Words by Kona Italian Ambassador Simone Medici. Photos by Italian Kona Ambassador Alex Luise.

“The national championship is the most important race of the year for me and this year was hosted and organized by our team Kona Bike Center Cimone in the beautiful Sestola. When Alex told me he would have come to follow me all weekend and to document the race with his photos, I got even more excited! The first day of practice went smooth on a very dusty and loose track. I felt good and my Operator 29” was very fast. Quali day started differently from the day before after some heavy rains overnight, and the track became so muddy and slippery. I left for my qualification run pretty relaxed and convinced of my possibilities. I was riding clean until I hit a root with my front wheel and I got stuck in the middle of a steep corner. I finished my run in 15th position but I knew the pace was good, we just had to put it all together. At the end of the day, another storm hit the city, and the nerves and mental strength of the riders got tested even more. On race day, since the first hours in the morning, the tension got very high, as my whole family had come to see me and I wanted to prove at all costs that I could fight for the national jersey.

The national championship is a race that only happens once a year. Everyone gives 100% and many riders play it all for everything. It’s very difficult to keep your nerves and stay focused for so long. t’s so tiring. I think that Alex’s photos really show all the emotions that an athlete feels before such an important race. I was happy to have him by my side to support me.

I went up for my race run and after the warm-up followed by my team manager Matteo. I started for my run. I tried to ride clean on the track that was still slippery, the cheering in the woods was absurd, almost like at a World Cup. It’s always super cool to ride your bike among all those people who support you. I came down conquering the Hot Seat with a lower time than the qualifying winner but I knew there were still so many big names missing. The more time passed, the more I began to think it would be enough to climb the top step, but it wasn’t. In the end, I finished my Italian championship in 4th position, with very tight times, among riders who are constantly in the World Cup circuit. Finally, the tension is gone, I know it’s not the result a rider wants to satisfy, but I’m happy with my run, I gave 100% and this is the most important thing. I would like to thank Alex Luise, all my team for the hard job and Kona Bikes for the support they give me to keep following my dreams! 

It’s time to let the photos speak now, it’s really a photo epic and Alex is a master at telling stories through the camera.
Cheers everyone, see you on the trails!”