Rome has seven hills. And that’s pretty much about it when it comes to relating this beautiful, eternal (but also excruciatingly chaotic) city to our much loved sport of downhill mountain biking. But last september, in a picture perfect sunday, the unthinkable happened, and Rome, after gladiator fights, barbarian invasions and other assorted absurdities, was stage for its first ever downtown downhill race, Roma DH.
Organized in pinch, as part of a major event to promote the use of bikes in the city (since there is almost 1 car per inhabitant, with close to 4 million people living here…), Roma DH was hosted by one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, Piazza del Popolo, which acted as a finish area as the course made its way down a short, winding road from famous, panoramic viewpoint known as “Pincio”.
In the weeks leading to the event nobody seemed to grasp where the hell could a downhill course be found in such a urban setting with minimal vertical. Come the morning of the race, and nobody could believe its eyes.
In just a few hours before sunrise (romans are not keen to see their streets closed to traffic, not even on a sunday morning) we unloaded an undisclosed number of hay bales, wooden jumps, and laid a few miles of tape, to produce a zippy, approximately one minute long course, with staircases, tarmac straights and corners, plus a few dusty and drifty bits. Great, especially when all this was graced by the wheels of the recent rainbow jersey winners, namely Sabrina Jonnier and Floriane Pugin, fresh off Fort William and Maribor, plus a slew of Italy’s best talents, with italian champs Alan Beggin and Elisa Canepa, and then Carlo Gambriasio, Lorenzo Suding and local hero Paolo Viola.
Gambirasio and Jonnier won, but that’s not the main point, because this event was downright crazy from start to finish: getting the city council to concede us the use of four electric buses to act as shuttles for the riders, to explain to wide eyed judges and timing guys, used only to road races and the odd XC thing, what was happening smack dab in the centre of Rome. It’s hard to describe what it meant for us, seeing the sport we love and live for (and by) happening in the heart of the very city we were born and were we still leave. So far from its usual setting, but so close to our hearts. But words cannot describe it as well as pictures (by Duilio Polidori) and video (by rockinthemiddle.com, so here it is: enjoy Roma DH 2007, and hope to see you all next year.
The Roma DH Team (Alessandro Ceci, Simon Cittati, Tiziano Mammana)