackers are given to all competitors to figure a way to the finish.
Working in teams, GPS trackers are given to all competitors to figure a way to the finish.

The Alta Via Stage Race is an event that really pushes to the limits the rider/bike duos and puts a strain on the bike’s components stage after stage. It requires an impressive ability to adapt to the continuous changes of environment, to the life shared with hundreds of people in a campsite and to waking up very early to keep pushing for the rest of the day. From the Appennine mountains in the province of La Spezia, the race course brought the riders to the prealpine environment of the Ligurian Alps around Imperia, going throughout really stunning places. Moving from East to West along the Ligurian mountains, the type of surface and the terrain change together with the landscape and with the way they should be faced and interpreted.

The rider who best managed the mix of racing, emotions, difficulties and happiness during the seven days of the event has been Christian Meyer (Velo Team Landshut 2), from Germany, the fastest and unquestioned leader of the Solo category, who wins this last edition of the Alta Via Stage Race in a time of 28:43:15.

This strong athlete kept on riding with perseverance, precise and focussed.
This strong athlete kept on riding with perseverance, precise and focus.
Through all terrain. Riders had to conquer everything from rivers and streams to rock gardens and off-camber trails.
Through all terrain. Riders had to conquer everything from rivers and streams to rock gardens and off-camber trails.

Nobody really challenged him, except for the Spanish rider Ignacio Miravalles (29:37:52) of the Rotor Big Race Team, always very close to him, even faster in one stage, but never enough to leave him behind. Pascal Guntensperger of the Promotion – Tools team, from Switzerland, is third (29:47:41). He clearly gave proof of knowing himself very well by improving his performance during the last stages, when his direct competitors showed the first signs of fatigue.

Everyone remarked that the 2015 edition of the Alta Via Stage Race has been characterized by strong competitiveness from the start. The battle for the top positions has been even more spectacular due to bad weather conditions. The weather really affected the race and the riders’ performance, forcing them throughout rain and storms with fog and strong winds.

It is not by chance that the Alta Via Stage Race motto is “only the brave”! The kilometres of riding and the elevation gains are impressive, the racing pace is relentless. The landscape is typical of Liguria, with high peaks facing the sea, so beautiful and fascinating but, at the same time, rough, steep and, in this occasion, made very special by the bad weather.


In such bad conditions, the ladies, fit and trained, faced the mountains and their rugged nature, sometime with the bike on the shoulder, giving proof of the valour and brave nature of the female riders of both the Solo and Mixed Couples categories.

The friendly Catalan rider Ada Xinxo of Trideporte 1 team, outmatches the other ladies and finishes the race in 36:52:41: a real warrior, much stronger than many males. A battle in between Ada and our rider Ilaria Balzarotti would have been great. In fact, during the first stages, before having to give up for an injury, Ilaria really seemed to be the only female rider able to keep her in sight. Ada is followed by the French Axelle Croce of Axl Team with a time of 47:57:24. She never lost her smile, not even in the hardest moments.

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The battle for the Team category has been interesting and exciting as well. Flavio Coluccio and Emiliano Amalberti of the Brike Bike team won in a time of 31:19:12. This pair of riders had a false start on Stage 1 but then they took and kept control of the ranking, sustaining a very impressive pace. Strong in the climbs, fast in the descents and in the portage: they are really complete athletes. Richard Samuel and Andy Jones (Clee Cycles team) from UK, in 32:00:42, got the second position behind them. Skilled and consistent, they closed almost every Stage in second place. Masone’s Bike Team, with Carlo Bruzzone and Umberto Pastorino, is third. With them, tenacity and determination won as well: this close-knit pair has been able to leave behind the bad mood caused by navigation mistakes and bad luck and to improve their performance until the last stages, finishing the competition with a time of 33:14:33 and a spot on the podium.

By comparing rankings and stage times with those of previous editions, it is clear that the level and the preparation of the athletes have improved. “For example, during this edition we did not have to use time limits to push the slowest participants toward the finish line because all of them have been able to reach it within reasonable times. In a race such as Alta Via Stage this is something really noteworthy” commented Annamaria Messina of the management staff.


The satisfaction of the organizing staff is almost double. First of all they managed to successfully conclude a race as complicated as the Alta Via Stage Race, with more than 30 staff members and 250 volunteers from different associations: Pro Loco, Sport associations, CAI, FIE, VAB, Civil Protection, Red Cross and other associations of the Soccorso, Alpini and the members of Ospitalità Alta Via dei Monti Liguri, 90 councils of the Ligurian hinterland among which nine host towns (Bolano SP, Sesta Godano SP, Borzonasca Ge, Montoggio Ge, Varazze SV, Bardineto SV, Pornassio IM, Pigna IM, Airole IM). This wide participation required an impressive coordination effort of the different departments of the organizing staff.

The second reason of satisfaction is given by the racing times themselves, which got shorter during this edition, meaning that the riders’ technical skills have also improved and that the strongest specialists of the international scene took part to the event: they evidently respect and love this race along the Alta Via of the Ligurian mountains.

This unique trail, the heritage and traditions that are crossed by this journey represent an incredible asset for the Liguria region, but the real value is the people that live there, enjoying and sustaining its growth. The Alta Via Stage Race represents a fantastic way to promote and divulge this message at an international level. For this reason, all the entities that contributed to the success of this edition and to the growth of the event deserve a big acknowledgement.

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First of all, the councils crossed by the race course and supported by the Pro Loco organizations, the agritourisms, mountain huts and B&B related to the Ospitalità Alta Via, all the volunteers that, with their enthusiasm, spent long hours controlling the race course in a number of locations.

The Alta Via Stage Race staff as a whole thanks all those that contributed to the success of the fourth edition of the Alta Via Stage Race. Big thanks also to the riders, who appreciated the beauty, variety and hospitality of Liguria, qualities that make proud the organizing staff and give them good reasons to present their land to one-hundred participants from eleven different countries.

It is now time to enjoy the well-deserved rest before going ahead with the preparation of the next fantastic 2016 edition.

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Words & Photos: Courtesy of Alta Via Stage Race