Majjistral Nature Reserve – The reigning XTERRA European Tour champion Roger Serrano from Spain and the women’s tour runner-up from 2015 Brigitta Poor from Hungary got off to a quick start in 2016 by capturing the season-opener at XTERRA Malta this morning.
XET Technical Director Nicolas Lebrun was on-site to take in all the action and brings us this report.
Malta is a beautiful place to start the 2016 edition of the XTERRA European Tour. The temperature today was around 20°C and the water 17°C, but the strong winds made the conditions a little bit tougher than it looked in the pictures.
The swim was two loops, starting with the tail wind then a 90° turn that made it hard on everyone to go straight. Jens Roth took the lead quickly and started the second loop with 15-seconds on Serrano, followed by new pro Pierre-Antoine Guilhem, age grouper Jean Marc Rimaud from Versailles, and Fabien Combaluzier who brought a big team with him to race here in Malta.
In the women’s elite race Diane Lee from the UK (she was 2nd at XTERRA Denmark last year) took the lead on local Maltese Danica Spiteri and Brigitta Poor, with Morgane Riou more than one-minute back.
At the start of the bike Roth had a 30-second lead on Serrano.
“I did a massive block of training this winter, and came here in good shape,” said Serrano, who broke a rib a few weeks ago but said he recovered quickly from that and was confident today.
Roth was stronger on the flat sections but Serrano was stronger on the downhills and technical pieces.
“I caught Jens after about 7km on a rocky downhill, then we collaborated a bit. I improved my run this winter, lost some weight, and wanted to start the run with energy,” said Serrano. “When I started this race today, compared to last year, I was much more confident in my running ability and wanted to prove that to myself today.”
Behind Roth and Serrano it was a race for third led by Guilhem, a new pro to XTERRA From the southeast of France, then Maxim Chane, who was making his pro debut but we know him from some great age group performances in Maui. Brice Daubord and Jan Pyott both got flat tires today. While Pyott did not finish as a result, Daubord rode the last few kilometers of the bike on his rim then ran his way to a 9th place finish.
In the women’s race Lee took a 30-second lead into the bike section, followed by last year’s Malta Champ Brigitta Poor and Spiteri, with Morgane Riou and Alena Stevens more than one-minute back. After the first loop Poor put 2:30 on Riou, and five minutes to the third place rider Lee.
“I was very nervous this morning,” said Poor. “It’s the first race of the season, and you don’t know who did what, so I just pushed as hard as I could. I lost my bottle early on the bike and that added some stress to the day.”
Back to the men’s race, Serrano led the first 500-meters of the trail run but was only five seconds ahead of Roth. His face and attitude were confident, however, like somebody in control of the race while Roth looked like he was in “all-out” mode.
It was four minutes before Guilhem came by in third, chased by another new pro Hannes Wolper and Chané in 5th. The top three stayed the same through the finish and Serrano won his first XTERRA after several 2nd place finishes on the tour last year.
“Of course I’m happy because I’ve been trying to get a big win like this for three years, but I also know that Brice had a flat, and Ruben Ruzafa wasn’t here,” said Serrano. “So it’s nice but I know I still have a long way to go.”
It was refreshing to see Serrano analyze his victory in this way, and I know a lot of people are happy for him tonight having got this win.
Roth was also elated with his runner-up showing, saying “it’s perfect, my condition is good and now I will start a big block of technical training on the mountain bike. I’m improving and I’m having a lot of fun.”
Guilhem was happy too, and surprised he did so well in his first XTERRA. It’ll be fun to follow his season and he’ll probably race next month in Greece as well. Chane finished in fourth, and after the race said “I like these races that are a little bit shorter. I’m really happy, especially to be able to run all the way home and forget my nightmare run from Maui last year.”
We will be watching Chane for many years to come. Peter Lehmann from Germany, another first year pro, had a solid run to finish in 5th. Lots of new guys out here today and I’m not sure if anyone in the top 10 was any older than 25!
In the women’s race Poor had a big lead on the run, but her boyfriend told her it wasn’t so big so she kept pushing and ultimately finished more than four minutes ahead of Riou. Sandra Koblmueller had a great run to move up from 6th place to third by the finish line, then Golsteyn and Stevens.
“I’m really happy,” said Poor. “I know I’m not yet at 100%, and clearly the goal is to try to win the Tour. I finished second last year, so I need to move up one more place. I will try to race the whole tour, and give myself the best chance of winning it.”
