James Walker Triathlon – Professional Xterra Triathlete Race Report – Xterra European Series – Xterra Italy

Published On: 11 August 2015Categories: News & UpdatesTags: , , , ,

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“The third week of racing in a row resulted in the final race in August at Xterra Italy. Xterra Italy is held in the beautiful region of Abruzzo in a little town of Scanno, located up in the mountains. Scanno is on the shores of Lago de Scanno, nestled at 1000m above sea level and 100miles East of Rome.

August has been a busy month taking in Xterra Sweden and the ETU Cross Triathlon Championships the two weekends prior. Having a 6th at Xterra Sweden and a DNF at the ETU Champs, had not been the ideal run up to Xterra Italy. I had arrived back in the UK on the Monday from Germany and then had to fly to Rome on the Friday, so not much of a turn around, but sufficient time to get a couple of training sessions in and prepare my kit for the weekend. Xterra Italy is described as one of the toughest Xterra Races on the European circuit, held at 1000m above sea level. The bike and run would involve significant amount of climbing, up to around 1800m.

Arriving in Scanno on the Friday at lunchtime, I prepared and built the bike and decided to undertake the run recce in the afternoon. The run itself weaved around the old town and incorporated fire trails that climbed onto the surrounding hillside. The recce went well and gave a good scope of what would come Sunday.

On the Saturday I took the option to review half the bike loop as the run route was similar to that of the second lap of the bike. The bike climbed out of the town and up onto the mountain jeep track to the Gondola’s for the ski runs. Climbing would involve keeping a good cadence and trying not to loose traction on the gravel fire trail. Once at the top, the descent was a technical down hill, incorporating sharp muddy switchbacks and slippery rocks and roots.

Sunday arrived and the Pro field kicked of at 11am with the temperature starting to hit the late 20s. I was feeling good for the swim, which consisted of two triangles with a long 700m or so to the first buoy and then a 400m turn back to the shore. I managed to get in a decent group on the swim, and this was by far the best I have felt all season. Back in for a 80m shore run and the dart back to the shore. Xterra Italy had a long run between the swim and T1 of around 200m, not ideal getting the heart rate up before the tough ride to come.

Out onto the two-lap bike of 20km and 10km, the route worked its way around the bottom of the town before a sharp climb up to Scanno. The town route weaved through the cobbled streets and down the old steps; hitting these at speed and ensuring not to come off was a key to a successful descent of the town. Out on to the main climb at around 1200m and climbing to 1800m on the gravel fire trail, my legs just didn’t have the zip in them that I would have liked. The climbing was tough and hard work in the heat. I have learnt a lot from the Sella Ronda Hero on dealing with climbing and that its all about consistency. Eventually getting to the top, I was feeling it, and had worked my way through one water bottle in the first hour.

The descent crashed down the ski slope to the gondolas and through the wood to Scanno. The ground was wet and slippery resulting in the front end becoming clogged up. I had chosen to run the wider 2.25 Vittoria Peyotes front and rear, due to the great range of terrain they can deal with. They held up well, taking the beating on the downhill, and I arrived at the bottom gaining some good time. The second loop climbed out of the town with a short sharp climb and another technical descent back to the Lake. It could be very easy to miss your breaking spot, overshoot the corners and do some serious damage if it went wrong. Dropping in to go through transition for the second lap, I knew I had lost time on my climbing and that the power in my legs just wasn’t there. Pushing on, for lap two a group got together and we worked together on the flat, saving some much needed energy. Lap two was similar to the end of lap one and just keeping the legs spinning was key.

Into T2, the heat was into the mid 30s and I set off on the climb for the run from the lake, trying to keep a good tempo on the hill. The run through the town was up lifting to my mood with the locals out applauding as the runners went through. Through the remainder of the run it was tough at the altitude and seemed to affect me, as the fatigue was kicking in. I eventually crossed the line just after 3.50hrs and 13th MPro.

Having raced three weeks in a row I’m taking some time out to rest and refocus to build on the remainder of the season. This by far is the toughest season I have done yet out of the last 5 years, and one that I am still very much learning from be it from training, recovering, travelling and racing at the higher level.

A big thanks to Vittoria, Vitus Bikes and Wolf Tooth Components for supplying the equipment to deal with the demands of the tough bike courses. Out of the 7 races so far this summer season they have delivered on each occasion. It’s time for some rest and work on how to build from here.

Many thanks to Vitus Bikes, Vittoria UK, SAM Race Wear, Huub Design, Suunto, Miiego UK, NJD Sports Injury, Bonk Triathlon, Kurio, G4 Physiotherapy & Fitness and XEndurance.”

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