Trail building the ELECTRIC SNAKE for Val di Sole World Championships
Time to meet a Trail Builder
Time to meet a Trail Builder
The UCI MTB 2021 World Championships will be held in Val di Sole from 25 to 29 August. But how is a world cup track created? Who is a trail builder and how does one become one? We asked a real guru (Italian but internationally renowned): Pippo Marani. He uses THOKs E-Bikes to move around the slopes.
Anyone who lives in the world of MTB can’t have failed to hear of Pippo Marani at least once. A pioneer of Italian Down-Hill racing, leader of the “Randagi” (the Italian glories of the great DH of the 1990s, including THOK CEO Stefano Migliorini) and keeper of the history and stories of MTB from its earliest days.
Pippo Marani with Stefano Migliorini CEO of THOK E-Bikes – pedal friends since forever
Marani is famous for being one of the most capable and competent trail builders on the international scene. But who is a trail builder? What does he do and how does he become one?
The trail builder is the person who designs the trails, whether they are world cup trails or those that we all use to have fun on our bikes: bike parks, circuits, paths in wood and so on. Armed with a shovel, pickaxe, rake and chainsaw, he spends his days in the woods opening routes, studying trajectories and drawing lines.
Fundamental requirements to be valid trail builders are a great passion for nature and the world of fat wheels and, above all, being a user of this means of transport. This last aspect is fundamental for interpreting slopes, assessing the feasibility of an obstacle or a jump, creating a curve and knowing how high, for example, a bank should be.
Technicality is the key word.
With his white hair, the lean physique of a sportsman, and the friendliness and frankness typical of those born in Emilia Romagna in Center Italy, Pippo has experienced cycling in all its forms, starting out as a road racer 50 years ago.
In the 1980s he was one of the first to become interested in BMX, which had just arrived in Italy from the USA.
“The first Italian Championship race was at the Polisportiva Otello Buscherini. I was there, and there was also a young boy, a certain Stefano Migliorini, the winner of the competition. While we were waiting for him on the podium for the award ceremony he was taken away in an ambulance because after the race he had continued to ride his bike, jumping like a cricket, and had crashed! Both arms broken that time!“
Like many BMXers, Pippo’s transition to MTB was a natural step. This is how his story as a trail builder begins.
“The transition from biker to trail builder was a necessity for me. In 1991 we started riding DH races. I always liked going downhill, but in the first races that were organized here in Italy there were also climbs… and I didn’t understand why there had to be climbs in a downhill race! So, I started to track on my own. It was the era of pure pioneering and the birth of the Strays.“
TK01 R is the thoroughbred E-Enduro from THOK
Pippo created his first trail at Cimoncino (Fanano) and from that moment on he never stopped: he signed up for many national and international races, first and foremost the feared Black Snake in Val di Sole, which consecrated him as a “great among the greats”. Thanks to this course he came into contact with the strongest bikers in the world, who respected him and often asked his advice to interpret the course.
“I don’t take inspiration from anyone when I draw the trails. I use my creativity, I kind of ‘read’ the forest. Sometimes I talk to the riders to better understand their needs.”
The job of trail building is tiring, it takes many hours of work to create an important trail, whole days to spend in solitude and silence, immersed in nature, up and down the slopes.
In recent years, e-bikes have been added to the tools of the trail builder. Pippo has been using THOKs for several years now, thanks to his decades-long friendship with the young boy who was taken away with broken arms.
“Among other things, the THOK that I have allows me to move more easily and to try out the various zones that I create, especially the new ones”.
To go to work he uses a MIG HT. (https://www.thokbikes.com/thok-mig-ht-ebike)
He used to ride the MIG ST, then the MIG R. Now he uses the MIG 2.0 (https://www.thokbikes.com/thok-mig-20) to move easily through the woods. “With the SHIMANO E7000 and the 504Wh battery, it’s more than enough! ” he says.
Pippo also uses the TK01 R (https://www.thokbikes.com/thok-TK01-R), strictly without the telescopic seatpost (“I don’t need it, for me it’s a superfluous accessory, I want the saddle to be always at the same height, I’m from the OLD SCHOOL!“) to test the most technical points, obstacles and jumps.
THE 2021 E-BIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TRACK
Given his experience with electric bikes, he has been asked to lay out the e-bike trail for the World Championships to be held in Val di Sole from 25 to 29 August 2021.
“Two years ago I had already mapped out a short track for the e-bike race at the MTB World Championships. It was an experiment. The first real e-bike World Championship was then the following month in Canada, but on an XC course. In hindsight, my trail was a bit too short and theirs a bit too long. Now I’m working on a circuit, a loop of about 2km, so that the public can see the whole race. It will last one hour + one lap.“
Ps. He sends you his regards: “See you guys and stay cool! Yeah.”
“The course of my Electric Snake will be technical but fast and fluid, so that the participants are grouped together as much as possible. I’d like to have a sprint finish that makes a spectacle. There will be a nice climb that will technically make a difference, and a descent of course. The world of e-races is kind of new, everyone interprets it in their own way. I love trail building; I like natural routes and my greatest satisfaction is making people enjoy themselves. It’s fundamental to enhance the athletic gesture of the electric bike rider as well; e-bikes are not motorbikes; they have to be pedalled.“
“Some people will like it, others less (hopefully few!), but whatever the outcome is fine to me. Let’s experiment, so that this new discipline can also grow.“
Talking to Pippo is like talking to the history of MTB, an experience that everyone should have once in their life. We are proud to have him on board as a THOKer.