XTERRA Italy-Lake Garda is the fourth of 14 stops on the 2019 XTERRA European Tour, taking place May 26 in Toscolano. It’s a silver level event, dishing out 26 qualifying spots to the XTERRA World Championship to the winners of each age group.
This is XTERRA’s second season in Garda, which attracted more than 500 participants from 23 countries for its inaugural edition last year. 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.
To tell us more about the race and how to get ready for it, we turn to Alexandra Borrelly from the XTERRA Organicoach racing team…
XTERRA Lake Garda is the first of three XTERRA visits to Italy in 2019 and takes place in the touristic town of Toscolano Maderno which is known for its paper manufacturing industry and its beautiful lake-side beaches.
Toscolano Maderno is in Northern Italy, with the steep mountains of Trento and the giant natural lakes of Brescia, its unique geography creates its own microclimate, resulting in perfect conditions for racing (and wine making!). Just when it sounds like it can’t get any better, you remember that Italy is most famous for its food; meats, cheese, fresh vegetables, fresh pasta and ice cream!
The swim starts from a pebble beach located near the transition area. You’ll swim two 750m loops with a short run and dive along a pontoon at the halfway point. Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy, so it can feel like swimming in the sea; small waves and currents can make the swim a bit trickier than a regular lake swim. In 2018 the water temperature was around 19°C but it can change quickly depending on the weather in the run up to the event.
The Bike course in Garda is very hilly and quite technical in places. A two loop 33km circuit with around 1200m of climbing will make for a long bike ride for all but the fastest athletes. You start with a short stretch of road through the old town of Toscolano before starting the first climb. The organisers have modified the course slightly from 2018, reducing the amount of tarmac with a slightly less steep off-road climb.
From the top you start the first big downhill, fast single-track leads into some very steep, very rocky trails where you must pick you lines carefully and control your speed. When pre-riding the course perhaps walk this section first in order to assess the trail against your abilities. Once at the bottom you arrive in the Valle del Cartiere and cross a small bridge before starting the second uphill. This is less technical on a wide double track but finishes with a short tarmac section at over 25% gradient! Time to select an easy gear and chew your stem!
The section downhill to finish the lap has two technical parts, first over some rocks before descending the infamous staircase! You may need to get off your bike on this part! Once back into town, you follow the river back towards the lake to complete a short loop around transition before heading out for the second lap. You can ride this course on a hardtail, but I prefer the full suspension to help with the rocky terrain.
The run is a single 10km loop, following the same route out of town as the bike course before heading up a long and steep tarmac climb. From this point the course has changed from 2018, heading into the forest tracks before dropping back down to the river along beautiful single-track trails. Unfortunately, the walkways through the gorge are closed this year, so the course will turn back down the hill for a fast run back towards the town following the river again before hitting the finish line in the centre of Toscalano.
My biggest tip is to be patient! Pacing yourself for a big day out will pay off when you hit the run course. I suggest completing a few big brick (bike/run) sessions in the run up to the event.
3hrs riding on hilly terrain, ride the uphill sections around 80% of your maximum heart rate. This should feel hard, but still controlled. Recover on the downhills, whilst focusing on riding smooth and efficiently on the downhills.
Have your trainers ready to go! Run for 40mins total, 20mins of race pace effort followed by 20min easy running.