Pila landed itself squarely on the map by hosting a round of UCI Downhill World Cup in 2007 and 2008. Sam Hill demolished the field in both events.

While the bike park that sits high above Aosta, just the Italian side of Europe’s tallest peak, is the perfect way to smash out the runs in its infamous dust, there’s more to the Aosta Valley that just the bike park. Pete followed Ben Jones and co. to find out where the gold lies.

The day started before dawn in Chamonix, long before anyone else was stirring in their beds. Time to load up the van and head over the Border into Italy.

 

We weren’t the only ones up at the crack of dawn. High on the mountain, you could just pick out the lights on the lift station through the darkness.

The first rays of dawn catch the taller peaks as we head towards Italia.

High above Martigny, the sun started to turn the sky burnt orange as we descended the Col de la Forclaz.

After partaking in some dawn croissant and espresso, while listening to the combined thunder of Scuderia and AMG head over the Grand St. Bernard, we set about hammering some bedrock to wake ourselves up.

Pausing for breath as the air thins and the legs and lungs seem to gain weight as they move through treacle.

 

This is what summer is all about. Dusty singletrack several kilometres above the sea, blue skies and massive mountains. Nash Masson making light work of a golden ribbon that would make its way down towards Aosta for well over an hour.

Beyond the 2500m mark the air really starts to thin, and this climb from where the van waved us goodbye would be done with heavy legs and burning lungs. What goes up must come down, and we’d done a lot of up already.

Leading from the front, Ben Jones tops out under an amazing sky that meets some seriously impressive mountains. Finding these gems takes a lot of homework, and Ben has studied hard to uncover the gold.

Despite tickling the three kilometre mark, there were still plenty of snow-capped peaks all around that made our excursion seem a little insignificant. This would all be forgotten once the ground tipped downwards.

Nothing beats feeling small in the company of giants. Very easy to loose riders in the enormity of this part of the Alps. Despite all the height we’d lose, this trail didn’t seem to want to end.

Ben taking the plunge about half way into the descent with the infamous Pila bike park off in the distance. This part of the world certainly has a wealth of riding regardless of what you’re looking for.

Almost there! Dust was something that was never lacking and the valley of Aosta is somewhat famous for it. Twenty minutes later we’d be at the base of the descent that started some hours before. A full run would see you a broken mess but some ridiculous quantity of ride time and vertical loss.

And…. Relax. Nothing beats a cool beverage under a hot sun to recount the wild moments, drifts, skids, near misses and all the other things that come with several hours of hammering buff singletrack.

Big thanks to Ben Jones MTB for showing us the gold. If you missed out on our previous story from this trip, you can check out Gold Rush and Hannibal’s Elephants here.

Ben offers trips in both France and Italy as well as Scotland, full details can be found here.


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