Sardegna è il migliore – Winning European Championships

The Tuesday after Waco I was on my way to Heathrow to meet up with Ross on our way to our Italian getaway in Sardinia.  I have missed my friends on the island for five whole years and I was so excited to share them with him and to reunite with my adopted Italian sister Roberta.  It had been too long since I last raced in Italy or in any European XTERRA race so I figured the European Championships would be a good place to get reacquainted with Euro style racing.

Obviously winning also colored my experience 😉

Sandro Salerno puts on an amazing show with his team from the Island Group.  Italy is second only to Hawaii in terms of pageantry, fun, food, organization and participation.  In fact, Italy destroys Maui in terms of food with the buffets of typical Sardinian dishes complete with red and white wine.  Amazing, amazing parties!  Winning the race didn’t suck either :).  I managed to find my legs somewhere over the Atlantic and won the race with a strong bike and nearly as strong a run to take the win over Renata, with Sybille Matter in third.  Carina Wasle rounded out the podium for the Euro Championships since I am not a Euro and didn’t count.  Frankie Batelier held off Olivier Marceau and Felix Schumann to continue an impressive streak in Europe.  These European athletes are fantastic.  I really enjoyed hanging out with all of them.  I should really race in Europe more.  The quality of the race was so outstanding.  I said it about Villacidro but really, if you want a destination race that is as amazing as Maui, this is the one.  The course is similar in some ways as well… only a lot more fun.  Island Group puts on a pageant to be remembered.. complete with a giant bucket of parmesan cheese.  I mean really… go just for the cheese.

Ma famiglia italiano.

There is an amazing recap of the race at  Vous devez etre capable de lire en francais pour comprendre.. haha!  Si non, les photos sont bonnes…  The rest of the trip was equally wonderful so I will talk about all the non racing shenanigans which represent all the reasons why you MUST go race in Sardinia at least ONCE in your life.  I am definitely going to go back.  It is so incredible I can’t believe I waited five years to return.  Read on for more…

The week in Sardinia was enjoyed almost fully without my bag.  No cute outfits for my first many, many days!  My bike managed to arrive but my clothing bag decided to hang out in Houston for an extra day (who knows how it didn’t make the trip from Houston to Heathrow) which was a disaster since my BA flight to Cagliari only leaves twice per week.  Trying to reroute my stuff through other airports and airlines proved to be a huge task as I only saw my bag six days later.  Luckily, I think I had a sixth sense about this happening as I packed my bike shoes, helmet, race outfit, swimsuit (no goggles), one pair of shorts and an extra pair of undies.  My run shoes were with my bike.  Aside from frantic shopping to put together an outfit in the airport duty free (Mango and Ted Baker, anyone?  I looked very Euro for most of the trip) I was only starting to really panic when I didn’t have goggles, vasoline or baby powder the day before the race.  This was sorted when I bought some goggles in the camping store for $1.50 and my decision that if I couldn’t borrow the talcum powder I would have to wear socks.  The race in Italy is almost 8/10km of SAND so footsie protection is essential.

Lots of sand here 🙂

All the temporary stress didn’t have long lasting effects since I managed to earn my first win of the season.  Sunday was sunny for the first time, the course was mint, my legs were good and the race was spectacular.  My bag came so  I had lots of outfits.  We had figured out how to operate in Italy.  Life was so, so good.

It doesn’t suck there.

There are so many amazing things about Italy you have to just appreciate it for its unique culture and enjoy.  

Things that I LOVED:

 The food was absolutely incredible.  There was a BUCKET of aged parmigiana cheese on the buffet table during the awards dinner.  Parma ham – when do you get to taste that? 

A bucket of cheese… made of cheese!

