Old and new in Italy

A surprise first short track podium

After recently returning from Cannondale MTB Team Camp in Finale Ligure Italy, I am still stuck with a sense of age. It truly is the old world, and while out in the hills that we rode though, I got a sense that time was standing still and that the land had seen so much and watched so many generations, even civilizations, come and go.

I have been to Europe before, and been to Italy, but for some reason this struck me more this trip. Maybe it was how we saw the area that did it - rather than a tourist destination or city, we were on our bikes riding through tiny villages, through people’s backyards, through olive farms, over stone bridges that were clearly centuries old. Once in a while, we would be riding some singletrack and I'd forget where we were, only to come upon a broken down old stone building, wall, or bridge. We hit some singletracks that lead to what seemed like old cobbled walking paths, super steep and rough, and I tried not to become lost in thoughts of who walked down them before us as we flew down at high speed.

I'm not sure why I was so struck with the history and beauty of the area; perhaps it was the contrast of riding some of the most progressive and innovative bikes from Cannondale on these old paths. We were testing a new Lefty that continues to push the envelope of suspension technology on paths and roads that were walked and ridden on horseback centuries ago.

We had some of the most progressive modern mountain bikers staying in an old-church-turned-hotel. Eighteen-year-old juniors Keegan Swenson and Taylor Smith were riding with Tinker Juarez, one of the pioneers of the sport. OK, ok, I'll get off the contrast theme...

All told Italy was a great trip, and once back in Salt Lake I was quickly changing gears and getting re-adjusted to winter. Sammi and I hit Solitude for a morning to try to pick up the scraps from some storms that came through while I was gone but we were a little too late. We got a few powder turns though so I can't complain.

I might as well have left my Flash 29 in the bag because I didn't hit dirt again until arriving in Southern California for US Pro XCT # 2 at Bonelli Park a week later. The first race is always such an unknown and it seems like I still never know exactly how the legs will be. I think most racers will agree, and it doesn't take long after the gun goes off until you know. As a whole, the weekend went better than expected for me and I managed a top 10 in cross country, super D and short track with 8th, 6th and 5th respectively. That was also my first short track podium, never would have predicted it that weekend.

The young guns were firing in the heated junior race as well with Keegan taking the win and Taylor just outside the top 10.

As I write this, I am on a plane to Chile with Tinker for the Copa Cannondale this weekend. Check back for a report next month, the season is on!

Thanks for reading.

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