For the 10th race of the 2018 XTERRA European Tour, we visit the beautiful village of Scanno. It has the typical charm of Italy, with old cobbled streets, beautiful churches, and sociable locals conversing around benches in the popular village centre. Village life is very traditional in Scanno, small, but the great shops and restaurants mean you don’t have to travel too far in order to enjoy quality food. Scanno is an authentic European village, and perfect for our XTERRA family.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is on-site for the race and gives us his thoughts...
Italy has a long history with XTERRA, the first race in 2004 was in Villacidro, a beautiful mountain Village on the south of Sardinia. The race then moved to Orosei, still in Sardinia, but further north along the coast. Since 2013 XTERRA has been located here in the famous national park of Abruzzo, full of wildlife where if you are (un)lucky you might see a wolf or a bear!
This is the second XTERRA event in Italy for 2018, after the organisers expanded to include a second race in Lake Garda, Northern Italy in May.
If you are looking for Scanno on the Italian map, it is in the centre, about 2 hours’ drive east from the capital city of Rome. When you reach the race venue, the first thing you will see is the lake where the swim will take place, about 2km outside of the village. This beautiful natural lake is around 1000m above sea level and surrounded by mountains. There is a chairlift running in the valley that Xterra competitors will be able to use during race week! The price is very reasonable and is the perfect solution to practice the long technical downhill on the bike course without tiring your legs pedalling up!
Before we enjoy the amazing food here in Italy, we need to talk about the race. The course is tough, but the competition is tougher! For the Men’s race, our favourite loves the lifestyle here in Scanno, but he will need to wait until after the race to enjoy it properly. Of course, I’m talking about Roger Serrano. Roger finished in 3rd place here last year and is currently ranked 3rd on the Euro Tour. I’m sure he is coming here not only for the cuisine, but for a good result. He will need to manage his pace, knowing that it's a long and hard race and make his move at the right time.
Even so, he will know that he can’t take it too easy as Xavier Dafflon who won here in 2017, will be going full gas from behind. Xavier showed last year that on this very hard and long course, even with a 7-minute deficit after the swim he can still win. He has had so much bad luck this year, so hopefully he has spent some time with a shaman and his luck will change!
2nd place in the Tour, François Carloni loves races with a hard MTB loop too. He might try to catch Roger quickly on the bike to work together to have a big lead into T2 and ensure a place on the podium. With no crashes or problems both Roger and François will pass Arthur Forissier in the tour rankings, but this race will be very Italian! The Italian federation have made a big effort to promote cross triathlon and if you look at the results, you can see that it is working.
A large number of the Italian Cross Triathlon Team will be here, with 13 elite men on the start list. We’ve already seen how strong they are. Marcello Ugazio, their standout performer is the U23 ITU world champion and was on the podium in Greece, Lake Garda and Switzerland. He dreams about being the first Italian to win an XTERRA, however, this race might be hard for him as there are lots of very technical downhills and this is still his weakness. During the first part of the season, I saw some great performances from Fausto Fognini, Francesco Figini, Filippo Rinaldi, Riccardo Ridolfi and Emanuele Aru, who are all able to make the top ten in big races and will fight hard for an even better result at their home race. I also remember how strong Mattia De Paoli can be. He was 5th in Switzerland 2 years ago in a tough race during the ETU European championship.
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We will see also Ben Allen from Australia at the start. Hopefully he will be in a better condition than last week in Czech. He is a big champion and by starting the race here, I’m sure it is to show that Czech was just a bad day. Rui Dolores from Portugal should get some more points and move back into the top ten for the tour. A Total of 21 Elite men from 10 nationalities will face another classic Italian steep and long race.
For the Elite women, there will be 9 athletes from 7 different countries fighting for the win here.
The Favourite will for sure be our Tour leader, Carina Wasle who will create a big gap in the points standing after this race if all goes well for her. She has 8 XTERRA Euro Tour starts and 8 podiums, she won the South African and Asia Pacific Championships too. An amazing season so far for our small Austrian athlete, but she will know that something is still missing from her season, a win in Europe! Italy might be the race to do it as Nicole, Helena and Brigitta are not racing here, but that does not mean it will be easy.
Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand is back. She finished 3rd on her return race in Czech and will be strong on the "Abruzzese" mountains. She was 3rd here last year and knows the course, so she will be feeling positive ahead of race day. Lizzie has also only raced once this year and will now start to become stronger throughout the season while most of the higher ranked athletes will start to get tired.
Another athlete we will have to watch out for is Eva Garcia Gonzalez. She was 3rd overall in Scanno last year whilst still racing as an Age Grouper! After this performance, we decided she would have to race elite during 2018 and she was 3rd in Portugal in her first elite race.
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In 2017 Renata was 4th behind Eva but 3rd in the Elite category in Scanno. She is coming from an amazing race in Czech and I bet she will again enter T2 in the lead on Sunday. Will she be able to hold on for the podium in front of the 3 runners behind? We shall see.
Like the men’s race we will need to look at the Italian women too, their strongest athlete should be Sandra Mairhofer. She was 4th in Garda in a very hard race, so I’m sure she has the podium on her mind. Physically I think she can do it. Genziana Ceni knows this race perfectly and has raced almost every year. Sarah Tavecchio returns as an athlete after doing an amazing job in co-organizing our event in Toscolano Maderno, Lake Garda. South Africa’s Mikaela Jonsson and Denmark’s Nicoline Sorensen will also start in beautiful Lago di Scanno.
I wish everyone good luck including all the AG athletes coming to race. I know you will love this place and suffer a lot on Sunday! But you will be leaving with lots of memories from an amazing trip, this is XTERRA!
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