After three races in southern Europe, the European Tour moves north to the Italian Lakes and the town of Toscolano Maderno, on the western shores of Lake Garda.
After three races in southern Europe, the European Tour moves north to the Italian lakes and the town of Toscolano Maderno, on the western shores of Lake Garda.
Sunday’s race will be the second edition of this race under the XTERRA banner. With very steep climbs, technical descents on both the bike and run, this is without a doubt one of the hardest XTERRA races in the world. You cannot start this race hoping for a result if you are not ready with the whole Warrior package; fitness, strength, technical skills, and mental toughness. If you win here you are one of the fittest XTERRA athletes in Europe.
If the course wasn’t tough enough, an impressive elite field has assembled in Toscolano to contest the most competitive race of the Tour so far in 2019. Whoever wins, they will have had to suffer for it!
On paper the stand-out favorite has to be Helena Karaskova. Winner here in 2018 and second in her last outing at XTERRA Greece, Karaskova is a four-time XTERRA European Tour Champion and will be confident in her biking and running abilities on such a hard course. However, with her recent focus on Swim-Run races, most recently racing just last weekend in cold, hard conditions, there is perhaps a question mark over her XTERRA form.
"I am so tired as I have never been before. I will be there and will try to clean my mind with the beautiful surrounding, mountains, food and sun and enjoy the kids race with my daughter Maja," said Karaskova. "I really don't have any expectations, I will just put on my race suit and hope I will feel like a racer again."
Based on recent performances, Italy’s Eleonora Peroncini is the athlete on form after finishing 2nd at XTERRA Cyprus a few weeks before becoming the ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion in Spain. The course in Italy is completely different to the ITU champs so it may not play to Peroncini’s strengths, but she races at home as the newly crowned World Champion fired up for a good result.
Nicole Walters should also factor in the battle for the podium. The British athlete was 3rd in Garda last year and has already been training on the steep, rocky terrain for two weeks prior to this race. Like Peroncini, Walters was on the podium with a strong performance at ITU Worlds so will also be looking to carry on that form here and post a good performance.
"XTERRA Garda is a very tough race. The course doesn't suit me with a lot of steep climbing on the bike and run. I am really looking forward to the challenge though and am excited to get out there and see what I can do," said Walters.
Sandra Mairhofer will start her 2019 XTERRA season in Garda, an athlete with the potential to produce a big result. She was fourth at Garda last year before a 3rd place finish in Scanno, which shows she can deliver when racing on home soil.
Morgane Riou from France will also start her 2019 European campaign in Italy. The winner of XTERRA Belgium in 2018 started the season with races in Taiwan and New Zealand, but was struggling after a broken collar bone in January. Two weeks ago she placed 10that the 70.3 Aix-en-Provence, so she has some fitness but it’s unclear if she will be ready for the podium.
Fellow French athlete Alizee Paties made some big improvements during the off-season, finishing 6th in Cyprus. With mountain biking being her specialty, she will love this long, hard and technical course.
Another athlete from France, Camille Defer, makes a rare racing appearance. Defer doesn’t race much but when she does it’s normally a big one. Last year she placed 5th overall at XTERRA France while racing age group. She'll race elite for the first time in Garda.
Anna Tomica from Poland, 3rd position in the 2019 XTERRA European tour rankings, will also start. Hopefully she will remember her wetsuit this year, and Sabrina Harpaintner from Germany will start her first XTERRA as an elite here, coming from a background in Ironman racing.
It will be a surprise if there isn’t at least one Frenchman on the podium come Sunday. Arthur Serrieres and Arthur Forissier locked out the top two spots in 2018 and if the results so far in 2019 are any indication of form it could well be a repeat performance. But in what order?! Serrieres won in Greece but Forissier won the ITU World Championships, perhaps Lake Garda is for the best of three?
“All the lights are green for me, but each race is a fight, and nothing is fixed until crossing the finish line," said Forissier. "I don't fear this race, but I know it will be hard to win.”
“I feel good and more confident after my win at XTERRA Greece," said Serrieres. "I think it will be a good battle with Arthur. I aim for the podium.”
For the final step on the podium there are a lot of athletes who can fill this spot.
Filippo Rinaldi is by far the strongest Italian racing on Sunday, and became the first Italian man to win an XTERRA race at Cyprus in April. Rinaldi is a very powerful cyclist and will fight for the overall victory on Sunday. He has some huge potential for a big career in XTERRA, only starting to race cross triathlon in the last 18 months. His technical skills are still developing so it will be interesting to see how he copes with the tricky course in Garda.
Xavier Dafflon has an excellent chance of a good result in Garda, placing 4th last year his bike and run ability makes him a serious contender. Factor the improvements in his swimming that we saw in Greece and we may see Dafflon in front before the end of the bike leg.
“The challenge is that you never know what will happen during an XTERRA," said Dafflon. "Swim, bike, run, fitness of the day, race scenario, weather, luck... but for sure you will have to go beyond your comfort zone! For that I’m ready and looking forward to starting at XTERRA Italy Lake Garda!”
After winning XTERRA Malta last week, Portuguese athlete Rui Dolores will be highly motivated to do it all over again.
"It's my first time in Garda, so I don't have references yet about the course. I feel motivated coming from Malta and ready to compete, but each race is different from the other and here in Italy will be a great battle between super athletes," said Dolores.
Beyond the podium there are so many athlete who can fill the top 10 positions.
Karel Dusek will make his debut in the elite field. The 23-year-old Czech athlete was 10th overall last year in Maui.
The full team Tvert is racing with Sandra, Camille, and Arthur Forissier, but also starting with them, Theo Dupras, who showed us his full potential in Belgium last year, plus Maxim Danon, and the young Mathurin Boutte.
Geert Lauryssen was 7th in 2018, he DNF’d in Malta last week so will have spare energy and be hungry for revenge. He was 3rd in Cyrpus and always in top seven in Europe last year when he raced.
Dominik Wychera has had a good start this season, 5th in Cyprus and 7th in Greece. Doug Hall had a big crash and broke his elbow the day before the race in 2018, so starts for the first time on Sunday. I’m sure he will be ready for a top 10.
Alongside Rinaldi, seven other Italian elites will race on Sunday. Francesco Figini was 9th last year. Fausto Fognini had a great race last year in France and will aim for the top 10. Matteo Bozzato was 11th last year in Lake Garda before having a good debut elite season.
Finally, Andrea Zanenga had a mechanical in Malta last week so will be looking for a top 15 position and valuable points for the tour ranking.
Twenty-four elite men and nine women from 10 countries will start on Sunday afternoon in Tosclano Maderno for this XTERRA Italy Lake Garda.
The XTERRA European team will be on site posting photos and videos and race updates on www.facebbok.com/xterraeurope throughout weekend in Italy.
2019 XTERRA Euro Tour Rank/2018 Garda Place - Name, NAT
2019 XTERRA Euro Tour Rank/2018 Garda Place - Name, NAT
For more info visit xterraplanet.com.