XTERRA Lake Garda Preview: Elite Athletes Tackle Italy’s Iconic Terrain

May 22, 2024

TOSCOLANO-MADERNO, ITALY /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – On May 25, 2024, XTERRA Lake Garda marks the eighth stop of the XTERRA EMEA Tour with the first of four Italian events. Set against the vast backdrop of Italy’s largest lake, this Full Distance off-road triathlon challenges elite athletes with its rigorous course amidst the serene beauty of Lake Garda.

Renowned as a gold standard event for off-road triathletes, XTERRA Lake Garda is noted for its blue flag water quality and is a key date in athletes’ calendars. With 58 World Championship slots also available for athletes across various age categories, this race is a pivotal moment on the XTERRA World Tour.

Elite competitors will battle for a €7,500 prize purse, using this event as a vital gateway to the XTERRA World Championship held in this host nation come September. This race not only blends the cultural and environmental allure of the Italian landscape but also melds fierce competition starting in Lake Garda’s expansive waters.

Celebrating Six Years of Racing Excellence

2024 marks the sixth edition of XTERRA Lake Garda since its inception in 2018. The scenic towns of Toscolano-Maderno merge with the dramatic backdrop of Lake Garda to create a race venue seeped in Italian history, where ancient architecture spans the waterfront and climbs up Mount Pizzocolo.The area is dotted with traditional Italian homes, nestled among vineyards, olive groves, and lemon orchards, presenting a scene reminiscent of a classic Italian postcard. Toscolano-Maderno’s charm is further certified by its Blue Flag status, indicating pristine environmental and water quality standards.

Dramatic Scenery

While Toscolano-Maderno offers a breathtaking panorama, athletes are expected to navigate leg-busting climbs and difficult descents, battling to earn their post-race rewards through grit and endurance. The surrounding Alps provide a majestic northern border, contrasting with the milder Mediterranean influences to the south that nurture the growth of citrus, olives, and palms, enhancing the race’s diverse environmental appeal.

Local Legends and Lore

Adding to the mystique of Lake Garda is the local lore, including tales of a mysterious lake monster named Bennie, reminiscent of Scotland’s famed Nessie. This legend adds to the intrigue and charm to the landscape, making XTERRA Lake Garda a key event for athletes and spectators alike, not only for the competition but for the rich historical and natural elements of the region.

Course Breakdown

Swim Segment (1.5K)

The race kicks off on the western shores of Lake Garda with a unique 1.5K swim, structured as two 750m loops. Competitors will plunge into the brisk waters of Italy’s largest lake, navigating around a clearly marked course. Midway, athletes will briefly exit the water onto a custom-built pontoon, transitioning across 50 meters before diving back in for the second loop, adding a dynamic challenge to the swim.

Bike Segment (31K)

2024 introduces an updated 31K MTB course that splits into two distinct loops, each loop stretching over 15.5 kilometers with an elevation gain of 500 meters. Riders will tackle a series of rocky ascents and swift descents, coupled with technical stretches that demand precise handling and bursts of speed. The course layout ensures constant engagement with scenic views of Lake Garda, meant to enhance the overall riding experience.

Run Segment (11K)

The trail running portion unfolds over a single 11K loop that climbs 300 meters in elevation. The route traverses a diverse mix of terrains, including asphalt, rocky paths, and natural trails. Starting near Monte Maderno and weaving through the Cartiere Valley, runners will experience a variety of landscapes, each offering its own set of challenges. This final leg is designed to push competitors to their limits as they head towards the finish.

Elite Men’s Preview: Top Contenders Collide

XTERRA Lake Garda gathers a stacked lineup of elite male athletes, each aiming to make their mark on one of the most scenic yet challenging courses on the XTERRA World Tour. Among them, current two-time World Champion and reigning XTERRA World Cup Champion, Arthur Serrières, returns to defend his titles at Lake Garda, a course where he has triumphed in 2018, 2022, and 2023. Fresh from back-to-back races last weekend in the USA at Stop #3 of the 2024 XTERRA World Cup, where he finished second in the Full Distance and clinched victory in the Short Track, Serrières’s stamina will be thoroughly tested.

Joining him are world-class competitors, including Italians Michele Bonacina and Federico Spinazzè, who have returned to their home country following their participation in last weekend’s World Cup. Known for their strong swimming abilities, Bonacina and Spinazzè are expected to take an early lead, promising a fiercely competitive start to the race. Meanwhile, Xavier Dafflon from Switzerland is set to challenge the frontrunners, aiming to shake up the standings and contend for a podium position, adding even more excitement to the Men’s Full Distance race dynamics.

