The long wanderings of XTERRA around Europe, touching new nations every year on the first experience, the returns of “old” nations after a few years of pause, changes of location within the same nation stopped in southern Italy, in Sicily, where even though triathlon is growing significantly, the cross triathlon turns out to be still a novelty.
The landing of the organizational machine XTERRA Italy aims not only to promote the competitive event but a particularly hospitable and receptive area that is really hungry to present itself and let itself be discovered. We, despite being curious by nature, have collected very little useful information on the host land, on Piana degli Albanesi, on Lake Piana and on what it has to offer. We took the bull by the horns and went to bother the president of the ASD Extrema, Mauro Giaconia, which will help us and you to understand where we are going, what we will find and what we have to discover on a land that promises to be full of surprises.
Hi Mauro, thanks in the meantime for your availability. We can be long days, including the definition of routes, logistic organization, search for side events that can complete the weekend.
How about if we start talking about the long weekend that the XTERRA triathletes will face and what will they encounter?
It is true, they are hectic but exciting days, and the program of this intense weekend already includes the organization of both a duathlon (28 km mtb + 18 km trail) and the Long Distance triathlon 1,9 swimming, 58 km mtb + 18 race between. We hope to be able to organize an event for the kids in parallel, and activities that can also involve the spectators, but it is still too early to confirm it.
What we believe can interest readers, among other things, is where they will go. Piana degli Albanesi is not a very well known place on a national level; not for this reason it can have unique peculiarities.
It is true it is not very well known, but I am sure that after XTERRA it will be and I assure you that it will not fail to surprise. Piana degli Albanesi is located just below 30km from Palermo, and is a charming arbëresh town rich in history and with important traditions. The surrounding area is a real discovery, at 750m asl, it is immersed in a nature reserve of great environmental value, surrounded by mountains that offer breathtaking views and where the lake is located. A naturalistic oasis that Enel, manager of the lake and of the dam, has partly entrusted to WWF Italy to preserve it.
We know, however, that there is another detail, which is not particularly noteworthy in the Sicilian country.
Yes, Piana degli Albanesi is known as the home of the Sicilian Cannolo, even those who live in other parts of Sicily, recognize this "sweet" record.
That said, we could also stop here. For us the reasons for buying a ticket would be enough. But we want to know more, in particular about the WWF reserve, what this entails at an environmental level, the species present and how proud the population is of this.
It is true that the area of Lake Piana has a vegetation of absolute naturalistic interest and is very varied. In the territory the important environmental attention has preserved the presence of many species of aquatic birds including the heron and is not less the suggestive crown of mountains around the lake from which it is also possible to admire beautiful birds of prey including the golden eagles. This evocative setting, of lake, mountains and green plains, allows multiple sporting activities, including cycling and hiking, so much so that the Piana degli Albanesi is part of the hiking trails of Sentieri Italia, and the routes of the race will involve part of important historical tourist itineraries between Piana degli Albanesi and Santa Cristina Gela, such as the "Via Francigena"; isn't it better this way? Beautiful and to be discovered !!!
Needless to turn around. When he said to himself, LD Sicily, the first thought that came to mind was the sea. Piana is not very close to the sea but not very far either. The territory looks more like an Abruzzo hinterland than a marine one. What are the reasons that led you to choose Piana degli Albanesi as the ideal location for the LD?
The sea of Palermo is only at 30 'away, but we'll talk about this later. Piana is a place that seems made for a cross-triathlon race: it is an uncontaminated green oasis with the lake, the mountains, the single track, a place where you just have to put the finish line, the transition, the directional signs and the boundary bands ... and everything is ready for the race!
Taking a step back towards the first approaches. Sincerely, Mauro: what did you think of when you were called upon to organize this event?
I find that the combination of nature and sport is one of the most winning things of XTERRA and that's why I wanted to choose to organize competitions within this discipline and brand. I have been organizing sporting events for ten years, in addition to endurance competitions, so no fear but lots of enthusiasm. I am also a technician, both of swimming and triathlon, and I follow so many guys that I would like to approach this discipline.
