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Wed 21st Aug 2019
© Christian Stultschnig
Stuart Lumb: XTERRA Italy
Posted by: jetsetsupervet
Posted on: Friday 16th July 2010

Tags  Jet Set Super Vet  |  JetSetSuperVet  |  JSSV  |  Stuart Lumb  |  XTERRA Italy

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Stuart Lumb, aka Jet Set Super Vet (JSSV) reports on XTERRA Italy, the XTERRA European Championships - plus the joys of transporting a bike box through the London Underground.


When racing abroad the actual race sometimes seems a bit like the tip of the iceberg. If I have a poor race (frequently happens these days), then one of the excuses that I come up with is that I was jet-lagged having just returned from a business trip to some far flung corner of the planet. I had been in Bejing in mid May (thereby missing the Dales Etap which I was rather miffed about, although on hearing that the weather was atrocious , I felt rather less miffed), and then had four days at home before leaving for Sardinia to compete in the 2010 XTERRA Italy - Euro Championships.

Transition area: XTERRA Italy

After long flights I usually go down with something and true to form came home incubating a stinking cold, which fortunately responded to a three day course of medication (and whisky!). So, bright eyed and bushy tailed JSSV headed off to Gatwick to catch his flight to Olbia. I de-trained at Kings Cross and being a typical tight fisted Tyke spurned a taxi and headed for Victoria via the Tube to catch the Gatwick Express . I have a SciCon bike box - built to withstand a nuclear explosion - which with bike and clobber tipped the scales at 32kg. I also was lugging along two backpacks as well. Going up the escalators was a doddle – going down a completely different ball game! I'm not good at maths but 32kg of bike box in free fall at 45% would have been moving at a fair rate of knots and would have taken out several poor unsuspecting commuters - but thank the Lord my box, my two backpacks and myself made it down safely. Just! Getting my box on the Tube was much more fun - narrowly missing a few toes - as far as I could tell! My tools were carefully packed away this time (vs. last year ) and arrived safely in Olbia. On stepping off the air bridge I was given a friendly "Bonjourno" by a welcoming airport official. Think BAA have a lot to learn about customer PR...

©Christian StultschnigDavide Mancino, the XTERRA press officer had very kindly arranged transport to and from my hotel. This year I was within biking distance of Cale Ginepro, which was the race venue for the fourth year running. I managed to get quite a bit of pre-race biking done, climbing up into the mountains, enjoying the stunning views. My heel now being much better allowed me to get out running as well, but as my cold was lingering on I passed on any swim sessions. On the Friday I went round the actual bike split and was delighted not to get lost, which happened in 2009. Saturday was registration and briefing day and I bumped into Dave Nicholas, who is XTERRA's ebullient extrovert CEO. XTERRA races start at civilised times of the morning and I duly packed my race gear into my backpack and on the Sunday morning gently pedalled to transition which was only a few metres away from the beach.

Normally it rains for the race but this year it was wall-to-wall sunshine - fine if you were just lounging on the beach...but not for extreme sport. The swim was 1.5km in total, two laps with an energy sapping 'sprint' through the sand between each lap. This year we swam anticlockwise which suited me down to the ground as I only breathe to my left - tried learning to breathe bilaterally a couple of years ago but in my case you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I was delighted that my goggles didn't leak but more concerned at the amount of salt water I was shipping. The simple act of rolling my shoulders resolved that problem though. On recollection it was the first open water swim I'd done this year and I really .should stop using races as training sessions! About 400m into the 32km bike split you drop down on to a 20m long pontoon across a narrow river and climb steeply up on to the trail again. (Proper athletes ride this bit-JSSV gets off and pushes, as he did on several occasions). The pontoon is quite wide but seemingly one competitor managed to fall off it - but without their bike - for a second swim, most strange...

The bike split was two laps and pretty technical, involving a climb up a gully half way round and lots of loose gravel. Towards the end of my first lap the Elites started to whizz past me – I try to give way graciously and it's amazing the comments that are made "thanks, merci, danke" with some ignorant ones merely grunting. They'll be old some day!

©Christian Stultschnig

The whole course is in a nature reserve and has to be in one of the most idyllic locations anywhere - too bad it's not possible to enjoy it. The local forest rangers act as marshalls and what amazed me was the number of them fagging it in the tinder dry woods. Amazing!

Daz Parker and Stuart LumbHalfway round my second lap I came round a bend and came across fellow Tyke and Pro racer Daz Parker, who'd damaged herself and her bike and hence sadly posted a DNF. So on again, back into transition and off on the 10km two lap run.

You cross the same narrow river as you did on the bike split, but on a swaying suspension bridge which is quite fun, then strike out on a trail for several km. By this time I'd been going about four hours and with the thermometer reading 28°C I was flagging a bit . Then it was the turn point / aid station and back down along the beach , hard going but at least there was a good breeze. You run - I use that word advisedly in my case - along the beach and I had it in my mind that the finish was reached by passing the swim start and transition. I was mentally geared up to go in that direction when a marshall suddenly appeared out of nowhere, pointing me at an arrow and a distant headland. Needless to say I had another kilometre to run, so had to get my head round that, snaking through the campsite before being cheered on by lucky finishers, relaxing at the café and quaffing foaming tankards full of beer. Then it was a final 100m 'sprint', over the timing mat and another box ticked...I wasn't quite last, not that I'm bothered and it was interesting to see that there were 25 DNFs this year. By this time it was about 4pm. I gathered up all my gear into my backpack and headed off back to my hotel. Needless to say my pack felt twice as heavy as it had done some eight hours earlier that day and I was relieved to reach my hotel and dive into the shower.

The awards ceremony and dinner were back at Cale Ginepro but outdoors on a large patio, as opposed to being indoors last year. There was a great bunch of Austrian guys staying at my hotel and they kindly gave me a lift to the bash. As usual the awards were presented in ascending order of age, so I was practically asleep when I had my moment of glory and ascended the podium... then it was back to the hotel and a well earned sleep – after a few beers of course!

I was quite a bit slower than last year and put that down to the heat. Amazingly, for a self confessed "carthorse" my run split was my best ranking, followed by my bike and swim splits.

Then it was cheerio to sunny Sardinia and back to "Dear Old Blighty" and another extreme event - battling through the Underground...

Stuart Lumb About the Author

Stuart Lumb lives in God's County - Yorkshire, where else.. took up triathlon when most of his peers were packing in. Works abroad a lot hence christened "Jet Set Super Vet" by a Barracuda club mate. Also enjoys competing in cross tri / XTERRA events - did I hear "Crazy JSSV"? But, you only live once...

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