Following a three-week break, the 2018 XTERRA European Tour resumes Sunday, May 27, with a new race at Lake Garda in northern Italy.
XTERRA Garda is the fourth of 17 stops on the 2018 tour, and the inaugural event has attracted more than 40 elite racers and 500 participants from 23 countries.
Garda is the biggest lake in all of Italy and famous for its crystal-clear water, and the host village of Toscolano Maderno on its west coast is a popular tourism destination and easy to get to from neighboring countries. As a result, the start list is filled with racers from France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is in Garda to take in all the action, and here he gives us his thoughts on the elite races this weekend:
In the women’s race XTERRA Greece Champ Nicole Walters, who is second in the Tour standings, will take over the lead from Brigitta Poor (who is not racing) if she finishes in the top 13. If that happens it will be the first time in a long time someone other than Brigitta or Helena Karaskova have been No. 1.
As for the race itself, Karaskova will be strong here. There are lots of steep climbs on the bike and run, so this race will suit her perfectly and she is my favorite for the win. Walters will have also challenge for the title along with Carina Wasle who does well on this type of course. With a good race, Carina and Helena will get back closer on points but will not be able to move on the lead, only for 3rd and 4th place. From what I know those three athletes might be a little bit above the field, but we could have some surprise from two sides. First will be from XTERRA veteran Renata Bucher. Last year she had a fantastic race in Scanno, she was solid on her bike and with the same shape she can also play for the podium here. The second is Eleonora Peroncini, the Italian Cross Tri Champ. This will be her first time in XTERRA, so it’ll be fun to see what she can do against some of our best athletes in Europe. Other elite women on the start list include Sandra Mairhofer and Bianca Morvillo from Italy, Diane Lee and Jessie Roberts from the UK, Ania Tomica and Sabina Rzepka from Poland, Anna Brychtova from Czech, Diane Luthi from Switzerland and Anne Sophie Marechal from Belgium.
In the men’s race we have a similar scenario with tour leader Roger Serrano, who just organized an XTERRA Spain tour race in Victoria, not on the start list. That leaves Maxim Chane, who is second on the tour, with the chance to take over the lead, but he needs to finish in the top two. He has done a lot of races already this season, the first three Euro races then Tahiti, so might be quite tired but you just never know.
The second best ranked athlete in this race is François Carloni, in 4th place, but even with a win he cannot take the lead. I think Serrano will stay our leader after this week, some athletes will just come back on the points. Our last podium from Greece will race here, and if you remember, Marcello Ugazio was second 10’’ back of the winner, but here he is home and in a race he won last here when it was called the XGardaman. Macello is one of my favorites to win Sunday’s race. Of course, Arthur Serrieres, who won Greece, will come here full of confidence and our other Arthur (Serrieres) might want to take his revenge as he was not 100% in Greece. I think both will be very strong here.
My fourth choice is Xavier Dafflon. With a very hard bike and tough run loop, he will have time to get back into the mix after falling behind in the swim. He also knows that the last time we had a race in Italy, he won it, even though he was seven minutes back out of the water.
If we are to speak of strong swimmers, then we will talk about Jens Roth, one of our best. For sure he will lead the race for a bit, but I don’t know for how long. Carloni, who is chasing points for the ranking, will love this bike loop. Normally I would say that here the running loop is too hard for him and he will lose a lot of time, but he showed us in the last couple of races this season that he is way stronger on the run so I see him in the top five. Doug Hall is 5th in the tour will try also to get big points, but it will be hard here, I think he will be happy with a top 10 on Sunday.
Clement Briere is in 6th place, but from what I saw in the first races he will have a hard time to get big points here, but for sure he will do his best to stay on as long as possible in the tour top 10. I think its exactly the same for Peter Lehmann. Geert Lauryssen was the faster on the bike in Malta, always strong, so this is a good race for him, I place him also in the top 10 Sunday. There are a lot of Italian elites in this one, as you’d expect, featuring Francesco Figini, Fausto Fognini, Tommaso Gatti, Fiippo Rinaldi and Andrea Zanenga. Other men’s elite racers include well known guys like Jan Kubicek and Tomas Kubek from Czech, Markus Benesch from Austria, Thomas Kerner and Veit Hoenle from Germany, Henry Sleight from the UK and Christophe Betard from France. The last big name on the list is a Swiss/French athlete, 3x Olympian, who won many XTERRA’s since his first victory in 2002 in Hluboka, Czech (where he came in front of me) … he is a legend of triathlon, and we welcome back Olivier Marceau.
But guys, don’t be scared, he will be not here for his come back and fight for the podium, but with a group of friends, because he loves sport and always stayed in good shape.
Follow along on our Facebook page in the days to come to follow our fun adventures in Garda.
Photo courtesy Tango7174