The second of eight races in the XTERRA European Tour takes place Saturday with the inaugural XTERRA Greece at Lake Plastira. XTERRA’s managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is on-site for the event and brings us this preview…
Lake Plastira is not Athens nor is it an island in the sea. It is mountains, fresh water lakes, tall trees, flowers, small wonderful villages and crisp clean air. To get here is an easy 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Athens mostly on fast limited access highways. The location is most known and very popular for winter sports so there are dozens of small hotels and restaurants in several villages spread throughout the area. To say it is scenic is an understatement.
This is a first time race and everything is shaping up well. Kostas Koumargialis limited the entry to 300 and is sold out. Other organizers told him he would be happy to have 150 entries and as of now, XTERRA Greece is the biggest first-time triathlon in Greek Federation history.
The lake is huge. It is the highest lake in Greece at 850m. In World War II the area that is now the lake was a landing strip for Warbirds. Greek General and later Prime Minister Plastira ran the show and had the futuristic thought that he could create a great reservoir and recreation place by building a dam. He did, the lake was named for him, and has become a grand vacation spot.
This is not an urban setting. The village is only a few hundred meters away but the race venue starts with a short run to transition in a big, grass field. The bike is two laps of 15K. Not too technical but it has lots of climbing and quick downhills. The one who can ride the fastest without going over the limit will be at the sharp end of the field. The trails run through forest and farms and riders will pass ancient watering places fed from mountain springs as well as true Greek shepherds and their flocks. I did not get out on the run today as the daily 5:30pm thunderstorm came through and soaked us all. I hear it is fast, fun and scenic.
The pro entry is strong. With Ruben Ruzafa winning two weeks ago in Spain but not here, the leaders are Ben Allen, Asa Shaw and Nico Lebrun. As is not uncommon, there are strikes in France that are holding up flights. Shaw waited all day before he could leave and Lebrun will not be in until late tonight.
Alexander Haas is over his illness and fellow German Felix Schumann are making their first race of the season along with Yeray Luxum from Belgium. French first year pro and age group world champion Marvin Gruget will make his debut here to compete against regulars Jim Thijs, Francois Carloni, Tim vanDaele and Cedric Lassonde.
The women’s fight will be similar to Spain with Renata Bucher, unbeatable in her last four races facing off against 2012 women’s Euro Tour Champ Helena Erbenova, Jacqui Slack, Carina Wasle, Kathrin Muller, Brigitta Poor, and Greek Olympian Deniz Demaki. South African Champion Carla Van Huyssteen is listed but I have not seen her as yet. Hoping she is healthy and ready to race.
The 5:30pm storm has passed as predicted and now at 7:00pm the sun is shining and the roads are dry as if it never rained. The forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy, mid 70’s with lots of passing and racing : )