If you’ve read through any number of the 615 posts on this site, you’ll know that I have copious things to be ashamed of: Ignoring my own advice, wearing glasses in a full face helmet, being unable to get back to my svelte 75kg race weight ever again, turning up to EWS rounds insanely unprepared and using 500 words to describe a single corner. Well, now I can add to that list:
I went to Molini to ride and only spent 1 day there.
To elaborate on my shame, buckle up for a flashback to before EWS Finale, when finishing touches were being put on the Mother of all build ups.
With the Finale trails all officially closed prior to EWS hostilities commencing, Coach Karim decided that it was time to head to his favourite testing ground in Molini to take to our new found skills and capabilities with a blow torch and a pair of French pliers.
I was more than ecstatic at this prospect given Molini had been on my list for quite some time. I had even tried to have a crack at it in 2015, but it was solidly booked out shuttle wise for the entire summer. Holy fuck, that meant it was either insanely popular and/or there was low capacity. I was keen to find out what was going down.
Dirty tip – As it turns out, there are two Molini’s, both in relatively close proximity of one another, but they may as well be at opposite ends of Italy. This is a relatively crucial piece of information if you’re the cunt on Google map navigation detail and you actually swear that “Fuck cunt, of course I’ve got the right place plugged in…” The Molini you’re looking for is: Molini di Triora.
The good news was that the Molini we wanted was only 46km’s away from the Molini that we didn’t want… With the slight catch of that 46km’s taking 1.5 hours on a road that you’d both love and hate to ride a road bike on… It had a slight Blair Witch/squeal like an Italian Pig vibe to it:
Normally an epic navigational fuck up like this would be ok, but I was rolling with the Swiss Missile and if there’s one thing that they hate more than you fingering their fondue, talking about Nazi Gold, making their trains late or letting a Toblerone melt, then its navigational errors.
When you finally do arrive at the correct Molini, you’ll find a quiet little village that feels a bit like the place that time forgot. Its a crazy contrast to how Shuttle frenzied Finale now is, with many people agreeing Molini has the vibe of a throw back in comparison. It has the feeling this is how it’s been for the past 50 years and how it will remain for the next 50 as well…
The first thing about Molini is Witches… Yes, the broomstick variety, apparently this is where they used to hang out and you know, occasionally get burned at the stake. My forearms already had the feeling that they were going to end up on fire themselves at some stage during the day.
Given our tardy arrival thanks to that most classic of Google mix ups, Coach Karim was keen to get our rambling circus on the road and more importantly, onto the trail goodness of Molini. The first shuttle run up reinforcing the vibe that this place was more of a ghost town compared to Finale:
Its also didn’t take long to work out that there was serious singletrack gold to be found in them there hills and even though it was warm up run time, the stoke factor was high…
Allegedly the trail we were using as a warm up and coaching test bed was known as ‘Fantasy’, which made total sense as it was the kind of trail which would usually have you waking up moist if you dreamt about it. An average -20% drop, not a lot of pedalling and more than enough to keep you on your game as it threaded it’s way down the hill.
Noting of course that the screen grabs don’t do this trail any justice at all, I’ll have to attempt to make up for it when I get into the shrediting room to slice together far too much terrible non-gimbal Go PRO footage, but in the mean time, try to picture how golden it is ripping down stuff like this with your new found ENDURO powers:
Admittedly I know fuck all about the trails in Molini and was simply following my front wheel, mainly as Coach Karim had vaporised up the trail, but I’m guessing the one we were on was pretty much a main stay of the hill. It wound it’s way down intersecting with the road in various places, not unlike some of the Finale runs. This was super handy as it gave CK a chance to hang out and be nonchalantly French whilst wondering if we had got lost on a singletrack trail that didn’t have any turn offs.
Ok, so early days, but rad trails, quiet as fuck and totally excellent scenery to go “awwwwww” at, I was starting to see why people get all giggly and blush when you talk about riding in Molini. Clear out some space on your dumb Phone, you’ll want to start filling it up with pics of old shit cropped by nice trees that doesn’t make as much sense on Instagram as you’d hoped for…
But enough with the vista wanking FFS, its Italy man, of course it looks awesome pretty much everywhere you look, especially when you’re in the hills that sort of overlook the Med. There was no time to waste however, it was time to push on and continue our ENDUROcation to see if we could move up a year or if we’d be held back to continue dribbling on ourselves. Lesson 1, ENDURO line is not the main line…
That’s right, we weren’t just here to relax and eat cheese, this was ENDURO boot camp in action and the Drill Sergeant realised he had a lot of work still to do to prepare us for the upcoming battle, lest we get mowed down the instant we step off the chopper. The woods were alive with the sound of French instructions:
My favourite of these situations was the “Watch what I do (it will look awesome), then you do it (and it will look totally shit by comparison)” scenario. This usually meant watching in awe at what unfolded before us as we clung tightly to trees like anxious monkeys and CK unleashed top 20 EWS form before us:
Invariably trying to recreate the above situation and form resulted in much embarrassment, some head shaking and a lot of hand movements in French. In my head I looked PRO, in reality significantly less so. After a couple of runs of this delightfully swooping trail, Coach Karim decided it was time to take things up a level, and as we headed up to 1,200m, it was obvious he wasn’t just talking semantics.
