You Get What You Give – ITBW Thessaloniki
© Moritz Ablinger (for all pictures used in this blog post)
International Trail Building Week 2019 in Thessaloniki
In April 2019, a team of international MTB enthusiasts got amongst the local MTB scene in Greece to build trails for a week in the beautiful Aegean. The destination of choice by the Aegean Trails team was Thessaloniki: it is the second biggest city in Greece and hosts a very proactive and supportive mtb community and the outskirts of the city offer a great foundation of trails which can be expanded into an attractive trail network. Both of which are essential to the success of the Aegean Trail Building Project.
With local support from George Nanos, Tasos Efraimidis and Danis Karamichalidis from Outline Adventures, the trail building team were able to rely on motivated locals for guidance and support. It took almost a year of planning before the trail building week was able to take place with the support of the Tourism Association of Central Macedonia at the beginning of April 2019.
Our trail building crew 2019 – A colorful mixture
As in the years before, the team on site came from all corners of the world: Maarten from the Netherlands, Andreas from Luxembourg, Orgest from Albania, Moritz from Austria, Stephanie from Canada and the German support crew consisting of Felix, Christian, Stefan, Bernd, Marcus, David and Maria. There is one thing that they all have in common, and that is their absolute love for biking and nature.
The team was complete with the support of Andrea form the Bike Agentur, supporting the project wholeheartedly since early 2017, Lars from Islandhopping, and Marco, the inexhaustible Trail Brother from Italy, who has poured an incredible amount of knowledge and skill into the project year after year and finds himself falling a little more in love with Greece each time.
Creation of the Tulumba Trail – Overcoming Obstacles
Eager as always and highly motivated the international crew together with bunch of Greek mountain bikers gathered at Seich Sou for the start of the project. Bikers have frequented the vast forested area above Thessaloniki for years. The slogan of the week was once again, “Build & Bike – meet the locals”.
However, not all of the locals were as enthusiastic as the rest. A spontaneous decision from the local forestry commission revoked the building permits that had been granted, pulling the handbrake on the project for the first day. To make the most out of being at the Seich Sou, the team got on their bikes and did what they do best – shredded the local trails. Some diplomatic talks later and the permits were granted once more allowing the team to be productive and, in the end, construction was under way.
The new Tulumba-Trail proved to be a true favorite amongst the group. A technical trail with excellent berms, tight turns, and small jumps winding down from the Seich Sou to the outskirts of Town. Picture perfect views over the Aegean and in the background the towering Mt. Olympus with its snowcapped summit. True bliss.
Tulumba is a Greek dessert with which a number of the crew fell madly in love with over the course of the week. So much so, that they thought it only fair to name the sweetest trail after it. You could almost say that Harris Papanikolaou, our local guide at Velvedos, was in fact the greatest influencer in this decision. After taking the team for an incredible ride on Mt. Velvedos, one of the hot-spot-destinations of Outline Adventures tours, he offered the team some Tulumba deserts along the way, and so the addiction began.
Difficulties do not predict the end, but are often the beginning of something great
The observation of the week was that difficulties do not predict the end, but can be the beginning of something great. In the case of our conflict between the forestry commission and the bikers, the two parties were brought closer together which in turn led to a deeper understanding of their individual interests and had formed the basis for a more coordinated cooperation in the future. The fact that the trail builders crew consisted exclusively of volunteers has set a real sign. The interest of the local tourism board and political figures in the project and our presence during the week are also positive symbols for the future of the project and bike sports in Thessaloniki.
The most important thing for us however is the fact that Thessaloniki has great potential to develop into a go to destination for bikers. Its proportions provide the opportunity to combine a cultural city experience with a great spot of biking. Riders can find a trail to stretch their legs on within close proximity of the town as well as in the surrounding areas: be it on the Chakidiki Peninsula, where a trail park with 25km of shaped trails is planned to appear within the next few years and last but not least, the slopes of the mighty Mt. Olympus.
A BIG THANKS TO OUR SUPPORTERS
A week of trail building such as this would not be possible without the incredible support of numerous companies, and private supports.
Therefore, we wish to thank all of you who took part in supporting the Aegean Trail Building Week Part III:
- Outline Adventures and the Tourism Association of Central Macedonia for the great cooperation in the planning and execution of the ITBW
- The Hellenic Mountain Bicycling Association for their support in the acquisition of permits and logistical support
- The Bike Agentur for the continued dedication to the project and the voluntary support with connections and public relations within the German MTB
- Islandhopping for financing the Aegean Trails online portal and continued logistical support
- The Trail Brothers for passing on their knowledge and expertise in building trails
- Paul Lange and Pearl Izumi for sponsoring a t-shirt collection unique to our project, great multi-function gloves for building and biking as well as a Pulaski Axe which was seldom put down
- EVOC for an excellent trail building back pack, tailgate protection pad, gloves and t-shirts
- Bike Aid and Shimano Switzerland (Fuchs-Moveso AG) for their continued financial support
- Velosolutions for five great trail building tools
- Qloom, Evoc, Deuter, Maloja, Schwalbe and Smith for supporting the Aegean Trails Christmas lottery
- Our media team, Moritz Ablinger and David Karg for incredible photo and film material
- Our families, friends, acquaintances and all the other generous people who have supported the project via our GoFundMe campaign
We look forward to further trail building sessions in Greece!