The XTERRA European Tour gets back in action Sunday with race No. 7 at XTERRA Italy in the beautiful village of Scanno.
XTERRA European Tour technical director Nicolas Lebrun is on-site, still in awe of the natural beauty of this place, and brings us a preview to the weekend…
“For me, Scanno is always special,” writes Lebrun. “It was the first time I was at a race working for XTERRA, and here, it’s the best job on earth! I know the place well and influenced much of the course design. It’s my sixth time here and I’m still amazed by this lake and this village with its beautiful old streets, and even after all those years I’m still getting lost on these streets!
The food is amazing, lots of local treats, and every time you come here you must buy some olive oil, fresh tomato or basil, and the guy will tell you, “it’s from Abruzzo!”They love their land, and we can understand. I can also see that XTERRA is now part of their local life when July rolls around, as you can see pictures of XTERRA in the shop windows.”
Now everybody knows that you need to like steep climbing and steep descents when you come here. This stop on the Euro tour is maybe the hardest. France is long and muddy, Swiss and Belgium were even more muddy, and in Portugal you have a long bike course and lots of fighting on loose rocks. But here it’s steep, really steep, up and down. It’s about 1300-meters of climbing in 30k on the bike and 450m+ for 10.5k on the run. The total climbing for this race is the most on tour, and for good reason. When you are in the center of the beautiful park of Abruzzo, you look around and see only steep mountains, ski resorts and deep gorges, so there is no choice but to go up and then to come down! If you are lucky, like the people of the restaurant “la Baita” on Monday night they film a bear crossing their parking lot, a famous female, that you can recognize from some hair loss on her side.
I did the bike and run loop, and the local mountain bike team did a great job, it’s all perfectly signed, ready for the athletes to train. I insist a lot to get this course signed early, because I know, if I was here as an athlete, I don’t want to try all those loops the day before, even to go slow you need to use too much energy.
Now about the pro race. We will have again a big fight for the podium on the women side, with the top three for the last race in France – Lesley Paterson, Renata Bucher, and Helena Erbenova.
It’s hard to say who will be the best, but with this climbing, Lesley can be really strong, but I never saw her on technical downhills like this, and I know Renata can be good. Helena likes to climb and won here before, also this hard run loop fits her well, if she is not coming back from a five-day adventure race, she will be strong!
For the top five I will add Carina Wasle and our local girl Elisabetta Curridori, who was 3rd last year. Of course, in a perfect day, or a bad one from one of the three other girls, they get on the box.
Ladina Buss made big progress, but on this different race I can’t tell. I will be on the side and put some updates on the XTERRA Europe Facebook page, and I will be excited to see this battle. For the point, Helena will probably take the lead as Brigitta Poor (current No. 1) will be not at the start. Wasle can come back on 3rd as Morgane Riou will not start this one, and I’m sure Bucher will be back close to the podium to after this race. Regardless, there are still three races after this one so nothing is finished.
On the men’s side, the Ogre Ruben is not racing, and our Malta and Greece winner Roger Serrano is not here either, nor Kris Coddens the Belgium winner! So for sure we will have a new name on the 2016 tour in number one on the podium!
If we look back, last year François Carloni was second, he loves this race, so on the paper he can be the one, but in bad shape in France, he had to slow down with a little virus, hope he will be back to fight at his best.
After his victory in front of Josiah, I was sure Karl Shaw will be one of the strong guys in Europe, but also with a bad virus he had to stop training for weeks. He is starting to feel better, so let’s see if he is back 100%.
I also look forward to watching Mauricio Mendez from Mexico. This young kid is really good, if he survives this bike course, he will be one of the favorites for sure. Sam Osborne will race as well, he was not yet strong last year at ITU worlds, but maybe this is his type of race!
I’m also always happy to see this next generation, fighting, so motivated and getting stronger and stronger. I think about Max Chané, who I saw riding a big pass in the alpes last week, training specially for this race, Peter Lehmann always who start well in Malta, good also to see Arthur Forissier back after his big crash in Switzerland. So many can finish in the top 10 : Jim Thijs, Jan Kubicek, Jan Pyott, Llewellyn Holmes..
And a special mention for our locals, the Italians, who start to play in the front, like De Paoli who did an amazing race in Switzerland, Bartolli who will cook a vegan meal for us on Friday night, and I hope Simone Calamai brought me some of his famous cheese : )
It will be also interesting to see what the Bayliss couple – Stephen and Bella – can do on a mountain bike, they are brave because this is not the easiest race to start XTERRA, hope they will not get hurt!
We don’t know who will win, for the pro and the age groupers, but I know that every athlete who will crosses the finish line will be so happy and with some goosebumps, because the atmosphere, and to celebrate a great accomplishment, and the party after the race, it is at the perfect place, and if you are not with us, book it for next year!
Now I have to go, Dave’s beer is waiting for me, and a 100% local fresh Buffala mozzarella, artichoke, prosciutto… pizza, cook in the wood oven! Now, you will book your flight.