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Killer B's - Batelier & Bucher - Sting the Field at XTERRA Italy Championship in the Cedrino Valley
Franky Batelier, a 31-year-old military officer from Normandy, France, passed reigning XTERRA World Champ Ruben Ruzafa from Spain on the run to win the first XTERRA European Tour race of the season in the Cedrino Valley of Italy on Sunday. In the women’s race 3-time XTERRA European Tour Champ Renata Bucher edged fellow Swiss-star Sibylle Matter by just 20-seconds to win the women’s race.
The race also served as the European Triathlon Union (ETU) Cross Championship and as such, Batelier and Bucher earned those titles as well.
Photos courtesy Riccardo Giardina
“Kahuna Dave” Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour, was at the race and brings us this report...
May 31, 2009 (Orosei, Sardinia) - For the third straight year, the weather Gods provided a sprinkling of rain and good cloud cover for the start of the 2009 XTERRA Italy Championship. A huge field of 500, including world class pros started arriving at transition three hours before the race start. At the head of the list was Ruben Ruzafa from Spain, the current XTERRA World Champion. Always a favorite, Olivier Marceau looked very fit. Franky Batelier and Michael Weiss, both winners in the past were here along with triathlon legend Rob Barel, the current European Cross-Champion. Backing those names were Ronny Dietz (who was married in Sardinia on Friday), Karel Zadak and Jan Kubicek from Czech Republic and Sam Gardner of England who is showing a lot of speed in early 2009 and the always popular swimming specialist Gianpietro De Faveri on his home turf.
For the women it looked to be a three way race between Sibylle Matter, Renata Bucher and Carina Wasle – all race winners.
There were a host of new names that we had not seen in the past that would play a part today. The race was held in those peculiar conditions we see too often where a water temperature of 21C had the Elite without wetsuits and age groupers with wetsuits. I have always wondered about this rule and it seems to me we need one rule should for all. Everybody in wetsuits or nobody in wetsuits. The organizers, the ITU and XTERRA agreed to give the elites a bit of an advantage and started them about 100m into the water standing on a sand bar. While it helped a bit, the age group athletes soon started passing the slower pros. The biggest effect was on Carina Wasle. Carina is a tiny woman that swims OK, but races to her strength in running and cycling. She was passed by dozens of age groupers and on this type of course simply could not pass enough riders to get anywhere near the front.
De Faveri came out of the water with a big lead and the Italian crowd loved it, filling the valley with enthusiastic cheers. Behind him came Batelier and Marceau who soon passed into the lead. Poor Rob Barel was sidelined quickly with a series of flats that stopped his run early. The rest of the field was slicing and dicing among the fast cyclists and the fast swimmers. Ruzafa and Weiss came out of the water two minutes behind the leaders and quickly started making time. By the second lap the Spaniard had caught Batelier, Marceau was back almost 30 seconds and Czech Karel Zadak, always a strong cyclist, was right behind the Olympian and having his best race ever. Michi Weiss was up into 5th past De Faveri who was taking big advantage of his swim skills. Poor Sam Gardner was directed the wrong way when he got his bike and lost a big chunk of time finding his way out of transition. None-the-less he was blistering the trails to a 4th quickest bike time, but his lost time was too much to overcome.
For the women, Sibylle Matter used her quick swim to take the lead but her Swiss countrywoman Bucher simply had too much power on the bike despite being back close to 3 minutes out of T1. Renata started her season early in Guam and has been racing successfully at the first 3 Cup races in the States. She was racing fit and cranked a bike time that put her first into T2 well ahead of Sibylle. The surprise in the women’s field was Judy Van Den Berg of Holland. She was a ways back from the front two – but held a solid 3rd the entire race for a fantastic podium position.
The men’s race was much more in question. Ruben had passed Batelier but the Frenchman was not about to let him go – they came into T2 just seconds apart. Czech Zadak was equally stubborn in not letting many times winner Marceau out of his sight and those 4 were the leaders as they ran into the Sardinian forest. Weiss was still in 5th but the newlywed Dietz was not far behind him with De Faveri and some new names, Thomas Jurcovik and Peter Mosny from Slovakia and Spain’s Victor Del Corral Morales making up the top 10.
The World Champ did not hold the lead long as Franky used his running skills to take the lead in the first kilometer out on the run. While Batelier never got far away, he was measuring himself and wanted to save some energy while waiting for Ruben’s charge. For Ruben, he knew Batelier was probably the faster runner and simply kept close enough that should the Frenchman falter – he would be ready to pounce. The ever stubborn Zadak was just feet behind Marceau and their cut and thrust racing as they passed other runners was magic to watch. Marceau would dart left and zip past two guys – Zadak would watch what happened and go up the middle. At the end of the first run lap there was no way to know what would happen. The German Dietz was hunting Austrian Weiss and had pulled to within 20 seconds at the end of the first lap. Marceau’s experience pulled through for him to take the podium and came home just 14 seconds ahead of Karel. Dietz caught Weiss but these two were only feet apart going into the last 1.5K finish loop with Ronny pulling it out by 9 seconds for 5th.
Renata ran hard and she needed to. Sibylle was not about to give up her championship hopes and pulled nearly three minutes back on the run finishing just 20 seconds short of victory.
The celebrations by young and old, victor and vanquished were fabulous. The spirit and joy was overwhelming in the finish compound. The two lap bike with three hard climbs and lots of single track made passing tough with hundreds of riders scattered everywhere, but everyone coped. Even little Carina was able to get up to 6th after passing nearly 100 on the bike.
Franky Batelier is concentrating on XTERRA this year, his sciatic problem is over and he has to be considered the front runner to displace Nico Lebrun and Olivier as XTERRA Euro Champion. Ruben proved conclusively that his Maui win was no one-night stand and would like to do more XTERRA but is having a hard time convincing his team to release him from mountain biking duties.
The cloudy skies moved the evening dinner party inside, but while we missed the fragrant Sardinian night, it did not dampen anyone’s spirits. The vino, mirto and music played well into the night.
So we head into the 2009 Continental year with a start that had the biggest field in European XTERRA history, a lot of fresh faces and some fantastic spirit to take to the next race in the Czech Republic. The hunt is truly on.
2009 XTERRA EUROPEAN TOUR
May 31 - XTERRA Italy Championship (Orosei, Sardinia)
Find complete results and more information on this race at xterraitaly.it
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