Riou had a career-best performance in 2nd place, a result of a lot of hard work in the off-season to improve her mountain biking with the Organicoach crew.
Another highlight for the day was seeing David DeSantis finish his 4th race of the 16 he has planned around the world to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. “That was maybe the best trail running loop I ever did, this place is so beautiful,” he said.
If you’d like to congratulate him by donating $16 to his fundraising efforts go to: https://www.gofundme.com/desantis16in2016.
I had another great experience in Malta, and was happy to see all these new young and fast athletes. Thanks Nathan, Deidre, Antonello, Ruben… and all the Hellfire crew, who doubled their entries this year!
Next stop in Europe: Greece!
|1||Roger Serrano, ESP||2:16:44||75|
|2||Jens Roth, GER||2:17:48||67|
|3||Pierre-Antoine Guilhem, FRA||2:22:29||61|
|4||Maxim Chane, FRA||2:23:20||56|
|5||Peter Lehmann, GER||2:24:35||51|
|6||Fabrizio Bartoli, ITA||2:25:04||47|
|7||Brice Daubord, FRA||2:28:09||43|
|8||Dominik Wychera, AUT||2:28:41||39|
|9||Hannes Wolpert, GER||2:28:56||36|
|10||Fabien Combaluzier, FRA||2:29:15||33|
|Also: Cedric Lassonde (30), Christophe Betard (27), Markus Benesch (25)|
|1||Brigitta Poor, HUN||2:40:15||75|
|2||Morgane Riou, FRA||2:44:21||67|
|3||Sandra Koblemueller, AUT||2:46:51||61|
|4||Maud Golsteyn, NED||2:48:12||56|
|5||Alena Stevens, SVK||2:50:55||51|
|6||Diane Lee, GBR||2:59:14||47|
|7||Kristina Nec Lapinova, SVK||2:59:45||43|
|8||Danica Spiteri, MLT||3:00:17||39|
2016 XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS
XTERRA Malta was the seventh of 37 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the world could qualify to race at the 21st annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on October 23.
|DATE||WORLD TOUR EVENT||LOCATION or WINNERS
|7-Feb||XTERRA Philippines||Brad Weiss/Lizzie Orchard|
|21-Feb||XTERRA South Africa||Brad Weiss/Flora Duffy|
|5-Mar||XTERRA Motatapu||Olly Shaw/Mary Gray|
|12-Mar||XTERRA Saipan||Brodie Gardner/Carina Wasle|
|20-Mar||XTERRA Costa Rica||Karl Shaw/Myriam Guillot-Boisset|
|26-Mar||XTERRA Argentina||Josiah Middaugh/Myriam Guillot-Boisset|
|3-Apr||XTERRA Malta||Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor|
|16-Apr||XTERRA New Zealand||Rotorua, North Island|
|17-Apr||XTERRA La Reunion||La Reunion Island|
|23-Apr||XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship||Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia|
|7-May||XTERRA Malaysia / XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Championship||Langkawi|
|7-May||XTERRA Brazil||Ilhabela, São Paulo|
|21-May||XTERRA Oak Mountain State Park||Pelham, Shelby County, AL, USA|
|25-Jun||XTERRA Switzerland||Vallee de Joux|
|25-Jun||XTERRA Mine over Matter||Milton, Ontario, Canada|
|10-Jul||XTERRA Victoria||Victoria, B.C., Canada|
|16-Jul||XTERRA Beaver Creek||Beaver Creek, CO, USA|
|23-Jul||XTERRA Parry Sound||Ontario, Canada|
|31-Jul||XTERRA Italy||Lago Di Scanno|
|31-Jul||XTERRA Dominican Republic||Barahona|
|13-Aug||XTERRA Sweden||Hellsgaarten, Stockholm|
|14-Aug||XTERRA Canmore||Canmore, Alberta, Canada|
|20-Aug||XTERRA Germany – XTERRA European Championship||Zittau|
|27-Aug||XTERRA Sleeping Giant||Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada|
|27-Aug||XTERRA Korea||Daeahn Reservoir, Wonju City|
|4-Sep||XTERRA Denmark||Mons Klint|
|4-Sep||XTERRA Quebec||Quebec City, Quebec|
|11-Sep||XTERRA Woolastook||New Brunswick, Canada|
|17-Sep||XTERRA USA / Pan Am Championship||Ogden, Utah, USA|
|23-Oct||XTERRA World Championship||Kapalua, Maui|