Maltese Triathletes take part in Italy Xterra Race

Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 14:01

Gavin Muscat

Xterra is a type of offroad triathlon that is increasing in popularity worldwide. It involves 1.5km of swimming, 30km of offroad mountain biking and 10km of offroad running.
Malta’s first Xterra triathlon team hit the Xterra Italy race in the picturesque Lago di Scanno in Abruzzo. These were the novices; Alan Borg, Natalino Farrugia and Lara Buttigieg, who were led by the experienced multi triathlon champion, Danica Bonello Spiteri. Bonello Spiteri competed with the professional (elite) category when the rest of the team competed in the age group category.

The team has been training for this race for the past 6 months, but upon arriving on the race course, the inclinations and gradients of the bike and run surpassed all expectations. The team knew from the outset that they were in for a tough race and now understood why Xterra Italy is knows as the ‘monster of Xterra’ races.

Race day started with a 1.5km lake swim. Danica Bonello Spiteri led the women’s pro category by exiting first out of the water and starting with a lead on the bike section. Out on the mountain bike route, each of the athletes raced cautiously – not starting too fast whilst being careful on the technical sections. In fact both Alan Borg and Danica Bonello Spiteri sustained falls off the mountain bike in the technical downhills, but both were able to continue riding.

The bike section had a 10km continuous uphill and this is where the heat and dehydration started to set in on our athletes due to the hot midday sun pelting down on their backs, reaching a peak of 38°C. After climbing the hill, which in effect is a ski slope in winter, there was a 5km ski slope treacherous downhill with 180 degree bends within it. Each of the Maltese athletes had been daunted with the prospect of riding such steep downhills when training time in the days prior to the race. However each of them rose to the occasion and cautiously rode down despite a few minor scrapes and grazes en route.

The mountain bike was followed by a tough run, including running through steep village hills, running up steps and at the 4km mark running, or rather being forced to walk!, up another ski slope. And as the saying goes, what goes up must come down, this is how the run progressed – a steep technical offroad downhill, where mountain goat type of running was key.

All 4 athletes completed the race with Danica Bonello Spiteri placing 6th in the professional (elite) women’s category in 4 hours 1minute, Alan Borg 19th (in 4hours 22 minutes) and Natalino Farrugia 40th(in 5 hours and 1 minute) in their respective age group categories. Lara Buttigieg was the highlight of the day as she won her age group category (20-24years) by completing the event in 5 hours 17minutes. This earned her a qualification spot to the prestigious Xterra World Championships to be held in Maui, Hawaii this October.

Maui is the home of where Xterra orginated. Up till now only Danica Bonello Spiteri was the only ever Maltese athlete to qualify for Maui and actually go race there, in 2014.

The team was well pleased with the outcome of the race and invaluable race experience gained. They were trained and led by Danica Bonello Spiteri who has over 20 years of racing experience to her credit. The team thanks the Malta Triathlon Federation for its support to enable participation in this race, as well as People & Skin led by Dr. Joanna Delia for the kind support throughout season 2016.

Photo credit is Franco Fasicolo

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