Sabina Edwards shares her experience of this year’s Volpaia Race 2019 in the beautiful Chianti region of Italy. We also take the opportunity to hear from Stef Cree and Zack Leader of 3223 Racing about Gravity Bike racing and the World Championship.
Three days of freerides and races, in the wonderful location of Volpaia in the heart of Chianti, Italy. As well as offering freeride for all disciplines, this event included the IIDA Inline World Cup, the Gravity Bike World Championship, the FISR Inline Championship as well the Italian FISR Championship races for both downhill skateboard and luge. Quite a lot of responsibility for one man, Riccardo Aldinucci.
After 10 years of trying, Riccardo finally realised his dream; to create a race in Tuscany, near his home. Ten long years of trying and failing to gain permission to close the road. Then he finds this amazing hill near Radda in Chianti, with a start point in a tiny hamlet of Volpaia. The authorities and institiutions caught his vision, put faith in his project and, after a test run in October 2018, accepted the race and gave him the permissions need to get this show on the road!
He worked stoically to achieve an amazing well-run event and hopes that next year he may be able to change the date to nearer summer (it rained most of the 3 days of the event!) and is also looking to apply for IDF accreditation.
I was in Spain as part of our ‘let’s run away and live in a van for a bit’ tour of Europe, when I realised that my plan to attend a few of the ‘Euro Tour’ downhill events wasn’t likely to happen. We’d stayed too long in the south of Portugal and Spain and, with other commitments preventing us from getting back to the north in time, I turned to Facebook – that font of all knowledge – in the desperate hope of finding something I could attend. How relieved was I, then, to come across Riccardo’s event – Volpaia International Race & Freeride 2019 was happening a week or so after we were planning to get to Italy. Serendipity!
Volpaia is a tiny hamlet which sits on the hill overlooking the vast and beautiful Chianti vinyards. With, I understand, only around 24 inhabitants this village is, nevertheless, steeped in history and home to important viticultural families. We had little time to investigate the village but did partake of an tasty lunch at the fabulous restaurant, La Boggeta di Volpaia.
With your ticket for the race and freeride, you received free camping in Radda in Chianti, at the bottom of the hill and near the La Loggia del Chianti restaurant which was offering a 10Euro menu each mealtime for the riders. Of course, no event is complete without a party with live music.
SkateBites were available on day one for parts and sustenance was catered for with fresh, chucky bread sarnies of salami or proscutio and a bar serving up with best local brew!
We arrived on Thursday evening at La Loggia del Chianti, it was raining. We hung about the bar, a beer each, reading until Riccardo arrived and set-up for registration. Once all that was done we drove up to Volpaia to park for the night. Camping was free for the riders down in the stadium grounds in Radda but in the van we would have had to park in the carpark and either drive off early or pay. Volpaia had a free carpark and it was right next to La Boggia and only a few meters from the start of the track. Much more convenient!
Friday was freeride day. This was the only thing I could affort on the tight budget we have whilst travelling. But that’s fine. Still newish to the luge, and no way was I hitting that road on my skateboard, it was good to just enjoy the ride, fairly confident I wouldn’t hurt myself too much.
During our few days in Italy we have been somewhat appalled at the conditions of the roads – they are really bad! So I was delighted to see that this hill was actually in fairly good nick. There was a dodgy bit near the bottom but that was easily avoided and the lumpy bits just made it a little more fun when, at speed, you literally took off! That being the reason I wasn’t using the skateboard – oh, yeah, and the fact I still can’t stop properly!
Longboard Girls Crew Italy were in attendance and shredding the hill! It was super cool to meet them and be inspired by them!
Riccardo definitely made sure the riders safety was paramount. Just look at the padding along the curves! He had organised for a whole troop of marshals, tooled up with radios and whistles; paramedics on standby; and, of course, the much appreciated uplifts! Huge thanks to that entire team who spent many a long hour at the corners in the cold and wet, to ensure we have a great time 🙂
The weather took a turn for the worse but that really is a photographers dream:
Volpaia Race 2019 was the event for this year’s Gravity Bike World Championships as well as the Inline World Cup. When we heard that two of the UK’s main gravity bike riders were attending we made sure we caught up with them. Congratulations to them both as Stef Cree took 2nd place and Zack landed the not too shabby fourth place!
Stef Cree – Gravity Bike
“I started racing gravity bikes roughly 2 years ago after competing in soapbox cart the previous couple of years and found this sport so much more exciting and a bigger rush.
I love to design and manufacture my own bikes from scratch, I set out to build a bike this year for record attempts but having decided to go to the world championships, I used the bike I had just built.
Having only riden it once to test it before Italy, I wasn’t expecting big things but the bike was awesome! The only thing I actually changed on the bike over the whole weekend was a little air in the tyres.
Having the situation here in the UK where there is a real risk of gravity bike racing coming to an end, with very few faces this year, I decided to change my focus and have 3 goals for this year. Firstly, I want to take part in the world championships, secondly, to set the world gravity speed record for my category and thirdly, to set a whole new record on the category gravity skoot.
Volpaia was such an amazing experience in both racing and people. The course had everything from really fast, flowing corners to short, sharp technical sections. In all it was a fantastic track with superb organisation throughout.
The weather was changeable at best and having it rain for the finals created a level playing field. I have to say the wet seem to suit me and, as a result, I managed to claim runner-up in my first world championship which was an amazing feeling!
The people from all disciplines were fantastic and so happy just to be racing and totally gracious in defeat too. I can’t wait to get back to Italy to race with the guys again and hope for one step higher on the podium.
For now, I will concentrate on my record attempts and who knows, I may come back next year as a world record holder.”
Zack Leader – Gravity Bike
“The experience in Volpaia was 100% one I won’t ever forget. Everything just seemed to fall into place and I was fast from the word go which just gave me so much confidence. There were no issues or anything like that which is incredibly rare from a race weekend! The racing was clean enough, one or two hairy moves but the racing really was epic and tighter than a crabs arsehole!
I started racing in 2012 when I was just 13 years old. I’ve always been a biker at heart; loved motorcycle racing since I was 9 and I always wanted to get into it but budgets never allowed.
When the opportunity to race Gravity Bikes came up, I didn’t think twice. One day to build the bike and I’ve never looked back! We didn’t have a British Series last year but I was ranked #2 in the UK and in both 2016 and 2017, I finished runner-up in the British Championships!
I raced at the World Championship in 2018 in Teolo and absolutely loved the experience! Mega people on a brilliant track in an amazing location, what’s not to love? This year’s World Championship was Volpaia so I just had to try again after finishing 9th the year before.
Track and organisation was spot on too, certainly the best and one of the most demanding I’ve ridden on.
Unfortunately, insurance companies refusing to insure the gravity bikes at UK races is killing the sport completely. The future is incredibly dismal for this sport as things stand. We have one race in Worlaby which is always brilliant and fast but I’d like to have more events to compete at.
We’ll just have to see how the future pans out in terms of the sport itself in the UK.”