2024 Venue Focus: Val di Sole Trentino, Italy

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2024 Venue Focus: Val di Sole Trentino, Italy

3 months ago

Trentino in northern Italy is a region steeped in mountain bike racing heritage. The steep walls of its valleys hold within them a venue that has become both recognised, respected and revered in equal measures by fans of both Endurance and Gravity sides of the sport.  

In 2024, the racetracks of Val di Sole Trentino will offer those fans their first chance to see both tribes converge onto the same schedule. The Cross-country track is a superb balance of climbs and technical descents, but it is the Downhill track, The Black Snake, that inspires real carnage.  

Here’s everything that you need to know: 

Where is it? 

Just over half a million souls call the province of Trentino ‘home’. Constitutionally it is interesting as combined with South Tyrol it is recognised as the autonomous province of Trentino-Alto. It is famously mountainous with its Dolomite range being considered the heart of Italy’s mountain sports scene. The capital city of the province is Trento. 

The Marmolada is the highest peak in the region at 3343m above sea level. Despite its mountainous terrain, Trentino-Alto is famous for its agriculture and each year presents over 50% of Italy’s crop of apples alongside being an important area for the production of grapes used in white and sparkling wines.  

Has there been racing here before? 

Oh yes! Val di Sole Trentino burst onto the radars of race fans all over the world when it hosted the UCI DownhilI World Championships in 2008. A regular UCI Downhill World Cup slot arrived in 2010 before being added to the Cross-country rotation in 2013.  

In fact, there have been no fewer than three sets of UCI World Championships hosted at the venue; 2008, 2016 and 2021. The first two were Gravity only whilst Endurance was added for the third. There have been 12 topflight Gravity races in Val di Sole Trentino in total.  

What’s the course like? 

The Cross-country course is a finely balanced pair of loops incorporating technical, punchy climbs and fast, even more technical descents. There are a couple out in the open which are where traditionally the rowdiest fans congregate to roar the racers on.  

The Black Snake however is a very different, altogether more extreme beast.  

The track is 2.2km in length and drops 510m of vertical, in other words, it’s extremely steep. In fact, it’s as steep as UCI World Cup tracks come. The track begins in the open through some fast, sweeping turns across the piste before hitting the treeline. Once it does, its complexion changes completely. The gradient kicks up massively and doesn’t relent until the handful of meters before the final jump at the finish line.  

What makes it truly ferocious is just how battered it has become over the years. The dirt here is scorched in the heat of summer to almost talc-like levels. It settles in the deep holes between roots and lingers long enough to catch out even the most experienced racer. For the 2023 running of the race the organisers moved an incredible amount of material to alleviate some of the savagery. It was a well-received effort that increased speeds through some of the rougher sections. 

What else can we expect? 

In terms of downhill, a win on Val di Sole Trentino’s hallowed slopes matters more than it does in other venues. It suits the most technically adept riders who, come race day, are prepared to go deeper and brake harder and later than anyone else. It is no respecter of reputations (see Sam Hill’s 2008 last turn implosion) and some of the out and out bike riders’ bike riding over the years has played out here. It hasn’t always necessarily been in accordance with who the form riders were at that particular moment in the sports history.   

Who are the favourites? 

As mentioned, some of the biggest of big names have been caught out here in the past and correspondingly some of the most talented if not necessarily consistent have risen to the occasion.  

Danny Hart’s win here in 2016 is a standout amongst them, as was Rachel Atherton’s (Continental Atherton Mountain Bike Race Team) win at the same event. For all the drama of its final handful of meters, Sam Hill’s run at the UCI World’s in 2008 is still regarded by many as one of the best race runs in history. On the other hand, The Black Snake, has never favoured Loïc Bruni (Specialized Gravity) one of the definitive riders of his or any other generation.  

In 2023, Sacha Earnest (Transition Factory Racing) announced her arrival on to the big stage with a breakthrough Junior victory in Trentino by nearly 12.5secs. It was form that the young Kiwi struggled to replicate for the rest of the UCI World Cup season but, if she can do it in Val di Sole Trentino, she can do it anywhere!  

Val di Sole Trentino will be back in 2024 on the 14 – 16 June, you can find out more here. 
 

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