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Crafting MTB Trails In Italy

The hills surrounding Massa Marittima in south-western Tuscany are becoming a real hotspot for mountain biking. Every year, the ‘Trail Brothers’ bring together volunteers from all over the world to build new trails offering plenty of flow and fun under the Mediterranean sun.

Shovels, picks, rakes and chainsaws lying ready on the back of the pickup. Right from the start, it’s clear to the helpers that building mountain bike trails means hard graft. Nevertheless, there’s a long list of volunteers, who’ve all signed up to come and work for a week alongside the Trail Brothers.

Francesco Guidi, one of the group’s founding members is delighted, “Unfortunately, we actually have to turn people away and ask them come another time. You see, we can only take a maximum of twenty helpers over the two weeks.”

And how are the volunteers rewarded for their efforts? There’s the great feeling of being part of a motivated team and building the some of the best trails in Italy. Plus, board and lodging is at the legendary MTB hotel Massa Vecchia in Massa Marittima.

What’s more, volunteers are shown the high art of crafting beautiful trails by none other than Ernst Schurter, a founding member of the Trail Brothers, former national trainer of the Swiss downhill team and father of Olympic champion, world champion and world cup winner, Nino Schurter.

Two weeks of working hard in the wooded hills of Maremma and the results are clear for all to see. Eight kilometres of spanking new singletrack, including a new downhill stretch and an uphill flowtrail for e-mountainbikers on Monte Arsenti, a new flowtrail at Massa Marittima and Canyon II – a second trail built in the same style as the region’s best-known route, the Canyon Trail.

Photo credits: Francesco Guidi

Hundreds of mountain bike fans still come up to test themselves against Nino Schurter’s Strava time. The chances of bumping into the Olympic champion training here are pretty high. Team manager and mountain bike legend Thomas Frischknecht also has a holiday home in the area, as does his father Ernst.

Reflecting on the trail building, Ernesto Hutmacher, owner of the Massa Vecchia mountain bike hotel, a Trail Brothers founder member and driving force behind mountain bike tourism in the region, says, “Thirty years ago, I turned an old, tumble-down farm into the mountain bike hotel Massa Vecchia. Nowadays, my dream of making the Maremma one of the most important mountain bike destinations in the Mediterranean is shared by large numbers of people. The best evidence of this is the new trails that we are now opening together.”

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