What a big change. The Xterra World Championships have always been in Maui/Hawaii since Xterra was founded. I raced in Maui back in 2011 and 2012 and managed to podium on the second try in my age group M20. I haven't raced Xterra World Champs since then, and as they moved in to Italy this year I had to give it my first try as an Elite athlete.
I arrived in Molveno on Tuesday before the race, we checked out the course a couple of times, the weather conditions were rainy for days and the trails changed every time we rode them. As I love hard conditions on the bike I went into the race weekend with full motivation. My goal was a TOP 20 result in this packed elite field.
1st October 9am, the Elite Men started into the 15 degrees cold water. We had to swim 1500m with a little running passage in the middle. The water was so cold that I was wearing a neoprene cap additionally to my ZOGGS wetsuit. I came out the water in 44th position, which was not a surprise for me, but I knew I had to put a lot of effort into the bike and run to reach my goal.
My transition 1 was okay, hands and feet felt cold, but I forgot about that as soon as I was sitting on my bike, pushing the pedals hard to catch up spots.
On the bike it felt surprisingly warm but I was glad to wear a compression shirt underneath my trisuit as the wind on the fast bike course felt cold, I could find a good pace straight away, felt very comfortable on the bike and pushed the watts I wanted to until I made a little mistake and lost the front wheel on a slippery wooden bridge. I fell pretty hard on my left hip and knee. After getting back up on my bike I saw that my handlebar was turned to the side a bit, so needed to fix that too. After maybe 20 seconds I was back on my bike and realized that I lost my Garmin computer. So from there I could only ride after my feeling, no watts, no heart rate, no race timing. But one thing was clear: I could only go full gas.
I was catching one athlete after the other, but it was not an easy task. The course was 2 laps of 15km with about 550hm each lap. The single trail forest uphill sections were super wet, muddy and slippery. I had to get off my bike many times to push it through the mud. The downhills were really fun and good to ride. The last bit of the course went through the city of Molveno, over a few stairs and some tight corners. Back into transition they build a couple of obstacles to have some more action for everyone watching the race.
Due to all the mud on the course my chain fell off the chainring twice, but I could it back on quickly again. With the 22nd fastest bike split I came back into transition after 1:49:24 and the TOP 20 in reaching distance. I managed to change into my running shoes very quickly, with the third fastest T2 time of the day.
As I could see another athlete running in front of me I knew the catching up tactic worked pretty well and I wanted to keep making up positions on the run. Due to all the heavy rain in the last few days I decided to run with trail shoes. The Salming OT Comp was the perfect selection for this course, as it was fast but very slippery on the single trail sections. The first part of the run went over the beach, followed by some gravel roads into the single track section in the forest.
Very steep climbs showed us if we raced smart on the bike or if we pushed it too hard. I managed to still run all of the course which ended in a 1,5km road section on both laps where I was able to run a decent pace. I overtook a few athletes on the run as well and with the 16th fastest running split of the day I finished the race on the 22nd position in the Mens Elite race.
2:55:53 of swimming, mountain biking and running taught me a lot of things, but I enjoyed every second of it. Finishing the race in the TOP 25 qualified me for the next days "short-track" race. Thank you Molveno and thank you Xterra for putting together such an amazing event.
Credits: MW Photography