Enduro Wed 18 April 2018

I WANT TO FINISH 2018 BACK TO THE ROOTS

NOT THIS YEAR!
We simply weren’t up to it. Or at least this is what we told each other.
Besides, after 5 editions, one more satisfying than the other, what could we come up with?
5 years of wading creeks and canals, or of riding in them, on dry and flooded riverbeds; tunnels and bridges, cliffs and jumps and again mule tracks and mountain trails, almost impossible to climb and dangerous to descend; and the freezing cold, the snow, the heavy rain, the blankness of the winter night; the cross stage in the quarry, the gymkhana at the start; snacking on the go with minestrone and hot tea - the survival kit for Sundays – the cake with the IWTF logo; and the 2- and 4-stroke motorcycles, old air-cooled duals, last season racing bikes, vintage and classic motorcycles, twin-cylinder bikes; flats galore, steaming radiators, busted fairings and broken levers; but above all, it’s the people that made each one of these 5 editions unique and one-off: from those who came only once to the ever-present, from youngsters flogging it to seniors, from cross-riders to reliability trial riders, from rallyists to tourists.
Due to personal vicissitudes we didn’t organize the 2016 edition, we really couldn’t, anyhow, we postponed the event to 2017 … but, as time inexorably went by, IWTF wasn’t taking shape even if we had a few ideas: had this ADV finally came to an end?

WE ARE ON!
No, it hadn’t! The undersigned had the tour all lined up! In 2015 it was the “Over 300 pounds” edition, a lighter off-road route to facilitate the participation of dual sport bikes such as XT, TT, XR, XL, etc.; my idea for the next one was a “Back to the Roots” edition, a true enduro route for riders ready for anything.
Ads on the social media, pictures of the previous editions and the 6th edition of the IWTF is on the move. I pull out my notes, maps and routes. Every IWTF must have a crucial point, a one-off that makes it special and different from the previous editions.
Faga, one of us, takes care of everything, registrations, payments, deal with the hotel, and, amazingly, arranges for an official departure of all the motorcycles from downtown Thiene (Vicenza, Italy).

THIENE GLAMOUR CARPET
And here we are today, January 14, 2018, ready to leave from the Area Moto Zanè.
Our spirit is up, jokes and laughter fill the air, most of us are known faces: 23 motorcycles, 20 racing bikes – mostly 2-stroke KTMs – 2 Honda XR and 1 DRZ.
One at the time, we leave from under the gazebo; diligently lined up behind me the group rides along the first rural dirt-roads warming up the engines, but certainly not practicing the muscles and head of enduro riders … the first canal will take care of that. More than 2 km of big slippery rocks that have been created only to unsaddle the reckless rider who ventures over them! It is the most fascinating leg of Urban Enduro, with its bridges, weirs, the two long tunnels to be crossed lying flat on the tank.
Thanks to the high level of the participants we cover the cross stage at a gallop and we promptly proceed towards the Red Carpet downtown. Everything goes smoothly here too: engines turned off, bike pushing, card punching at the gazebo, bikes lined up on the red carpet and covered, under the curious gaze of the first Saturday morning passersby. The council member was waiting for us, but we are surprised to see the mayor too; we exchange the usual pleasantries skirting the issue of the bikes being already dirty and adorned with cute tufts of scrub picked up in the creek!

THE GLOVES ARE OFF
We swiftly move through small towns North of Vicenza and we dive into another creek; even this one is always dry, the riverbed is a mixture of medium rocks and gravel and at the right floating speed the bike runs fast as if on a normal dirt-road; however, one must stay alert: a big rock, an illegally downloaded block of cement or a fallen tree on the riverbed could be lethal obstacles.
The creek flows into a river and the visual impact is spectacular: after kilometers in a narrow tunnel of gravel, steep grassy banks and sometimes wintry bare trees, the view opens into an immense desert of shingles. Here each one of us follows his own path, wading the river’s rivulets that hardly flow amongst the rocks, crossing rocky islands generated by forking waters, jumping over or climbing the drops created by the furious currents of floods.
To the participants’ joy, we finally see the end of the flatland, of canals and ditches, switching to a more natural ground for enduro: hills and mountains with their mule tracks and trails. The first kilometers in the woods are on soft ground, with a lot of mud and dirt, narrow muddy trails where traction is iffy and the times a foot saves from a disastrous skid and potential fall are countless. Unfortunately, the group scatters and we lose some time to reassemble. Some strategic shortcuts help us to arrive at the trattoria in Passo Zovo right on time for warm sandwiches, beer and a slice of torta della nonna (a type of Italian cake). It goes without saying that the group is as generous with the throttle as it is with beer!

