Since finishing third at the XTERRA USA Championship in September of 2013 Ruben Ruzafa has been perfect. He won the XTERRA World Title in Maui in October, and started 2014 with XTERRA European Tour victories in Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and now France.
For the women it’s been all about Kathrin Mueller of late. She’s won three championship races in as many weekends with Greece, Swiss, and France titles pushing her to the top of the European Tour standings.
XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas was in Xonrupt to take in all the action on Sunday and filed this report…
Another fabulous contest in France with all the bells and whistles anyone could ask for. Thankfully, the forecast rain held off for the race. In the morning I was speaking with the announcer (who did the PA in five languages) and told her I had said to the weather Gods “no rain until 7 tonight”. To my amazement and hers, we were starting awards and at 7:03pm it poured!
The race was another classic battle a la Switzerland last week. The unbeatable Ruben Ruzafa came out of the swim 19th and I watched him as he started the bike and could see he was relaxed and knew his strongest point was about to come. A confident man. First out of the water was a recovered Ben Allen followed by Asa Shaw, Braden Currie and then about 800 of their best friends.
Portugal winner Francois Carloni had a good swim but was caught by Ruzafa on one of the many big climbs. “Ruzafa comes past me and I get on his wheel to follow” said the Frenchman. “Maybe I stay with him 200m and then he is gone, he is so powerful.”
Ben Allen agreed, saying “I went out to play catch me if you can, but those guys; Ruben, Braden, Kris, Asa, Yeray are in a different league than me right now.”
Ruzafa knew the race was long and had his bike loaded with drink and gels. He clearly knew what he wanted as he posted the fastest bike time by nearly five minutes. That is domination. Ruben put in a solid and quick run to take the victory, but he was being chased down by Kiwi Braden Currie. Braden had a minute on Ruben out of the swim, lost five on the bike then took back more than three on the run to finish just under a minute behind in second. A great effort and Currie is not far away from the top step.
Farther back, Asa Shaw had been passed by Belgian Kris Coddens and was being chased by another Belgian, Yeray Luxem. It was a better day for Belgian XTERRA racers than their World Cup team as Coddins finished 3rd and Luxem did pass Shaw to take 4th. Not far behind Shaw was an age group phenom named Arthur Forissier. Just 20 years old, Arthur is fast at everything and took 7th overall including the 6th fastest men’s run.
Carloni was close to Shaw out on the run and thought he could catch the Briton on the climb but cramped badly and lay suffering for a very long time. He did finally continue to a valiant, but disappointing 16th.
Kathrin Mueller continued her run of victories. By far the quickest out of the swim – actually 7th overall – she put in the fastest bike and like Ruzafa; had a solid run to take victory by four-minutes over Carina Wasle. The Austrian woman has had a great comeback year. Carina was a winner on the XTERRA Tour a few years ago but had studies that hampered her training and did not have the results we expected. She is back and she is combining very fast bike times with great run times and is solidly on the podium at each event. The “Swiss Miss” Renata Bucher had a wonderful race and was 2nd off the bike before Carina passed her on the last lap.
Chasing Renata hard and missing 3rd by just nine seconds was Canadian Chantell Widney. Chantell had a great 2nd last week in Switzerland and continued her solid finishes with 4th here in France. Young Sandra Koblmueller again posted the fastest women’s run to take 5th. As her mtb skills improve this young German pro will be a force to reckon with.
“The course is so hard you cannot go slow. I knew I had an advantage off the bike, but could not rest on the run. I was worried about today as this was my 4th race in 4 weeks” sighed our winner Kathrin Mueller. “But, I am very fit and had to prove that Germany not only has the best footballers, but the best XTERRA racers as well.”
Indeed all of Europe is glued to the World Cup Soccer/Football matches, but for this Sunday, the French press eyes were on XTERRA and the Vosges mountains in the north. I posted videos and photos and while they are neat – nothing can truly capture the BIG SHOW that happens in France. The Monster, the Sand Snake, the huge live TV screen in the compound. There is a very good reason that 700 race in the short distance and over 800 in the Championship event and that is because the course, the organization, the Show is simply at the highest level possible. Even those who did not make the cutoff time (over 100) enjoyed the day and are planning on being faster for 2015. This race sells out quickly, so if you plan to come over next year, keep your eyes out when registration opens and get your slot. Rain or no rain – this is the place to be in July. On to our first race in Sweden.
RUZAFA, MUELLER LEADERS AFTER FIVE
Two-time and reigning XTERRA World Champion Ruben Ruzafa from Spain and Kathrin Mueller from Germany remain atop the XTERRA European Tour standings after five events.
Pros count their best six of 11 races through the course of the season to determine their final point totals. Races still to come include XTERRA Sweden on Sunday, followed by XTERRA Italy (July 26), XTERRA Czech (Aug 9), XTERRA Germany (Aug. 16), XTERRA England (Aug. 24), and XTERRA Denmark (Aug. 31).
As proof of the diversity of the elite field, the top 10 men hail from eight different countries, and the same can be said for the women’s top 10. Here’s a look at the current standings:
|1||Ruben Ruzafa, ESP||100||100||x||100||100||400|
|2||Yeray Luxem, BEL||x||82||x||69||75||226|
|t3||Albert Soley, ESP||90||x||82||49||x||221|
|t3||Francois Carloni, FRA||x||90||100||x||31||221|
|5||Asa Shaw, GBR||x||69||x||75||69||213|
|6||Will Kelsay, USA||63||63||49||34||x||209|
|7||Braden Currie, NZL||x||x||x||90||90||180|
|8||Kris Coddens, BEL||x||x||x||82||82||164|
|9||Jan Pyott, SUI||75||x||x||58||x||133|
|10||Alexander Haas, GER||x||x||x||63||53||116|
|1||Kathrin Müller, GER||90||x||100||100||100||390|
|2||Helena Erbenova, CZE||100||x||90||63||x||253|
|3||Sandra Koblmueller, AUT||x||90||x||58||69||217|
|4||Jacqui Slack, GBR||75||82||x||x||58||215|
|5||Coralie Redelsperger, FRA||63||100||x||x||49||212|
|6||Chantell Widney, CAN||x||x||x||90||75||165|
|7||Maud Golsteyn, NED||82||x||x||82||x||164|
|8||Carina Wasle, AUT||x||x||x||69||90||159|
|9||Renata Bucher, SUI||x||x||x||75||82||157|
|10||Rebecca Kaltenmeier, GER||x||x||x||53||63||116|