Marta Menditto: A Rite of Passage

From World Triathlon Junior European Cross Triathlon Champion to 5th in the XTERRA World Rankings, Marta Menditto has shifted gears from being the new kid on the block to becoming one of the biggest female threats in the sport of off-road tri.

Written by
Sarah Bonner
min read
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The Spark 

The first time Italian Marta Menditto saw an XTERRA it lit a spark in her. “I went with my coach to XTERRA France and I saw the pro athletes. I thought it would be really nice to be like them and some years later I decided to start to do it.”

Seeing the pro women as well as her coach racing, Menditto saw a path, an off-road path. “My coach was not an idol but someone to follow, to be like,” she says. “He taught me how to have a main goal in my head, even if it was really difficult.”

Despite having the guidance of her coach and a drive to succeed, Menditto's transition to dirt wasn’t easy. “I was really young and when you are not really good on the bike and everything, it seems so hard,” she remembers. Still, as a junior she rose through the ranks to become World Triathlon Junior European Cross Triathlon Champion in 2016 and 2018,Junior European Cross Duathlon Champion in 2017, and 3rd at the Junior Cross Triathlon World Championships in 2017. 

In 2018, Menditto moved into the under 23 category but in XTERRA she was classified as an elite. Racing alongside the senior women, she struggled, falling into the all-too common trap of “compare and despair.” 

“I remember at the end of XTERRA Germany, I took 20 minutes more on the bike from the first, Helena Karaskova. At the end of the race, Nico Lebrun came to me and it was the first time I ever saw him. He said to me, why are you sad? I said because I’m a mess on the bike; I take a lot of time. But he said, you are so young so don’t worry. You will become really strong.”

While her eyes might have still been on the elite women she was now racing with, Menditto was the top U23 at the World Triathlon European cross championships in 2019 and the World Triathlon World Championships in 2022. On the XTERRA Circuit, success started to come in 2021 with 3 podiums and then her first race win at XTERRA Belgium in 2022, quickly backed up by her second win the following month at XTERRA France. 



Cross Roads

Menditto continued on a successful trajectory, even as she undertook her tertiary education in geology; but, as her studies came to their conclusion, Menditto knew she was at a crossroads. Trying to do both university and XTERRA at a high level was frustrating. “I was not able to give all of myself,” she says, referencing both sport and her studies. "I had some time that was really, really, really difficult and at the end of this winter, I was really tired of being divided. So, I said, after this degree, I need to be focused on just one thing. It was a change: geology or a triathlon.” 

“I was not able to give all of myself. I had some time that was really, really, really difficult and at the end of this winter, I was really tired of being divided."

“It was not easy to choose between geology and triathlon. I love geology,” she says. But ultimately, after graduation Menditto decided to focus on XTERRA full-time. “The first days after I finished my degree, I was like, okay I’ve trained, I‘ve eaten, and now what? I have nothing to do! But now I can rest and when you train a lot, you still don’t have a lot of time.”

Without the demands of a second focus, Menditto was able to increase her training and go about triathlon more professionally. “I put on some volume. Not race pace or quality, just easy training. When I was studying, I didn’t have a lot of time so I did a lot of quality [interval training]. I had no time to do [endurance training] like four hours slow on the bike and for sure in XTERRA you can feel that.”

However, Menditto says the transition to full time athlete life wasn’t as easy as she was expecting.“This winter I worked a lot to finish my degree and I was focused on school. Mentally, when I arrived in Taiwan, I wasn’t ready to do an XTERRA. I didn’t feel confident and really ready,” she admits. 



The World Cup

Her commitment to full time racing also coincided with the launch of the World Cup and, while the opportunity excited Menditto, it made racing more demanding at a time when she was feeling vulnerable. 

“I saw a change in the girls from last year. This year, when we are on the start line at the World Cup, you feel the pressure that it’s a World Cup,” she says. “Mentally, you have to be strong all year because you know every time will be a battle. It’s really difficult to be consistent all year with a strong field. Every point counts.”