We were about to be introduced to ‘Agrifolio‘ At 5.3km’s long it drops about 750m in that time, or put another way – Its a big boy’s trail… Something Karim drilled into us before we dropped in. We nodded like children and blindly followed, equally eager and apprehensive about what was waiting for us.
This beast of a trail felt totally different from the first runs we had done, back into some pines and it was even reminding me of some of the trails around Welly, just a lot steeper and longer. It wasn’t just smooth pine needle surfing though, there was plenty of Gnar waiting to ambush you if you thought it was just a stroll down the ridge…
It didn’t take long to realise this thing was a serious banger – Rammed full of variety of terrain as well as views, it was pretty clear there was a good reason why this trail was chosen for product and bike testing, it was unrelenting and demanding absolute concentration and commitment:
We were getting to the real heart of why people who have been lucky enough to come here froth about Molini, this thing was a beast! Probably not a trail you’d want to head down solo late in the afternoon either to be fair, but as far as prep for an EWS round goes, this was totally on point.
Fuck it was rowdy… Coming off a 7 hour day, hitting a trail like this wasn’t exactly an easy proposition. I did think that if you got to ride down here a couple of times a week then your progression would be off the charts. I like to wank on about needing the right terrain to advance your riding to the next level, well, Molini had a whole shitload of such terrain, matched by the epic views.
What was coming up next was so gnarly I decided to shut my eyes and ignore my new helmet and goggle combo looked alarming like a gimp mask when you look closely at it. Alarming:
Its not like Finale is busy as such, sure, there are a lot more shuttles operating and you definitely see and hear more riders on the average day there, but Molini is completely different. You actually feel alone and isolated here, but in a good way. Private shuttling helps with that obviously, but should you be lucky enough to get off the usual path and end up in Molini, then you’ll hopefully appreciate what I’m talking about as you soak in the scenery. It feels more special and a whole lot less commercial.
But don’t let all this nature loving and vista gazing lull you into a false sense of security, place is still as rad as fuck, and on a trail that’s about 1km longer than the longest race stage we faced in Finale, you had to stay on your motherfucking game around these parts, even when you were feeling a little flogged by it.
We ended up hitting this trail twice, with a desperately needed lunch at the local Hotel required in between. Second time down and I was an absolute fucking shambles to be honest, my hands not wanting to play ball and my brain refusing to navigate switchbacks. I’m not sure here if Coach Karim is pointing in the direction he wants me to go, bracing for hairy impact or dabbing me out?
It wasn’t long after the second time down this beast that I had a tangled hairpin tantrum, partly brought on by sheer fatigue and partly by utterly cunting up a series of switchbacks… The sheer burn of a melt down in front of the French Teacher doing nothing for my stoke factor… Until we got to the lower section for one final run.
The lower section consisted of a natural berm trench that not only went on for longer than stage 4 in Finale, but was faster, rougher and at times tighter. This isn’t something you ride every day, and to get the most out of it you had to really fucking nail it. The first time down it, I didn’t really know how to ride it, so it just ended up pinging me around like a sex ball…
But with Coach Karim behind me yelling at me to be DYNAMIC! And to move my shoulders, I suddenly clicked into some sort of enforced Jedi zen shredding state as we tore down the canyon. I forced my shoulder left, right, left in a way that felt sort of amazing, but also like I was again having an out of body experience… The bike flew from side to side, blasting through the natural berms and before I knew it Karim was screaming “YES! You are SAM HILL!!! YES!!“, but in a really cool French accent as he was genuinely stoked that we were pinning it.
We blasted through the final section of trail at what genuinely felt like well above my normal race pace, flirting with absolute trip ending disaster on a number of occasions as I just let it hang out and pinned this Molini motherfucker down.
By the time I dropped out onto the road at the bottom insane stoke factor was competing head to head with utter fatigue… Karim summed it up best when he looked at me and said “Now, I think it is over Oui?” Le Fucken Oath it was, I had about enough left for a Swiss Fist and then I was done.
So, I went to Molini and only managed 5 runs and one day… That’s like going to a partner swapping sex party and only having half a lemonade, one chip and then shaking hands with the party host, which happens to be Emma Stone. In other words: Fuck yes, I have to go back for MORE.
Bring on Euro 2017, might I recommend allocating some days to Molini and booking well ahead as word has it that Freeride Molini book out pretty quickly. As a tune up pre EWS, this place would be hard to beat, but more than that its just another amazing place in Europe to come and indulge in mind blowing riding. A certified Dirty EuroBanger.