XTERRA heads to the ancient village of Scanno this Sunday for the 14th edition of XTERRA Italy. It’s the 10th of 14 majors on the 2017 XTERRA European Tour and one of the most visually stunning and culturally significant race destinations in all of sport.
“This will be our fifth visit to this wonderful place in the mountains of Abruzzo,” said XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas, who is on-site to take in all the action (pasta, wine, and beer).
“When you are here, you are at the end of the road. There is no farther place up the mountain after Scanno, and the bike course rides past the spring that is the headwaters of the Tasso River flowing into the bright teal waters of Lago di Scanno.”
While Beaver Creek may be the highest elevation race on the World Tour, this could be the steepest race when you compare the vertical climb and mileage for the mountain bike and the run.
XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun, a master of such courses in his racing days, is on-site and gives us his thoughts on the elite races…
Scanno will have eight elite women at the start, and the first news is that our tour leading and reigning champion Brigitta Poor will not be on the start list and therefore will probably lose her points lead over Helena Karaskova from the Czech Republic. Who is she? We know this woman for many years as she is our Czech champion who raced under the name Erbenova. Now, she just got married and has a new name and for sure extra motivation. She will be the big favorite Sunday in Scanno, not only for this reason, but she won this race three times already (2013-15) and came here instead of the ETU Cross Triathlon Championship to take the lead and win this race.
English racer Nicole Walters, on paper, looks like the one who could put some pressure on Helena, but this is a very special place and crazy challenge. You need to love very steep and long climbs like we never get yet on the tour. This course also features a very long, steep and scary downhill that could be used for an enduro race! Nicole is learning quick, however, and will study every corner to be ready. With a podium she can take over 5th place in tour points and move up to 4th with a first or second place finish. Cecilia Jessen SWE is one point in front of Nicole and can also make a good move in the tour, or at least secure a solid place in the top 10. She is a strong mountain biker and she might love these technical downhills.
We saw this woman around for several races, having a nice “van trip” but because of an injury she was not able to race but for Scanno, Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand will finally start. This is very good news and I hope she will do well. Most important, we hope she will feel solid and 100%. It’s always good to have a local hero, a pro from the country, and Genziana Cenni will be the one for us here. She raced Scanno many times, and she knows very well these trails and will have lots of support.
The “Swiss Miss” Renata Bucher wanted to get a last good vibe from a big XTERRA race. She planned to race in France but was hurt bad during the swim and ended up in the hospital during the bike with some lungs damaged. Now she is in Scanno, and knowing her MTB skills, she is a very good choice. She was third last year, so this is already a good vibe to start. Renata also manages the Aloha Racing team and will be here for Lizzie and Belinda Hadden (AUS) who will race pro too on Sunday. Sabina Rzepka (POL) is on the start list and will do her first race for the season. Eight women from eight countries!
Now for the men. Everybody loves Ruben, but they love him even more when he is not racing!
The men’s race will be exciting with some very strong athletes who will take their chances to win this one. Sam Osborne (NZL) with his second place last year, is maybe the favorite. We know he is strong, had some bad luck in France and will be fired up for this one for sure. He will be at the front for a good part of the race, there is no doubt. He will maybe first see Francois Carloni (FRA) catching up and riding with him. François will try to earn as much points as possible to consolidate his second place in the tour. He knows it will be a hard mission and to win the championship he will need to win here, Zittau and maybe Denmark and have Ruben with some bad days in Norway and Denmark. But this race suits perfectly the French athlete and I’m sure he will be strong.
The second athlete who can come back from behind after the swim is Xavier Dafflon. He wants to forget the French nightmare where he had both of his bikes stolen which ruined his chances. This is the perfect race for the Swiss athlete with the very hard bike and run. If he is in the same shape he had in Belgium, they can all start to worry about him.
And look who’s back! Our Malta winner and Spain Organizer Roger Serrano. From what we saw on social media and after a big block of training with some altitude camp, he looks stronger than ever! For sure he will swim in the front and have Sam with him on the swim and starting the bike. If Roger is back to normal he will be on the podium.
It will be very interesting to watch Cedric Fleureton (FRA) back racing XTERRA. His last race was, I think, St. Raphael in 2006, and he won it. I remember! I was wearing my world champion Jersey and he kicked my butt! He was a very strong road athlete and missed the Olympics by only a few points for the French team. He had a bad injury which stopped him about eight years ago and now is one of the best trail runners in Europe, mainly on short distance. So, we know he is in good running shape, but can he swim fast and ride strong? We will see Sunday. Our Portuguese friend Rui Dolores will be in Scanno to get more points. He is 6th in the tour and can get back in top five after this one. Same for young Max Chane (FRA) who is 9th overall and with a good race like he had in France or Belgium, can come up to 7th. Young German racers Hannes Wolpert and Peter Lehmann will be here hoping for a strong finish. Wolpert is among the fastest swimmers and will be in the lead pack to start.
Representing the host country, and racing with us many years is Fabio Guidelli. Even more local, from Abruzzo and racing elite for first time in XTERRA, is Francesco Masciarelli. From France, we will have Anthony Pannier, 6th in Switzerland and an excellent swimmer and mountain biker. Damien Guillemet broke his collarbone in Belgium and will not yet be 100% I think. Also competing will be Valentin Genewe (FRA) and Doug Hall (Nicole Walters husband) from the UK. For the men, we have 15 elite racers representing eight countries.
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