“Mentally, you have to be strong all year because you know every time will be a battle."

While she denies going full-time didn’t add outside pressure to get results, it did shift her own expectations. Starting the season in Taiwan and then racing Belgium before she felt physically ready to race was a tough reality that knocked her confidence.   

“I was really scared about everything when I was at the race. I was too stressed. I didn’t want to race. I was thinking I didn’t want to be with the other girls because they were too strong for me. I’m not enough.” 

Menditto, however, had been through tough transitions before and knew it was a case of shifting her perspective. “After Belgium, I needed to change. I took some days to just think about [my mindset],” she explains. “I think you need to be brave enough to make a choice and say, I’m not good here, I have to change it.”



Making A Change

So, Menditto made changes. She decided to shift her mindset and opened herself up to new opportunities, starting with a training camp in Livigno. “You don’t have to think I will stay like this just because it’s been okay for all your life. I think that if you need to change, you have to change.”

During her first time in Livigno, Menditto experienced consistent day-to-day, week-on-week training for the first time in her life but it wasn’t the training that was the biggest shift. “When I arrived in Livigno, I had a different mindset. I said, okay I have to be patient. I have to work maybe some years, to be in the right place with the right people surrounding you, and just be ready to suffer every day for many one race in the year. In this moment, I just want to invest in myself.”

Alongside her at training camp was friend and occasional training partner Alizée Paties. The two became friends last year on the circuit but the friendship continued beyond the races. “I think we need each other in our lives. I feel really good with her and I feel really confident to talk with her because she really is able not to judge you and maybe think differently, see something in another perspective. For me, she’s really someone to be like because she’s really consistent with training. She’s able to train a lot and manage the stress.”

“I think the strength of Alizée is her mentality. I’d like to be like her when she is training because she’s able to not think about all the other stuff. If she has a workout to do, there is just a workout, there is nothing else. If she has a problem or something else in life to think about, she’s able not to. It’s the same when she’s racing. She’s there all the way, just the race. She’s really impressive to me.”



A Rite Of Passage

It’s brave to make big changes and that courage is something Menditto has cultivated in the past two years. “I’ve changed a lot in the last two years. Maybe I just grew up,” says the 24 year-old.


“Last year I did my holiday alone. I took my backpack and I went to Thailand just by myself. I stayed two weeks on my own and when I came back, I think I was a different person. I was so confident because I saw that I can do everything I want alone… I saw that, okay I have a lot of people but if I am alone, it will be okay because I know I can do it.”

“You don’t have to think I will stay like this just because it’s been okay for all your life. I think that if you need to change, you have to change.”

Being self-empowered is starting to show on race day too. “I’m trying to work on my mindset because I want to be really focused on race day and sometimes it’s not easy. I was able to do it in the last two World Cups and I’m trying to put in my life too because I really want to be independent.”

After a podium finish in the Stop #4 Short Track in Czech and 4th place in the Full Distance in Germany, Menditto is now sitting 4th overall in the World Cup standings. Going into the World Championship, she will be looking for a podium and to better her ranking.

Last year, Menditto finished 5th and having experience on the course is giving her even more confidence: “I raced in Molveno last year and it was really cold and muddy. I had some problems with the bike because I had too much mud on my wheels but I really love the course. For me it’s good because of the climb and descent. I like the run too because it’s not really hilly. But maybe this year it could not be 5 degrees!”

Regardless of the temperature or trail conditions, it’s hard to know the Menditto that will race at the World Championships because, with all the changes and growth the young Italian has undergone this season, she just isn’t the same athlete. Brave, poised, and competitive, Molveno just might be the place Menditto races into her new self.












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Author Bio

Sarah Bonner

Sarah Kim Bonner (MA, PGDip, BA Hons) is a Canadian freelance writer, graphic designer, and professional triathlete. She has worked as a creative for over 10 years, specializing in written storytelling within endurance sports. Emotionally allergic to an office 9-5, she has lived and raced all over the world from the Arctic to Africa and now calls the Canary Islands home. Find her at or @sarahkimbonner.

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