Equal parts adventure and challenge, XTERRA Lake Garda is the epitome of the XTERRA DNA. A town defined by its unmistakable history and culture, and a race defined by leg-busting climbs, white-knuckle descents, and the feeling that all you want is more.
Italy’s biggest off-road triathlon is ready to ring in a half-decade of XTERRA racing with the 5th edition of XTERRA Lake Garda this weekend. The country known for having some of the most enviable lakes and mountain trails in the whole of Europe will see no less than 4 XTERRA events this year, beginning with a bang in Lake Garda this Saturday and Sunday and ending with the biggest bang of them all at the XTERRA World Championship in Trentino this September.
XTERRA Lake Garda has been a must-race on the EMEA tour ever since it first debuted in 2018, and now back to full capacity with the full-distance triathlon, sprint triathlon, open water swim and kid’s duathlon, more than 800 local and international athletes are ready to descend on the historic town to battle it out for the 2023 titles.
Current World Champion and Lake Garda Champion Arthur Serrières will be there to defend his title, but with Olympic gold medalist and MTB legend Jaroslav Kulhavý also on the starting line, those in attendance could be in for another massive showdown reminiscent of the Brownlee-Chané battle that played out at XTERRA Weston Park just a fortnight ago or even the Serrières-Lagerstrom battle from Oak Mountain last weekend.
The 2023 season has been huge so far, and this weekend the action continues in the waters of Lake Garda and on the rocky trails that lie just behind the quaint Italian town of Toscolano-Maderno.
Toscolano-Maderno is described as the place where Lake Garda plunges into Italian history. The ancient hill-side town, once two separate towns divided by the Toscolano River, begins right on the water’s edge of Lake Garda and crawls immediately up the slopes of Mount Pizzocolo, with Italian styled housing dotted between cypress trees, vineyards, olive groves and lemon orchards. Oozing with culture and history on every corner of the narrow little streets, Toscolano-Maderno is everything you would imagine to be on a postcard direct from Italy and holds the honour of being a Blue Flag location.
But XTERRA’s DNA has always been one part adventure and one part challenge, so while the scenery may be some of the most breathtaking on the World Tour, the course itself will make athletes earn their Gelato the hard way.
The full-distance race starts on the West coast of Lake Garda, making use if the crystal clear but icy cold waters of Italy’s largest lake before heading through the town that will be buzzing with the XTERRA atmosphere on race weekend and into the all-natural playground that is the Riviera dei Limoni Bike Experience - a collective 480+ kilometres of bike trails featuring everything from the rough to the rugged. Here, depending on how you look at it, either the fun stuff or the hard stuff begins. Rocky climbs, fast descents, technical sections, and open sprints, the trails are designed for the absolute off-road purist with almost no man-made features but plenty of well-marked, well-cleared, natural trails. This bike section takes athletes around a 15.5K loop twice for a total of 1000m+ of elevation before ending the race with an 11K trail run back to the finish.
XTERRA Lake Garda has long been a bucket-list race for many reasons, and the course is certainly one.
If there’s one theme that is becoming prevalent in 2023, it’s the rise of globally recognized athletes keen to join the ultimate off-road multisport party, and each time they do we’re treated to a race-defining battle. In May alone we have already seen the great Alistair Brownlee take on XTERRA’s then #7th ranked athlete Maxim Chané at XTERRA Weston Park and Eric Lagerstrom push current XTERRA Champion Arthur Serrières to the very end at XTERRA Oak Mountain. Now, just one week later, we will see Arthur Serrières back at it again, this time taking on the legendary Jaroslav Kulhavý at XTERRA Lake Garda.
Jaroslav Kulhavý of the Czech Republic is a two-time Olympic medalist, winning gold in the mountain bike cross country competition at the 2012 Olympics in London and silver in the same event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s won three Cape Epic titles and several national and European Championships. To put it lightly, he knows his way around a bike. But if Oak Mountain is anything to go by, so does Arthur Serrières. He also knows how to run faster than any other man in XTERRA history, so this will be another season-defining showdown to add to the 2023 list.
But they certainly won’t be alone in the front of the race. Sébastien Carabin is easily in the top 3 fastest riders on the XTERRA circuit at the moment and he’ll be out in full force at Garda, along with a list of other elites looking to claim their share of the €7.500 in prize money.
Marta Menditto arrives as the top-ranked elite in the women’s race, but she’ll be feeling the pressure from the likes of Carina Wasle and Carole Perrot.
XTERRA Lake Garda is the first of two races in Italy this year that will offer additional qualifying slots as the official host country of the 2023 XTERRA World Championship on September 23. It’s only the second time the pinnacle race of the season has been held outside of the USA, and with the addition of the XTERRA World cup, the event promises to be even bigger than the last.
There are a total of 58 World Championship qualifying slots available at XTERRA Lake Garda, and another 58 at XTERRA Lake Scanno in July. XTERRA Sardegna makes up the last of the Italian races in 2023 but will offer qualifying slots to the 2024 World Championship. But for those lucky enough to do all three - Lake Garda, Lake Scanno, and Sardegna, the recently formed ‘Italian Challenge’ will be awarding cash prizes, trophies and jerseys to the top performers across all three events.
If it’s not already on your list for 2023, mark 1, 2 or all 3 of these on your race calendar for 2024 and discover why every off-road athlete needs to do Italy at least once in their lives.
For news, event updates, stories and more.