Men’s Start List Available Here

Arthur Serrières (FRA), WPI Rank: 1

Arthur Serrières returns to Lake Garda where he has celebrated multiple victories, including last year’s remarkable yet challenging race. Serrières reflected on his previous performance in 2023, noting the difficulties he faced: “I was quite tired from the [Oak Mountain] World Cup last week and combined with the travel I was very low on energy.” Lake Garda’s course was by no means smooth sailing for Serrieres last year where he stated, “On the second lap [of the bike course], I hit a rock or a step, but something broke my wheel, I was still able to ride but with a slow puncture, I was just wishing for good luck for it to hold until the finish, in the end, the tire came off the wheel in the last 50 meters.”

Despite these challenges, Serrières finds great value in the demanding nature of Lake Garda’s course. “This course is amazing to test yourself on, it’s so hard, that if you can do a good race here—even on a difficult day—you can win,” he explains.

Beyond the physical challenges, Serrières praises the overall experience of XTERRA Lake Garda. “This race is the perfect XTERRA, the location, the course, the organization, the pizza, pasta, the ice cream, everything about this event makes it a must-do event for anybody taking part in our sport.”

Michele Bonacina (ITA), WPI Rank: 11

Michele Bonacina enters XTERRA Lake Garda with notable achievements, including a first-place finish to start off 2024 at XTERRA South Africa and another at XTERRA Lake Scanno in 2023. Bonacina also showcased his World Cup skills with a third-place finish at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Short Track race in 2023. However, his season faced a setback when he suffered a broken wrist during training prior to the first stop of the 2024 XTERRA World Cup in Taiwan, forcing him to withdraw from the race.

Reflecting on his recovery and the upcoming challenge, Bonacina shares, “I know that it’s hard with some steep parts on the bike and run course too. I think I have to work a bit more to be in top form but I hope I can recover in the best way. These days before the race will be important also for recovery from jet lag.”

Looking ahead to the race at Lake Garda, Bonacina is prepared for the competition, acknowledging the strength of his competitors: “For sure, it will be a challenging race with those two athletes [Serrières and Spinazzè] as we did in Oak Mountain last weekend!”

Federico Spinazzè (ITA), WPI Rank: 20

Federico Spinazzè returns to XTERRA Lake Garda with a solid history of performances in this race, including finishing 5th in the Elite category last year. His familiarity with the course and its demands come from years of competing at a high level, including notable results like a first place at XTERRA Sardegna in 2022 and a third place at XTERRA Greece in 2021.

Reflecting on his return to Lake Garda, Spinazzè comments, “About the race in Garda, it’s always a good feeling for me to come back racing in Italy! Last year’s race in Toscolano was brutal, mostly because of the heat. Luckily, this year’s weather forecast looks different, so I hope for a fresher day!” He acknowledges the toughness of the course but remains optimistic about his performance, “The race course remains one of the most demanding I know, except for the swim, the bike and the run leg are challenging. I hope to be able to manage the gap I can earn during the swim to maintain a strong pace for the rest of the race.”

Spinazzè also identifies a key competitor, “Xavier Dafflon could be a strong guy to watch for this race. He can do fast bike splits, mostly on courses like this one. I will push to avoid his comeback for sure.”

Xavier Dafflon (CHE), WPI Rank: 22

Xavier Dafflon, from Switzerland, brings an experienced competitive edge to XTERRA Lake Garda, where he has previously achieved top results. With victories at XTERRA Switzerland in 2022 and XTERRA Finland in 2018, along with a solid second place at XTERRA Italy Lake Scanno in 2019, Dafflon has demonstrated his strengths in challenging courses. His performances at Lake Garda have shown steady improvement, securing 10th, 6th, and 4th places in his previous participations.

Reflecting on the course at Lake Garda, Dafflon shares his enthusiasm for the race and the locale, “First of all, I am a fan of Italy. Along my career, I have collected a lot of great memories of doing sport in this nice country, that is why XTERRA Lake Garda is one of my favorite races.” He describes the course’s challenges vividly, “The scenery is beautiful but the race is brutal. The swim can be tough depending on weather conditions. The bike course has very demanding steep uphills and tricky downhills. And the run asks for all the energy you still have left until you die, but that’s why you deserve a sweet typical Italian gelato after the race.”

Discussing his competition, specifically Federico Spinazzè, Dafflon remarks, “Federico looks like he has been working hard during this winter. He has become stronger on the bike and the run and has already shown solid performances this year. In the past, I used to catch him at the end of the run.” This acknowledgement of Spinazzè’s growth adds an intriguing layer to their rivalry, setting the stage for a fierce competition at Lake Garda.