 Vegetarians.. beware.. this is not your country.  Delicious cool red wine sipped on white sand beaches.  Clear blue sea water.  The gelaterias were everywhere with fresh fruity creamy goodness.  Delicious tiny Italian cappucinos on a patio watching interesting people walking around.  Riding our bikes up tiny steep Italian streets that were designed for oxcarts, not cars but are still used today.  That is probably why these cars are driven here:

Old, really really old stuff that was around in the 1600s, like churches and theatres is a novelty for a Canadian.  The strawberries this time of year..mmmmmmmmmmmmm.   Getting together with the whole gang in Villacidro that I had met in 2005 for pizza- awesome.   My Italian mom and dad who were so happy to visit with me and Ross despite the fact we spoke NO Italian and they spoke NO english.  Awesome. 

My friend Roberta and her hilarious husband Antonio “Tony la camicia” (his Soprano name Tony the Shirt which he earned by us nicknaming him Tony and him looking smart wearing a nice shirt one night at dinner – you had to be there).  Eating croissants for breakfast since that was pretty much the option.   Enjoying an evening of Sardinian food with Roberta and Tony with his cousin and uncle who brought homemade goat cheese to eat with the Canadian wine with brought as a gift. 

Sardinian cheese with BC wine in Italy.  Also some kind of caviar on toasts that I actually ate.  I am so crazy like that.

The fact Tony seemed to be able to speak more English if we poured him more beer or wine.  Ha!  Pumping euro techno during the entire awards night.  Enjoying beer and proseccos with Renata,  Simon, Dave, Ross, Jacky, Frankie, the Czechs and “les Normands” late into the night after the race. 

Good times with the french and czech boys apres race 🙂

Watching French and Czech men strip to their skivvies for a swim race at 1 am in the hotel pool.  Singing happy birthday to Renata repeatedly.  Cheersing everyone for any reason at all.  Driving 120km/h on a road with a sign indicating the speed limit is 80 km/h and being passed by everyone driving at minimum 150km/h.  In sweet late model Alphas or crap Fiats from the eighties.  No matter.  Everyone drives like it is the Autobahn. 

Oh, and winning for the first time this year.Cool

Ross likes to feel the pedals at 150km/h.

There were some difficulties. 

Luckily, Ross was there to appreciate my fish out of water experience.  We are used to paying everything on Visa, which was impossible nearly everywhere.  Including gas stations which was a problem.  Finding a bank machine?  Impossible or nearly, two hours later.  My bag not being there for so, so long and the amount of time sitting at reception trying to find it… ridiculous.   A few misfires on restaurants orders :  we discovered that we really don’t enjoy anchovies on a pizza when we are expecting artichokes (my Italian is poor).  Getting a message in the hotel?  Impossible, especially when your phone doesn’t even work.  Internet?  Astronomically expensive (4 euros per hour?  are you kidding me?)  Our room?  A closet. 

Storing the bikes in the shower

The patio outside our room was killer though.

Renata’s room in the same hotel?  Five times as big..haha!  That is what happens when you win and come back I guess.  Ross likes to call the beds in that kind of hotel sausages… we had each our own twin bed side by side complete with a separate wrapping of sheets and blankets… little pigs in blankies.  Is that the Catholic culture worming it’s way in?  Ross and I never got on the schedule in Italy:  we would first miss breakfast more often than not and then be late for lunch.  Nutritionally we were a mess until dinnertime almost every day.   Going with the flow was an absolute requirement because in some cases we were always swimming upstream.  Times are a guideline not absolute.  Nothing happens when you expect it so  you must always be prepared.   The start line for the swim was a full meter and a half behind us when we actually started.   The race I think went off on time but transition was supposed to close at 9 (abbreviating my warmup) but didn’t close until closer to 9:30.  The 11 km I ran the Wednesday before I left went off an hour after schedule. 

The race had hundreds of participants happy to wait for an hour to start 😉 – Mel Rockin MelRAD 

That is Italy.  I love all of it.

I am so sad to leave.  I love Villacidro most of all.  My friend Roberta and her husband Antonio are amazing and one week divided up to visit them was not nearly long enough.  Ross and I are already looking forward to going back to just hang out in Sardinia, with our Sardinian friends, eating Sardinian food and enjoying the Sardinian life.  It is wonderful.  La Dolce Vita.  Sardegna è il migliore.  (Sardinia is the best!)

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