This year’s Deus Swank Rally proved the saying "you can see how things will end by the way that they begin” is true!
The meeting point was at the Ciglione della Malpensa, the historic cross-country facility & theatre of the most beautiful studded-tyre challenges of the last 40 years. We had 160 participants ready to test themselves on the awe-inspiring ups and downs that many have only seen when making their way to the airport.
There were modern Enduros, regularity bikes, glorious maxienduros of the 80s / 90s that bring to mind African rallies, and super-technological twin cylinders that nowadays are easily ridden even off-road. The female contingent was well represented too; with ladies who really knew how to handle a bike, along with the guys from the Deus Cafe who had been grilling hamburgers and pulling beers since the AM. The weather was dead and the ingredients for a great Rally were there too!
The Rally is split between three categories at the start; Competitive- divided into bikes built pre and post 2000 & the Non-Competitive- whose riders don’t need to think about the time trials and have extra clean goggles for enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way.
The night before kickoff it rained, making the ground muddy, which made everything more complicated, but also more spectacular! The prologue consisted of a timed lap of the track which then sets the starting order for day one and just witnessing these laps brought some great sights: bikes stuck in the mud and endless skids to name a few - but at the end of the first day everyone shared a smile, fueling their gums with beers and ears with the AppleJacks DJ accompanying the evening.
Day two is where things get serious. There’s 250km separating Malpensa and the ferry embarkation point in Genoa. In the middle, a 12km timed special stage, valid for the competitive classification. We crossed the area that took us to the Ligurian Apennines, along the banks of the Ticino and the Po, passing through the rice fields of the Po valley, containing mostly stretches of fast and flat dirt roads - a dream for those who drive maxi enduro and twins.
From the crossing of the Marcarolo Huts Natural Park, to the view of the ocean from mountains sweeping behind Genoa. We reached a winding and steep track that it stumped many a rider. Once on the ship it is back to the party, so much so that as the ship has set sail the beers went with it.
The following day the sun rose over the Sardinian coast. For those of you who haven’t ridden in Sardinia, the terrain is a blast: stones, sand, gravel and firebreaks are just some of the tracks our bikes encountered. The day’s special was a 28km ride across a truly atmospheric landscape through the forest of Burgos; where we passed between centuries-old olive trees and firebreaks with the route alternating between fast and steep mule tracks.
We arrived in Arborea at sunset with an update to the rankings: Bottu (Alessandro Botturi) in front followed by our rider Ottavio Missoni who was first in the vintage category. The nice thing about the Deus Swank Rally is that it’s open to everyone; among the participants Dakarian professionals like Botturi and Picco, world champions like Alex Salvini, amateur riders and rally newcomers.
The third day of the Swank Rally included a loop that begins and ends in Arborea. This time a shorter track, "only" 220km, so participants could enjoy the swimming pool and beach at the end. The scenery was splendid: with roads running beside the dunes of Piscinas and the beaches of Buggerru and Bosa, as well as the area of the abandoned mines, with its ghost villages.
The final day was the longest (and dustiest) of them all. A 330km trip that took us to the port of Porto Torres, passing through the city of Alghero. This day the special stage is totally on sand, it looked like a real rally in the dunes, with mounds of grass that recall the “herbe à chameaux”, both a torture and a delight for those who have had the opportunity of racing bikes in the desert. The sand exposed the weak points of many participants; within those 7km’s we met people who’d stopped to rest and others who’d gone back and forth without understanding what direction they were going!
The route continued on a beautiful panoramic coastal road to arrive at the city of Alghero where participants arrived just in time for lunch, the perfect time to enjoy a fish-based feast, in pure Swank style, unthinkable in any other competitive rally.
Once again, though I never had any doubts, our participants tackled the event with the right spirit, that "Swank Rally" spirit in which the passion for the sport, friendship, fun and the desire to give it their all doing something they love, takes center stage over the rankings or sporting results. And that’s why we are sure to see many of the participants who raced alongside us this year, at next year’s Swank.
Words: Ottavio Missoni
Video by @bearoll