Elite Women’s Showcase: Gladiators of Garda

Marta Menditto (ITA) returns to her home country immediately following the 2024 XTERRA World Cup Stop #3 races in the USA, where she secured impressive finishes—4th in the Full Distance and 6th in the Short Track. Her early season victories at the XTERRA Rotorua Festival in New Zealand and XTERRA South Africa marks her as the most traveled athlete of 2024. Facing her once again is Carina Wasle from Austria, who is one of XTERRA’s most traveled athletes of all-time. Menditto edged out Wasle for the win in South Africa, with Wasle taking second place, but adding to the competitive landscape is Kerri-Ann Upham from Great Britain, who dramatically overtook Wasle in the final moments at XTERRA Weston Park earlier this month to claim second place, relegating Wasle to third. The connection among these three athletes set the stage for a highly anticipated clash at XTERRA Lake Garda.

Women’s Start List Available Here

Marta Menditto (ITA), WPI Rank: 5

Italian triathlete Marta Menditto returns to XTERRA Lake Garda, a race that feels like home yet one she has not conquered despite her impressive record in the sport. Menditto has consistently delivered top-tier performances, including a recent 3rd place result at the XTERRA World Cup Stop #1 in Taiwan and a notable 1st place result at XTERRA France in 2022. Last year, she secured third place at XTERRA Lake Garda, and this year she’s fueled by the ambition to claim the top spot.

Menditto vividly describes the Lake Garda course, starting with its iconic swim. “The swim course is cold, but Lake Garda is so beautiful,” she says. Reflecting on the run course, Menditto notes its difficulty, particularly after the demanding bike leg. “The run is hard because you arrive from a really demanding bike and you have technical, steep climbs but also a lot of parts where you have to push on the flat,” she details.

“Garda is special because it’s like my home race, and I always dream of winning it. Her recent racing schedule, including three races in one week, adds complexity to her preparation, yet her focus remains sharp on achieving a long-cherished victory at Lake Garda.

Carina Wasle (AUT), WPI Rank: 17

Carina Wasle, from Austria, brings an impressive portfolio to XTERRA Lake Garda. Her top results include securing first place at XTERRA Lake Scanno in 2023, second place at XTERRA South Africa in 2024, and consistent top finishes at Lake Garda in previous years—second in 2018 and fourth in 2023.

Wasle shares her insight for Lake Garda, noting, “It’s one of my favorite races. I love the Italian flair and the venue itself.” She describes the MTB course as particularly challenging, filled with climbing and technical downhills that she relishes in dry conditions. However, she voices concerns about the current weather, “Unfortunately, at the moment it is raining a lot, and that makes the course very slippery and even more difficult, which is sometimes just scary for me.”

Her favorite part of the race is the run, characterized by a grueling, never-ending climb that suits her strengths. Wasle looks forward to the competitive dynamics with fellow elite Kerri-Ann Upham, anticipating “close racing where we will push each other all the way around. Hard but definitely exciting until the finish.” She also acknowledges the presence of Marta Menditto, emphasizing her exceptional form this season and affinity for mountain courses, “Marta loves the mountains as I do and she will probably fly on this course.” Wasle’s determination is clear as she aims to surpass expectations, “I will give for sure 100% and maybe I can make the impossible possible.”

Kerri-Ann Upham (GBR), WPI Rank: 35

Kerri-Ann Upham of Great Britain enters the XTERRA Lake Garda with momentum from a series of strong performances, notably securing second place recently at XTERRA Weston Park. This sets her up with a boost of confidence as she prepares to tackle the steep terrains of Lake Garda for the first time. Upham’s rigorous preparation includes studying course maps, watching highlight reels, and consulting with past participants noting, “It’s steep—really steep!”

Mentally and physically, Upham feels ready, attributing her sharpness to effective race scheduling and recovery management. “With a couple of races under my belt, I’m feeling sharp and race-fit. “My podium result at XTERRA Weston Park has given me a lot of confidence.”

Looking ahead to her competitors at Lake Garda, Upham respects Marta Menditto’s status as the woman to beat. “Marta is an incredibly strong athlete, one of the girls I look up to in the sport,” she remarks, considering Menditto a favorite yet pondering her ability to maintain form amidst a grueling race schedule.

XTERRA Lake Garda’s festivities will continue into the evening with live music, extending the community atmosphere into the night. Additionally, the event serves as a pivotal opportunity for local youth to qualify through the Sprint and Super Sprint races for the XTERRA Youth World Championship hosted in nearby Trentino during the 2024 XTERRA World Championship weekend in September.

High-resolution images available for download here.