Stage 1: Trail to Kulmakuru 70km
Startloop to the fells
The first stage starts with a nice 2-km climb up to the fell Kaunispää on the northern side of the village. The road up to the fell is partly gravel road and also tarmac for a little while.
From the top of the fell the trail comes to the first single-track section which is a fast and bumby descent. Sooner than you notice it is time for the next uphill, this time up to the fell Urupää. Again, the way up is on a gravel road and the way down is on a curvy sinlge-track.
After the down-hill the trail turns back towards the village. It goes next to the fell Kaunispää, to the gasoil station. Here the trail goes to a tunnel under the main road and heads towards the wilderness.
Into the wilderness
After the tunnel the trail heads to the first longer single-track section. In the relatively flat pine tree forest the trail heads towards the fell Kuusipää. Soon, the single-track becomes a douple-track and turns towards north. Soon the terrain becomes softer and wetter, and for some kilometers the pedalling becomes heavier. Even if it might feel like it, your tires are not flat. 🙂 Luckily the sceneries on the open fell areas are worth the effort. Remember not to use too much of your energy on this section, there is still a long way to go!
On the top of the fell the trail makes a short round and heads back towards the forests. On the slope of the fell Kuusipää the we use a track familiar from the traditional Saariselkä MTB Marathon until the trail comes to the gravel road of Riekkovaara.
The fast gravel road lasts for some kilometers before it turns left and descents to the bank of the river Tolosjoki. In the steep down-hill there are some loose stones, so be careful with your speed!
Across the river into a tough climb
On average summer there is 30-40cm water in the river Tolosjoki, and it is easy to wade throught the river. Note that it is absolutely forbidden to try to ride through the river!
Almost immediately after the river the trail starts a long and partly steep climb towards Kulmakuru (canyon with a corner shape). The next following 10km will be only single-tracks! Every here and there the climb becomes so steep that you´ll have to make a good effort so that you don´t have to walk. Even if it might feel like the climb is never going to end, don´t give up – it will end. In case you´ll have to walk, remember to have a look at the sceneries behind your back! The views to the river canyon are spectacular!
The riders will be rewarded after the long climb. The deep and rugged canyon Kulmakuru is situated right next to the trail and the sceneries to all directions are amazing. From the canyon the trail continues as a long, curvy, and bumby single-track down-hill all the way to the hut in Harrioja.
Into the pine tree forests
From Harrioja the trail moves on to a gravel road. How nice and slidy can a gravel road feel like after tens of kilometers on single-tracks? The gravel roads curve in the open forests lands until you will reach the tarmac road to Kuttura.
The river Tolosjoki will be crossed for the second time along the bridge on the road to Kuttura. After a short while on the tarmac the trail turns away from the road to the south. The main road will be crossed in Kakslauttanen.
After the main road the trail continues on a douple-track towards the fell center of Kiilopää. The entire 4km to Kiilopää goes slightly uphill.
From Kiilopää the trail turns back towards Saariselkä. Directly after the fell center starts theclimb to fell Ahopää. Eventhough the climb is not very long, at this point of the stage it might already fell like a long climb. From the top of the fell statrs a long, fast, and partly technical descent. Be careful here if the terrain is wet!
After the descent the trail turns to a single-track called Ruijanpolku. It is an old trade route from Finnish Lapland to the Arctic Ocean. A 30km section of the path is marked between the villages of Vuotso and Laanila. The trail is a narrow and curvy little single-track.
In Laanila, the trail returns to a broad gravel road. The distance to the finnish line is only four kilometers and all the big climbs are behind you! Now it it time for the final sprint!