It cannot be said that you had time to reflect on what-how-when. From morning to evening you have literally had to start pedaling to take home the tracks, organize the logistics and everything that is necessary in such cases. Where are we? How many people are actively working on the project?
I definitely entered the race but I wanted to take the opportunity that was offered to me, the passion is so great. Every new initiative requires an investment phase and it is in this logic that I put myself on the line convinced that from year to year, thanks to what our territory can offer, it will be an increasingly appreciated event, as already happened for other events.
Small transgression on the routes. Describe what you think is the most beautiful point of the route, why.
Just this weekend I showed the path to Alex Miconi, and he too was impressed by the variety of the circuit. The mtb fraction is distinguished by fast stretches on dirt roads mixed with challenging uphill stretches and fast descents even on not particularly technical single tracks, as in the two Italian "sisters". However, a special mention goes to the climb and the crest route of the run, with a breathtaking view and a view of the entire circuit. In this regard, one of the characteristics of the place is that you can see the whole race from every point.
We don't have a canvas to respect so let's talk about various topics that may be important or that come to us moment by moment. When you went to the local administrations to submit the project; what did they do? Who will support you?
It is the first time that a sporting event of international significance has taken place in this territory, therefore the Administrations, both of Piana degli Albanesi and of Santa Cristina Gela, have been extremely helpful and enthusiastic. As you know, in addition to the municipalities, Enel and WWF are involved, both particularly interested in the re-evaluation of the lake and the Oasis through sporting events of this nature. Also the Sicilian Region and the Sicilian Regional Assembly, together with the Municipalities, will sponsor the event.
The Asd Extrema. When it is born and how many people are actively working on this project and what other experiences you have had.
La Extrema asd, was born ten years ago precisely for the organization of courses and sports events related to the disciplines of triathlon and open water swimming. Among the many competitions we organize, about 8 per year, the Olympic Triathlon Città di Palermo, the Traversata di Nuoto Levanzo -Favignana, and many other races related to these disciplines.
For someone like you who "comes" from bottom swimming and the Ironman; What does XTERRA mean?
Actually I landed at the Ironman because I wanted to get away from the ultra-swimming marathons, and in particular after the last 152km endurance venture in 38h in Catalunya, I wanted to get closer to the multi-discipline of triathlon. In 3 years led me to the qualification for Kona and in the same year for the 70.3 world championship, so what to tell you now my goal is Ma. Regardless of that, I'm passionate about mountain biking and running. The symbiosis between nature and sport so well combined by XTERRA led me to rediscover also my territory and Piana degli Albanesi is the full representation of this.
We are going to conclude this chat waiting to be able to feed other ravenous Italian, European and global crossers to the ravenous crossers, with a brief conclusion where we ask you to help those who are reflecting on what to do to "come forward".
I am really happy to organize the first LD in Italy that will assign the top category slots for Maui. On the other hand, a lover of endurance like me could only act as start-upper for this distance, after France, the second in the world! To those who read this, I would like to say that we offer various hotel agreements, as well as mtb and wetsuit rental services. Palermo and Sicily are easily and comfortably reachable, both by plane and by ship, and certainly the race can also be an opportunity to visit and learn about the area, experience a beautiful sporting experience and then why not, relax on the beautiful beach of Mondello.
Our goal in this chat was to find out, to find out that after a few weeks from the launch of the LD, it was still not well in the light of day. We tried to thin out some clouds that hovered over Piana degli Albanesi and theXTERRA Italy Ld Sicily to bring that sun that in Sicily you know reign supreme at all times of the year. Reading and rereading Mauro's words I collected at least 4 or 5 valid reasons for not losing the event. Do I have to be honest and tell you what is "tormenting" me? The cannoli? Also. But no, we had photographic reports and footage that confirm the beauty of Mauro's description in talking about the most beautiful point of the race. The plateau above the lake from where you can have a view of the entire plain and the surrounding area. Simply creepy.