Image credit:
Damianos Bran / pexels
Image credit:
Damianos Bran / pexels
Mountain sports/04/28/2023

Alternative Outdoor: How an MTB Race Breathes Fresh Life into Alpine Communities

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The Stone King Rally attracts adrenaline freaks to one of the best mountain bike terrains anywhere: on spectacular single trails in the Maritime Alps, the hunt for best times becomes a secondary matter. Because the stage race sees itself as a package for a sustainable cause.

At a Glance: The Stone King Rally

  • is the successor of the enduro classic Trans-Provence
  • takes place in 2023 from June 20 to 25
  • can be followed via app even outside the race
  • has its raison d'être primarily in the maintenance of the trails
  • is intended to bring sustainable ecotourism to communities along the route throughout the cycling season

They are the veins that supply remote regions in the Alps with life. They are narrow, winding, branching, and crisscross the mountains like a filigree mesh. They can lead cycling enthusiasts and those in need of recreation, nature and action fans into picturesque landscapes and sleepy little villages: the trails.

However, many of them are in critical condition. If they were actually blood vessels, the diagnosis might be calcification. After years of neglect, they are overgrown and littered with boulders. What's the point of caring for them? Some haven't worn hiking boots for ages and have never seen a mountain bike tire. Now, however, possibly the saving operation is approaching.

Some trails are being spruced up for the Stone King Rally. If those responsible for the mountain bike race have their way, the healing should last for a period of time that is significantly further in the future than the crossing of the finish line. According to their vision, the trails will soon be pumping fresh blood into small communities in France and Italy on a regular basis. They are intended to form the basis for sustainable ecotourism. But how do unassuming trails become real life-givers? And what is the Stone King Rally anyway?

The MTB enduro race evolved from the popular Trans-Provence, the first point-to-point mountain bike race of its kind. Over the course of several days and stages, riders traversed the French Maritime Alps on single trails. After ten editions, the classic came to an end in 2019. The Stone King Rally 2022 celebrated its premiere as the successor.

Stone King Rally: MTB Adventure Between France and Italy

100 starting places are available in 2023 for the already fully booked Transalp amateur race. From June 20 to 25, the field of participants will cross the border between France and Italy several times. From Arvieux in the Queyras Nature Park, the race first passes through the valleys of Piedmont and continues into the gorge-strewn wilderness of the Roya Valley in Provence. The destination is beyond the hills of Liguria on the Mediterranean Sea. Although the route changes from year to year, the challenge is to remain more or less the same. Last year, the participants had 262 kilometres in their exhausted legs over 24 stages in six days. In the process, they tortured themselves up around 8,000 sweaty meters and shot down an adrenaline-charged 20,300 meters.

And watching over almost all the action was Mount Viso. At 3,841 meters, the majestic peak rises and towers over everything in its vicinity by at least 500 meters. It is popularly known as "il re di pietra", the king of stone that towers above the source of the Po River. In good conditions, its peak is visible from the fashion capital of Milan. Rumor has it that the rock pyramid served as inspiration for the famous Paramount Pictures logo. For sure, however, it is the namesake for the Stone King Rally.

Pure Nature in the Kingdom of Monte Viso

Anyone who has an audience with the Stone King does not arrive in a noble limousine and fine threads, but in the saddle of an MTB, sweaty, dirty, exhausted. Instead of a magnificent hall, guests are welcomed on dusty serpentines. No houses, no power poles, no roads disturb the idyll. Only the rumbling of rolling tires mingles with the sounds of nature. Moments later, only a small cloud of dust bears witness to the passage of the mountain bikes.

Yes, there is timing at the Stone King Rally. Glory, honor and an exuberant champagne shower await the fastest. For those responsible, however, the racing character is not the core of the event. Rather, it is a means of attracting attention. A mouthpiece to send a message.

Bike Tourism: Sustainable Benefits for Communities

It's about a more fundamental problem than just sending people out once a year to ride adrenaline-pumping alpine trails, says Stone King initiator Ash Smith in the event's promotional video. "We need to open up the terrain, bring trails back to life and promote mutual benefits." According to the website, the rally's core raison d'être is to maintain the trails and improve the trail network. So far, that's been done on a volunteer basis and with the help of sponsors. Soon, maintenance, it is hoped in the Stone King camp, could become a matter for the authorities. With a double benefit: Adventure seekers, who will have a spruced-up natural playground, will benefit, as will the mountain communities, whose restaurants, bars and hotels are likely to see greater occupancy.

Already, the daredevils on their bikes are being welcomed with open arms in the villages along the Stone King route. "If we only came by once a year, it would be a little sad for these communities that have so much to offer," says Ash's partner and business partner, Melissa Munro. "If we give people the opportunity to visit these communities, even in high season and low numbers, that's ecotourism, right?"

Stone King Touring Club Facilitates Access to the Mountains

The Stone King Touring Club plays a central role in these considerations. Anyone who registers on this portal can follow the current year's route without feeling the pressure of a competition. Members receive support from a multimedia system. This not only helps with route guidance, but also allows bookings, from accommodations to shuttle services.

Whether with an official Stone King starting number on the handlebars or on your own, the unspoiled areas of the Alps immerse you in a peaceful and fascinating mountain world. "The valleys have a history that goes back thousands of years," Ash enthuses. "And the trails are there to be discovered." The Stone King creator sees opening and restoring great MTB trails and strengthening local economies as a model ecotourism example of an "alternative outdoor" approach. "Stone King is a way to package that idea," Ash says. Increased but equalized use is intended to turn trails into practical connections between mountain regions. To healthy bloodlines that could succeed in breathing fresh life into the valleys.

Advantages of Stone King Touring Club

The Stone King Touring Club is the portal for all those who want to experience the alpine cross adventure independently of the race and are looking for assistance in planning and execution. As a digital guide, the Komoot navigation app leads cycling enthusiasts through the Alps. Those who reach their limits on the regular route can use a number of shortcuts that are also displayed. In addition, the Touring Club facilitates the use of shuttle services from Cool Bus. This not only ensures arrival at the respective starting point, but also the transport of luggage from hotel to hotel. Accommodation and hotels can also be booked via the portal. As an alternative to planning on one's own, Stone King Touring Club offers the option of booking ready-made route packages.

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