Stop No. 7 on the XTERRA European Tour takes us to the “photographer’s town” of Scanno in the Abruzzo region of central Italy for the Italian Championship on Saturday.
XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas is on-site to take in all the charm and beauty of the race, and the festivities, and brings us this pre-race insight…
Back to the mountain village of Scanno for the 2nd year of XTERRA Italy Abruzzo. This is such a unique place. An ancient village with many buildings still original from the late 1500's and 1600's. The city is built into the side of a stone mountain and most all of them are together - like townhouses. Small, and I mean 4' wide, alleyways lead between ancient stone walls to the next street. There is almost nothing flat in Scanno - you are either walking up the road or down the road.
It has been called the "photographers town" and over the years dozens of famous shooters have come to catch the essence of Scanno. As example, the new piazza was built in the 1600's, and there is still the old piazza. You have to see it.
The field has almost doubled in size from last year. Wolf and Simona have done a fantastic job of marketing XTERRA and have been rewarded for their efforts.
The pro field is high quality and huge. The “Caveman” Conrad Stoltz is here to do battle with Ruben Ruzafa and know we hear Braden Currie (XTERRA Sweden Champ) is also on the start list which makes a great fight for the top spot among Ruzafa, Stoltz, and Currie. This is not a Conrad type of course but the Caveman has no idea what it means to not go 110%. Ruben is 4-for-4 this season and it will be fun to see how he fares against the 4-time world champ.
The women’s field is equally impressive with Kathrin Mueller rested and back to face a recharged Helena Erbenova and Carina Wasle with two 2ds in a row - plus always on the podium Renata Bucher. Sandra Koblmueller is improving her bike every week and can outrun them all if it comes to a showdown. Those alone are the top 5 in points so far this season.
The bike course has been changed from last year and is now 2 laps. The first loop of 19K and the second of 11K. The shorter loop is the XTERRA Light course. From what I hear early on, the bike is tough and technical. Get your climbing boots on.
The main compound is at Lago di Scanno, about 5K from the main village. To take advantage of this magical place both the bike and run courses go through the village cobble streets and even up and down steps. Easy to follow as the organizers are using red-run; blue-bike and light blue-lite bike and orange-lite run arrows. In some cases there are 4 arrows pointing the same way.
It is late here in Scanno on Friday and the day could not have been much better. The compound and expo area are full - the city is full, the restaurants are full. The vibe is fantastic. An entry of over 500 will take the line tomorrow for XTERRA Championship and Light distances.
It rained buckets last afternoon and some of the late arriving athletes got caught on the top of the hill. It left the valley farms completely green and attached is a photo from the village of the trails below. The climb to town is awesome.
Today the weather was perfect - high 70's with sun a bit of wind and big fat white clouds. It is up in the air if it will be wetsuits for pros as the temp is hovering around 19.5 to 20 degrees C. Wolf Hardt and company have built a fabulous giant sized X to adorn the finish area. It stands about 12' high and is constantly in use for photos. This afternoon we had a photo op with most of the pros under the sign and it was well received with dozens of photographers and journalists.
At 8pm was a great hors d'ouvres and pasta party at the Palazzetto dello Sport and darned if 700 people did not come to enjoy. The local wine flowed, local delicacies (I have no idea what we were eating but it was great) and finally a plate of pasta and salad.
By 10 am only the locals and yours truly were left. The Scanno city officials were in attendance and they are thrilled to have XTERRA here. Quite a start to the festivities. Race report coming tomorrow - provided I survive the fab planned after party featuring DJ Cedric Woo (aka Cedric Lassonde – who is also one hell of an XTERRA athlete).