More than 50 professionals will race Sunday’s XTERRA France Championship – the second of five majors in the XTERRA European Tour.
Frechman Nico Lebrun, who won the Euro opener in Italy, headlines the men’s field. The 2005 XTERRA World Champ and three-time XTERRA European Tour champ married Alexandra Borrelly (who will compete in women’s pro race) last week and would no doubt like to couple that new ring with another XTERRA championship title.
Ben Allen, the Aussie sensation who won the XTERRA Guam, Philippines, Saipan, and New Zealand Championship crowns before finishing 2nd to Lebrun in Italy, is one of many exceptionally fast men who will push Lebrun. Others include the defending XTERRA European Tour champ Olivier Marceau, mountain bike phenom Cedric Lassonde, and rookie pro Alexander Haas (who was third in Italy).
On the women’s side Jacqui Slack, who has won the last two XTERRA World Tour championship races in New Zealand and Italy, will face perhaps her toughest challenge yet - a stacked field that includes past and current XTERRA Euro Tour Champions Renata Bucher (SUI) and Marion Lorblanchet (FRA) along with rising star Carla van Huyssteen from South Africa, plus Carina Wasle (AUT), Brigitta Poor (HUN), and Maud Golsteyn (NED) among others.
Click here to view the complete start list.
XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas is in France for the event and brings us this touch of color from his travels…
“The French XTERRA is in the north – the Voges region of Alsace-Lorraine. To get there drive through the fabulous Alsace vineyards and up into the mountains through Munster (yes, like the cheese) and over some of the more famous mountain Cols (passes) of the Tour de France.
The Tour de France passes by our XTERRA location on stage 7 on Saturday as it travels from Tromblaine to the brutal final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.
I have driven these twisty, fabulous roads several times and always see dozens of cyclists out shredding their legs to climb these hills. The host city of Gérardmer is a picturesque village that features the biggest lake in the area.
The entire region is called Gérardmer / Xonrupt Longemer et la Vallée des Lacs. The XTERRA France championship is in Xonrupt just an easy 10K from the bigger village of Gérardmer. Xonrupt has a bunch of small guesthouses and neat chalets for rent.
Race director Paul Charbonnier has changed the course this year and while it has nearly 5,000’ total climbing it is actually less than in years past. Bring your climbing legs if you want to race here. The event is so popular you must enter when registration opens in the winter. It sells out quickly with 750 for the Championship and 500 for decouvert (discovery distance).
I arrived on the 4th of July and while there were no fireworks, I made sure I had a few bieres, pommes frites and glace (French for gelato) and finished with grand marnier to honor our revolutionary partners. For those of you who are historically challenged – the French were strong allies in our revolutionary war against England. Sunny today but as is usual in central Europe, it looks like rain for race day.