Last weekend the Florence Paddle Games came to town, set in the beautiful location of the Canottieri Firenze with the iconic Ponte Vecchio the setting added great atmosphere to the paddlers, with crowds gathered alongside the course and some real battles taking place it was a truly exciting race!
The paddle games kicked of on Saturday morning with the 6 KM amateur long distance race, it was 2 laps of the race circuit between the 2 Florentine bridges. Italian racer Martino Rogai told TotalSUP “This race was really emotional for me, as it was the 1st race for my younger brother Diego Rogai, and he did us proud by winning it in our home city.”
Then commenced the 15 kmwomen Pro Uffizi SUPRace, the women raced as a stand alone event.Organisers from the Paddle games told TotalSUP “we felt this choice to let the Pro Women start alone, it was real bold choice but one where we felt we would be rewarded, it is our philosophy for the women to have the same opportunity as the men and to be watched by all the crowds in the centre of Florence”. The women race was fascinating from start to finish, almost immediately racers Olivia Piana from 425 pro and Susak Molinero took the lead, they worked together until the final lap when Olivia paddled hard and created a good gap to take the victory.
The main battle of the womens race was for third place between Infinity rider Melanie Lafenetre and Italian Chiara Nordio, they had an intense lung bursting sprint finish, right until the end. Martin told TotalSUP “The move for a separate start time is a positive move, the women deserved to have their own circuit for two hours, the race was extremely fun, sometimes we lose these sporting moments like the battle between Melanie and Chiara because we are always racing at the same time. ”
The Mens Pro Uffizi Sup Race started right after the Womens, more than 30 top paddlers from Italy took part in the race including paddlers Leonard Nika, Paolo Marconi, Giordano Bruno Capparella, Davide Ionico, Claudio Nika and Martino Rogai. The world champion Bruno Hasulyo was also present he had once lived in Florence for 12 years, despite his Hungarian passport, Bruno is considered a Florentine boy! Paddlers from Israel, Slovenia, Greece and Canada were also present.
Photo Credit: Emilie Masson Photography
It was a fast race from the get-go, the circuit had a lot of buoy turns, turning the race into more of a technical race than a straight flat water race. Martin Rogai described it as a “F1 city circuit right in the town centre, with 5 laps to do all under the crowds on the bridge. All the bridges and banks of the river were full of people watching this race getting fascinated by this sport. “
Photo Credit: Emilie Masson Photography
After the first lap the head of pack consisted of Martino, Bruno, Leonard Nika and Claudio Nika all fighting for top position right until the finish. Italian racer Martino, starboard rider Bruno and Leo started sprinting all switched up a gear and sprinted right, with a great fight under the Ponte Vecchio, it was Bruno who claimed victory, Leo second and Martino third. Behind the leaders other battles took place, there was an amazing battle for 5th place between Paolo Marconi and Liran Machlev from Israel. This dualing for positions throughout the race made it an intense watch from the gathering crowds.
On Sunday was the Junior Uffizi Cup with the best young paddlers from Italy battling it out, with a great party atmosphere, all the kids were excited and fascinated to be rubbing shoulders with all the champion paddlers such as the world champ Bruno Hasulyo. The Florence Fun Race hosted by Starboard also took place, it was a fun sprint race in the cracking scenery just in front of Ponte Vecchio.
Photo Credit: Emilie Masson Photography
Martino Rogai rounded off the event by telling TotalSUP “I’m so proud of this race, my main goal launching the Florence Paddle Festival was to show to the Italian and international SUP community how great it is to paddle in Florence, and also how important it is to involve the public in this sport. Florence is a great stadium for SUP. Everything was cool in this race. I hope to have you all next year! and to have more riders. We will be working hard to launch the 2019 event soon ;)”
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