Appenninica MTB 2023: course and feedback

Appenninica MTB 2023: course and feedback

With the start date already set for Monday September 4, The 2023 Appennenica MTB stage race had the route revealed in February. It will be a challening 6 days, tacling 400km and about 14000m of climbing. This event has earnt a name for itself by having a demanding but beautiful route, and one where the host towns celebrate the riders with warm welcomes and excellent hospitality.

The first stage begins in Castelnovo ne’ Monti with 56 km and 1800 metres of climbing beginning at the foot of the Pietra di Bismantova and traversing the lands of Matilda di Canossa. Compared to 2022, the La Matildica route has been further improved, mixing climbs and descents for a challenging but not overly arduous route.

Image by Michael Chiaretta

Day 2 will arrive as a shock to some, as the Queen stage has arrived. Shorter than other editions at 89km, the challenge will come via the climbing, with 3200m of ascent before riders arrive at the finish in Fiumalbo. It will be easy for some to start hard with a sub-100km day on their minds – but the experieced racers will know that the race isn’t over until the finish line – pacing will count, especially to go fast for 4 more days.

Day 3 brings a little rest as today starts and finishes in Fiumbalbo. Ypu’ll edge into Tuscany on this stage, by way of the Abetone ski area. With 79km ahead of races, the 2700m of climbing means that everyone’s legs will be feeling some tension. Today may show who has trained for the event and is here for success, and who has enjoyed the hospitality of the host towns. Neither choice is wrong!

during the 2022 Appenninica mountain bike stage race held in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines in Italy. image by Nick Muzik

And on the 4th day, Monte Cimone arrives. This peak is justifiably the big star on the fourth stage from Fiumalbo to Fanano. You’ll tick off three major climbs on this 57 kilometre day, gaining 2300m of climbing for the day.

Photo: Francesco Narcisi

For those who like the Appenninica MTB Stage Race’s approach to mountain biking, the 5th stage set for Friday, September 8, from Fanano to Vidiciatico will be the perfect situation. Stage 5 has 54km and 2500 metres of climbing to make a combination of everything the Italian stage race has to offer: long and rideable climbs, technical descents, and wonderful views.

Photo by Marius Holler

The final stage lands on September 9 on the Monte Pizzo. The stage starts and finishes in Vidiciatico, a hamlet in the municipality of Lizzano in Belvedere. Same as last year, the technical 37 kilometres with 1750 meters of climbing will declare the final verdict of the race. Will the overall victory come down to this stage? Will you be able to catch your closest rival – or shall you go bar to bar in good spirits in the finale?

Photo by Alyona Blagikh

One thing seems certain – the stage is set for an adventure, and one that you choose. Race it, ride it: you choose. But surely anyone who completes the route will feel the utmost sense of accomplishment.

Our take on the 2023 Appennenica MTB Stage Race route

Here at we’ve had riders visit a couple of times in the past. Gordon Wadsworth, our US Captain of Stoke, was lucky enough to visit in 2021, and he’s eyed off the 2023 edition.

‘It’s evident that the Appenninica crew continue to refine their masterpiece for 2023. Even in that refinement the course crew stick to what they do well, showcasing surprisingly excellent Appenine singletrack through ruins and forests while bringing in new elements. A start in Castelnovo ne’ Monti will definitely kick the week off with some technicality. The Queen stage as stage 2 will surely still be a highlight as riders rip the border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna.’ 

‘I’m really pleased the organizers retained Fanano as a stage host town, not only was that the most memorable meal of the week for us in 2021 but the two stages we raced in the region featured some of my favorite singletrack through chestnut forests and along ancient cobbled roadbeds lost to time. Truly a spectacular memory.’

You can read Gordon’s account of the Appenninica MTB event here.

Photo by Marius Holler

Scott Cornish took on the original Appenninica back in 2020, and he too has some feedback on the route for 2023.

‘Although the event is now a day less, it retains the overall distance, just with a little less climbing. It was a showcase for the incredible riding the little known Apennine region has to offer with this year’s race having a change of stage venues, (with the exception of Fanano, a stage brimming with amazing singletrack) giving any returning riders the opportunity to experience even more of the exhilarating riding and towns of the region.’ 

‘The Appenninica is an mountain bike stage racer’s dream. Ridge line singletrack with views across this expansive mountain range. Winding tree lined singletrack, climbs that will push the heart and lungs to the edge with descents that’ll have the adrenaline pumping and you whooping at the end. Sealed road is kept to a bare minimum throughout the course.’ 

during the 2022 Appenninica mountain bike stage race held in the Emilia-Romagna Apennines in Italy. image by Marius Holler

‘There was never just a single highlight throughout the race, but many. The theme over dinner every night was riders reminiscing about the day’s singletrack riding. One key aspect that also makes this race is that it has been kept to an intimate number of a maximum of 150 riders, creating a real sense of a community over the week, getting to know fellow riders over the communal dinner tables as well as the super friendly support staff. Actually, a memorable highlight was one of the staff, Cinza, handing out tickets for gelato on the hottest day from the shop just down the street!’

You can read Scott’s account from his visit here. Team tackle the Appenninica MTB in 2023

This year, two of our team riders will travel to Italy to race the Appenninica MTB stage race. Mike Blewitt and Imogen Smith will line up for the 6-day mountain bike race, and they’re both looking forward to the challenge and the experience.

‘By far some of the most exciting mountain bike racing happens in Italy,’ says Smith. ‘It’s where the passion for the sport is at its most emotional, and where stunning landscapes meet amazing food – both things that endlessly enhance your mountain biking experience. The Appennenica course itself is pure MTB: I’m looking forward to riding natural trails full of challenging features that have evolved in situ over millennia. I’m excited about riding long climbs and long descents, where you can sink your teeth into a challenge, finding rhythm and flow. 14,000m of climbing over six days does mean, after all, 14,000m of descending! I’m excited about the beauty of the landscapes we can expect to see on this point-to-point journey, taking us through ancient chestnut groves, castles, volcanoes, roman ruins, mountains, and the spectacular rolling vistas northern Italy is famous for.’

Imogen is a very experienced marathon racer with a love for stage racing.

‘I just can’t wait to experience the event,’ says Blewitt. ‘Since I first heard about it, it just seemed to be the right mix for a thoroughly enjoyable mountain bike stage race. Sure it will be hard, but I think the fact we will be travelling through a beautiful region of Italy will take the edge off any hardship on each stage, with the reward being great food and hospitality every evening. I just can’t wait to get there.

Cape to Cape MarathonMTBMike has spent plenty of time in stage races around the world. Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith

The next part is up to you. Will you join in the challenge for 2023? More event details are at the event website. This race stands out for its individual nature, and that should strike a chord for any mountain biker who has experienced the big stage races, and wants to visit an event with a little bit more soul.

Image by Francesco Narcisi

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