THE ROLLING STONES
The sun, before setting behind the Piccole Dolomiti (small Dolomites), dimms behind some light clouds; in this delightfully freezing wintry atmosphere we start for the Rolling Stones; as the saying goes, downhill even stones roll, and even more so bikes. The first trail takes directly into the riverbed of a creek with black lava rocks nicely slimed by fresh spring water; zero traction, wheels slipping on every rock and lactic acid flowing inside biceps under strain.
From the valley floor we climb to the top on easy dirt-trails but soon it’s time for downhill again; we cross a big abandoned quarry, an enormous scar, a rotten cancer in the center of the valley; the landscape is unattractive, but it can only appeal to the adventurous and free spirit of an enduro rider.
We descend along a counter-sloping gravel slide, your typical way with no return; a few meters along the valley floor and we find risers which we must climb and after that the trail descends a rocky cliff with only a few inclined hairpins.
Slowly, with the engine off, sometimes on foot holding the bike, the whole group overcomes the challenge.

ENDURO IN THE DARK
It is almost dusk, and it is time to head for Posina, 2 valleys over, speeding on mule tracks and trails. Everything is going as smooth as oil … and then it happens! Where the trail we are riding on crosses the valley thalweg, it becomes a muddy, unstable path, hardly as wide as the tire. I don’t know how many motorcycles slip towards the creek with the front or rear tire in absolute darkness; every now and then light beams cut through the night and engines sputter to life and then die.
As we pass the peak to Valposina, on the north side, another surprise: a light blanket of snow covers the mule track as well as the ice over it, and the motorcycles gain acceleration running at breakneck speed. A balanced mix of ability and luck helps everybody to emerge through the danger unscathed, it’s done! But no! The last, easy, flat trail that should take us into town, is littered with fallen trees; we pull out the hacksaw but there really are a lot of trees and while we slave away to free a safe passage under the light of our headlamps, many take their chance working around the trees uphill or downhill: a Dantesque circle of motorcycles wandering like crazy in the woods, with steaming radiators and the smell of burnt clutches.  
But this really is the last effort: the outskirt of a town, a dirt-road, a big parade along the lakefront of Posina and we are at the lodging.
The dinner is fit for a wedding and includes a Bohemian award ceremony for the participants that goes on ‘till midnight all rah-rah-fun-fun, jokes and stories that would have made you drunk even without drinking the very good local wine.

EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNIG
It’s hard to get up after a day as intense as the first one of the IWTF, but duty calls, we still have another day of enduro to live! Every time we say that the Sunday stage of the tour will be easy, a straightforward route to home - and we really believe it! - but enduro is the reign of the unexpected, so something special always occurs … and this is how it should be, it is IWTF after all.
The first kilometers are easy and the group rides through woods, ghost contradas and fields abandoned for the winter, at a fast pace. A potentially heavy and muddy terrain held together by the freezing temperatures, that grants excellent traction and pure joy.
We climb the valley towards the Ossuary of Pasubio, the tower shrine that dominates the plans of Vicenza from the top of the Colle Bellavista; more than 5000 soldiers are buried in its crypt; in the near park, cannons and ammunitions pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Great War.
We are near the Ossuary when a snowdrift, about 2 meters high, blocks our way to the rifugio. The most determined try to pass over it with a running start on the snowy dirt-road; but the snow mound is almost vertical, to pass over it one needs to gain a lot of speed and as soon as the bike touches the knoll, cut the gas and climb by inertia.
It makes no sense to accelerate when you are climbing it, the snow gives away and the bike sinks into a vertical groove. Two or three brave and expert riders succeed but more and more holes and grooves where the bikes get inexorably stuck, scar the mound.
Meanwhile, the manager of the rifugio arrives to see what is happening … he takes our order for two snow shovels to be brought immediately and for a round of brulè (hot spiced wine) and hot chocolate for when we reach his placed!
These are the last fireworks of the IWTF 2018; after a glass of brulè we cover the last kilometers through the woods of upper Valleogra, until we reach the lodge of Rino, who is baking a 30-course round of pizza.
At the end, stuffed with pizza, torta della nonna and herb liqueurs, the time to break up arrives; those who have luggage and backup means at Area Moto, descend to Zanè, who is independent leaves the group along the road.
IWTF 2018 yet another success: to think that we didn’t want to do it!

Text: Alves
Photos: IWTF