ICF Marathon Classic Series: Adige Marathon (Italy)
You know a race has hot competition in it when the fire brigade is hosing down the paddlers at the start. The Adige Marathon in the north of Italy attracts 1500+ paddlers to the Verona region of North of Italy. Set in the river below stunning limestone mountains above the town of Borghetto d'Avio the river is fast flowing, cold and packed with paddlers for this wild water canoe marathon.
Packed with so many paddlers that with the flow of the river pushing us all downstream it is a skill to stay behind the start line string pulled tight across the river at head height. Being that it’s easy to do side strokes to keep yourself behind the line but tangle your top hand in the rope, this isn’t my favourite start line method. Having experienced it in Czech Republic and Spain you just have to look for the brown surfski sling shot back into the field at 54sec on the video below.
Once the start is given and you’re away of the jousting paddles of the start, the field stretches out quickly with the clean water and flow in the middle of the river favouring those who could get to it first. Then not long after the start is the first and only major rapid of the race a simple point and shoot wave train after a bridge (better hope your pumps working). Nothing as technical in a K1 as the Liffey Descent in Ireland.
The Italian safety crews and sightseers politely clapped and cheered as you drop this rapid. Much kinder than crowds elsewhere who spectate the bigger rapids and only cheer when you capsize.
Racing next to the larger volume down river racing boats had me jealous of their deck volume and water tight spray decks. Several times I would pick a line just to the left or right of the wave train peak thinking it would be fast and end up with a large slap of cold water in the chest sloshing through the zipper of my spray deck. The feet then starting to work the foot pumps drilled through my footrest…
Into the chilly shaded lime stone gorge section of the 35km race provided a great opportunity for a quick gel and an opportunity to wash ride a few K2s. With several crew boats passing through, who presumably had troubled starts, I’m never one to let a fast wash ride go past. This was a welcome boost to speed up the trip down river to the finish line in the town of Pescantina.
The host clubs, of Canoe Kayak Club Borghetto and Pescantina Canoe and Rafting, are predominantly down river and white-water rafting clubs rather than flatwater kayak clubs. The Pescantina Club even operates rafting tours of the Adige and Alto Adige which is worth a look if you’re ever in the area along with the local food, wine and hot spring thermal pools.
- Kieran Babich