Livigno, September 3rd 2016. It’s 2:30 a.m. and in the bedroom next to mine, Cristiano is getting up to start his new and hard adventure, the ICON Extreme Triathlon. He’s not alone, this time his family is with him and his wife Elisa, pregnant of their third daughter, is preparing the most energetic breakfast to make him face his day, his race. Alessandro and I, official Supporters, we will help Cristiano trying to make his challenge as easiest as possible. ICON is a crazy experience in terms of distances, temperature and elevation gain for everybody, except for Cristiano, who trains 365 days per year meeting everybody’s needs (job, family and sport).
The day before the weather had been sunny and temperate, so we were optimist also because, after the Scottish Lake at 11°C and the counter-current swim in Austria, the Gallo Lake in Livigno seemed dark but flat and “easy”. Our expectations were disappointed at 3.15 a.m. when we went out discovering a very low temperature. Cristiano was worried because he usually takes advantage of transition areas to gain some time. Ale and I improved a lot under this point of view thanks to previous experiences and also mistakes…..The problem concerned the clothing for the bike transition after coming out of the cold lake. All together studied the situation finding out the best solution…..
Livigno is really a wonderful location for tourism, holidays, every kind of sport, relax, nature, shopping and, last but not least, for this kind of competition. But the difference is made by the organization…..since the day before, at the briefing and delivery of race numbers, it was clear that the whole Team was very capable. All questions were satisfied and passion and expertise were evident to be the core of the Team itself.
The race day Ale and I are at complete disposal of our athlete who wants to do his best not only for himself but also for his family and for his supporters. He goes on to say: ”Guys, I do not guarantee anything but I will do my best. I don’t want to disappoint”.
Time is over: all athletes are ready to start the swim part. Swimsuit, cap, glasses are ok, strip to be applied on the neck to avoid abrasion due to rubbing is missing……first mistake! Everything is ready in the transition area for the bike race: helmet, sunglasses, shoes, gloves, race number and obviously the bike itself.
Start! Cristiano is aware that he’s not a strong swimmer but we are used to his extraordinary regain during the bike section. He comes out of water after about 1h20’ for a total of 4,1km (instead of 3,8km) for a mistake of a small group of athletes who changed direction because of darkness and a misleading light. Never mind, nothing is lost: after very few minutes, Cristiano is already riding his bike and decides to wear the windproof jacket and gloves while riding to spare time. Alessandro gives him an energetic bar and wishes him good luck and the adventure consisting of 190km with 5000 mtD+, Stelvio included, can start. At the beginning, it’s too cold and Cristiano is suffering but after 30km, gloves and windproof jacket put on, he starts the sequence of overtakes. This is the most exciting part of the whole competition for us. Our task is to satisfy our friend’s requests (food, beverage, info concerning distance in km/minutes from the previous athlete, etc). Our assistance becomes essential in the last kilometers before reaching the transition area where Cristiano will start 42km run.
Our athlete is now unbelievably 4th. At T2 everything is ready for him, following a precise order to make him spare time and energy: beverage, food, watch, shoes, glasses, backpack and cap because in the meantime the temperature changed a lot and now it is really hot. Cristiano is fast and we are satisfied…and we will be much more the day after looking at the transition area timings….we have been the fastest in both T1 and T2. The finish line will be at Carosello 3000 where Alessandro and Cristiano’s family will wait for him and for me, too. The ICON Extreme Triathlon is the only one characterized by strong altitudes since the beginning of the competition. This aspect is not to be underestimated because air and breathing change a lot and consequently tiredness, too. Cristiano has to run all alone for 28 km. We find him along the bike path, he is physically and psychologically tired; it seems that he wants to give up and when he asks the distance from the third athlete, we buy time even if we know that this one is 20/30 minutes ahead and that he is a pro biker. Ale decides to run 10 km with Cristiano in order to support him and help him to overcome the crisis, while I reach the last check point with Cristiano’s family. This is the starting point of the last 12 km I have to run with my athlete. Waiting for Cristiano, I take the occasion to talk with the supporter of the third athlete, when suddenly Cristiano appears leaving us all astonished. I am obviously happy and curious to know what happened and where is the athlete, now the fourth one. Cristiano says that he was walking but that he is not so far. We run with a charged-up spirit and together with a big trail and marathon runner Cristiano had met in the previous way, Iseo Compagnoni, who grows fond of Cristiano and decides to come with us on his mountain bike giving his extraordinary support. Few kilometers are missing to Carosello 3000 when we meet two other athletes and we discover that one of them is Katia Zini, short track champion who won several medals. We are proud of having her with us when I realize that the top is not yet visible even if my GPS is saying that we arrived. Just few meters, we are alone, no one behind us. We take some pictures while it is getting dark. Finally we can see the top and we can hear music, shouts of encouragement and applauses. Torches and flags show us the way, the climbing on the stones and Cristiano passes under the finish line. He is a Finisher and this time he is on the podium. Alessandro, Elisa with Matilde and Agnese, reporters, viewers, organizers….all are there to celebrate Cristiano. Tears of happiness fall on Cristiano’s face but also Elisa and their daughters are moved and happy for their extreme husband and father!
Fabio Paragoni, Cristiano Tara Support Team (2016 Finisher)