XTERRA managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is in Cieza for the XTERRA Spain Championship on Sunday which kicks off the 2013 XTERRA European Tour. Here he brings us an update on the pre-race happenings.
The weather on Friday was perfect; partly sunny, light winds and temps in the mid-70's.
For racers, there are lots of great things to enjoy, highlighted by the food and the most fantastic countryside. This morning on the way to the swim start I had to stop and take a photo - 100 acres or so of grape vines just green and sprouting young grapes, right next to another 100 acres of long leafed Peach trees that had solid fruit just now beginning to turn colors and across the street another 100 acres of silvery olive trees, mountains in the backdrop, and small rural road running by. You get the picture (pun intended); just beautiful. Driving around is simply eye popping.
The restaurants here are small and family owned and it is a pleasure to walk around and make a pick. None are super hip gourmet buerre blanc with capers caramelized onion style restaurants. You have your choice of great seafood or tapas. Every place always has pasta and soups including the regional potato and bean soup which is to die for. Certain places will have Paella and having had that dish in Barcelona on the ocean - the high priced places pale in comparison to one of these small, mom & pop restaurants. The local red wine is fabulous and makes it silly to order a vintage which is twice as expensive and probably no better or not as good. In this area the Spanish serve their beer super icy cold and the brands of Estrella and Mahou are tasty and cheap. I have to say I am very impressed with Cieza, Murcia.... pronounced Thee-eh-the and murr- thee-ah.
There was a great press conference this evening in the auditorium at town hall. There are over 20 male and about a dozen female pros here and the majority were at the conference. The big unknown is the return of Ruben Ruzafa, the XTERRA World Champion from 2008. Ruben has concentrated on world cup mountain biking the past years and now has clearance from his team to return to XTERRA. The mayor had some nice words to say to the crowd of about 100 people and some good questions of the athletes on stage - Nico Lebrun, Ben Allen, Ruben Ruzafa, Raja (Roger) Serrano the local pro, Renata Bucher, Bubu Lorblanchet, and Jacqui Slack.
From my limited Spanish what I can tell you is Cieza and the area are thrilled with the entry of nearly 400 athletes and the impact on hotels and restaurants has been duly noted. Organizer Eduardo Smuts and his team of Pepe and Diego and Catalina deserve the highest marks for the hard work and dedication to make this happen.
As for the course, the bike checks in on the non-technical side, and is very fast with the majority of it on farm dual tracks. It does have enough climbing to make it a solid challenge, but the 35K should go fast. The run on the other hand is tough with lots of hills and some very fast downhills where a slip or missed step could cause a nice tumble. There are great views from both the bike and the run.
The main event is Sunday but festivities start up tomorrow with more Paella and cold beer and tasty red wine at the briefing. Hey, long-time XTERRA age grouper Andy Duenow and his family made it here all the way from Alaska and are loving it. Where are you?