Scanno is a beautiful, historic village hidden in the Abruzzo Mountains, and of the most challenging and charming races in all of the XTERRA Planet.
XTERRA Italy - Scanno is the 10th of 14 stops on the 2019 XTERRA European Tour, and the second Gold race of the season, which will attract the very best amateur and elites from around the world. The location itself is truly remarkable. A two-hour drive from Rome, this ancient village will be hosting the XTERRA Tribe for the seventh straight year on July 21.
To help us truly understand the magic of this place, we turn to the reigning XTERRA European Tour men's elite champion, Francois Carloni.
Traveling to Scanno, you would never expect to find such high and wild mountains in this region of Italy. The main industries are sheep farming and tourism. Skiing is popular in the winter and there is beautiful hiking in the summer. You might also see some local sheep, their milk used to make the famous Pecorino and Ricotta cheese . You will find everything you need in this little village. Thriving with many small shops and markets, cafés, bakeries, restaurants, hotels, camping, bed and breakfast. The people are friendly and like everywhere in Italy, the food is always good and fresh.
The course is one of the more difficult in the series, a huge contrast to the relaxed vibe of the valley! As well as being technically challenging you will gain more than 1700m of elevation throughout the bike and run course.
You will swim in the beautiful Lake Scanno at the base of the Abruzzo Mountain. Legend has it that this lake was created by a feud between a white witch and a sorcerer; the lake marking the spot where the witch finally fell. The water is clean and clear with no waves or current, the water temperature will depend on the weather in the months before the race, the AG race is usually a wetsuit swim but for elite, sometimes not.
The swim course is a big anti-clockwise loop, with a short Australian exit at the end before diving in again for a final 100m swim before heading to the transition area. Make sure you attend the briefing as this is an unusual shaped course.
If you like mountains, rocks, climbing and descending, this XTERRA bike course is for you. From the lake, you’ll climb up to the village of Scanno where there is a great atmosphere. You ride through small paved streets, go down and up stone staircases with lots of people cheering for you. Exiting the village is where the real fun starts! You begin with the “small” loop, which is a very technical part with some hard climbs and twisty descents. Then take some time to catch your breath on a short flat road before beginning a long climb followed by a fun descent back down to the lake side. Complete 1km on the road where you can eat and drink, before starting the “big” loop.
On exiting the village for the second time, you begin climbing on a gravel track. This is a very long climb so be sure to pace yourself! This climbs takes the best male athletes about 40 minutes to get to the top! There are some very steep tricky sections where you will have to push your bike. There is a short section of single track before you take a hard right onto a tough and rocky fire road up to the top of the course. To climb well you need to find a balance between power and grip, lots of small rocks can make the ground slippery.
Arriving at the top of the chair lift, it’s time for the downhill, this is a really nice single-track descent, it is usually an Enduro MTB track so it is worth practicing a few times. We don’t often have tracks like this on XTERRA races, I love it! At the end of this descent, you will join up with the “small” loop. Turn left on the paved road and use this opportunity to drink and eat again. You still have one climb and downhill left, to finish the bike course.
If you have the choice, I recommend you use a full suspension mountain bike; and for this course I also recommend you use a dropper seat post! You will not regret this on the steep descents. Also make sure you have a very easy gear. I will be using 1x12 with a 50t cassette and a 30t chain ring in front. If you are not a pure MTBer consider using a 28 so you can spin easily on the climbs and save your legs for the run.
It’s usually dry in July, so use some fast summer tires with a low tread and tough side wall. But if you have space it is also worth taking some mud tires as the weather can change very quickly. A small storm can be enough to change the course conditions and make it very wet.
Don’t forget to drink regularly. An isotonic energy drink is best and maybe eat a small bit of energy bar every time you are on a flat road to make sure you have enough energy starting the run.
The run course is tough! Only the very best trail runners will not have to walk. To be efficient, it is best to alternate between walking and running; so, practice this in training before. The course is a flower shape around the village with three big climbs and descents. You first climb above the lake to go down and cross the village one more time. You then have another big climb where you will have to walk, followed by a technical downhill. Finally, you’ll do the last climb before a beautiful traverse. When pre-running the course you will be able to see the heart shape of the lake; don’t forget to take your camera! After the final downhill you will be back on the paved road along the lake. After 1 km on the road you will cross the finish line on the beautiful grassy area.
With Rocky single tracks, be careful with your ankles, I would recommend proper trail running shoes.
This is the only race where you will have to climb very steep trails, this one of the training sessions I will do before the race.
20 min running under 75% Heart max + 10 min drills
Choose a very steep up hill.
4-6 times 1’30 up and 30’’ down over 95% heart max (speed max) / rest 2’
Alternate walk and run to climb
Cool down 15’ running under 75% of heart max.
During June or early July, maybe do some trail running races of between 10 and 20k. This will help you a lot for this race. And always remember that running fast in triathlon is always related to the energy left finishing the bike, so for a race like this, make sure you have the nutrition you need and manage your pace on the bike.
This is one race that you will not forget!
More info at www.xterraplanet.com