The third stop on the XTERRA European Tour takes the Tribe to Vallee de Joux for the XTERRA Switzerland Championship on Saturday.
XTERRA managing director "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas is on-site for the race and brings us this preview of things to come...
The Vallee de Joux is famous for watchmaking. Some posters are even labeled Valee des watch. If you have an extra $20,000 hanging around there are several small buildings here that will gladly swap you a watch for your money. Many also construct precision medical instruments. Business must be good as there are two Ferrari’s sitting in our hotel parking lot.
But on Thursday here the Vallee is getting ready for XTERRA Switzerland. For the past two years the race has been held on Lac LeMan (or Lake Geneva to some) in Prangins. That course was no longer feasible because of land restrictions and Thomas Vasser and the people from Vallee de Joux have taken over. What a job they have done. Over 640 individuals and teams are entered in the XTERRA light and Championship events.
The area is a postcard. Green hills and valleys; twisty roads moving up and down; two lakes and beautiful small villages; cows in the pasture with their Swiss bells clanging softly. We’re at 1004m in elevation or about 3,300’ for those of you decimally challenged. The water temp at the lake will be about 16 C (60 F) so wetsuits will be in order. The trails are administered by the Canton of Vaud and for this year, the trails will not be marked for pre riding except on race day. Reminds me of the original Maui course.
Nico Lebrun has withdrawn due to a nagging injury and Jacqui Slack will be at her Grandfather’s side in England. Our prayers are with her family.
We will have France 2011 champ Victor del Corral from Spain and 4th overall woman in 2012 Maud Golsteyn from Holland on the line.
The womens field is very strong. Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand is making her first European Tour start and Czech Lenka Cibulkova has returned. The usual head of the pack women; Helena Erbenova, Renata Bucher, Kathrin Mueller and Brigitta Poor are entered and Bubu Lorblanchet is back after resting her injured foot and missing Greece.
The mens field is equally strong with points leader Ben Allen and Asa Shaw looking to dominate, but Yeray Luxem is here after a great race in Greece; Hector Guerra makes his second start after a 4th in Spain and veteran Jan Kubicek from Czech is entered. Naturally the wild card must be del Corral.
The weather does not look good. Late today, as we started building transition, the temperature was 10.5 C or about 60 degrees with light showers. Rain is expected in the area on Saturday as well but in this area of the world, one never knows.
As you would expect from Switzerland there is plenty of climbing on the bike, some long and not too steep, some short and very steep. While the top athletes may be able to ride all of it, there are at least two sections that most will hike. Overall I expect it to be fast and not too technical except for the climbs. The run is also two laps around Lake Brenet with some typical Swiss obstacles in place to keep it interesting.
The start is at the very civilized hour of 2pm on Saturday. Racers in the Championship race will be allowed to preview the course during the light event that morning. I am not sure what the 7pm Maui party is going to be like on Saturday eve, but the after parties in Prangins were great.
JUST IN...FRIDAY UPDATE!
Morning: Cold and sprinkling. Thank goodness there is no wind as the temperature is barely 50 degrees. Lots of athletes arriving in the several villages that surround the race venue. The village of Le Sentier is the home of the Vallee deJoux Sports Center and many folks are staying there. Great shared rooms for 35€ a night including breakfast.
Registration opened at the main venue at 4:00pm and the weather was up to 54 degrees. We face an unusual problem for tomorrows swim. This problem only happens when the air temperature is less than the water temperature. The determination from the ITU rulebook, and we agree with it, is when the air is less than the water you take the difference and half it. If the resultant temperature is 14 degrees C (57.2F) or above then the 1500m swim happens normally. If the resultant temperature is less than 14 then the swim is cut to 750m.
Let me do the math for you. The water temp is 16 and the air temp is 12. Half the difference makes the result 14 and we swim the full distance. If the air temp drops to 11 or below, as it was much of today, the result is less than 14 and the swim is cut to 750m. We'll take the water temp at noon tomorrow for the scheduled 2:00pm start and make the final decision then. It will be close but I suspect we'll swim the whole 1500m.
The major players were all in attendance today with the exception of Victor del Corral. We did not see him but expect he'll be on the line tomorrow. Bubu Lorblanchet says her foot is finally good and she has been training well. Still not back to her superb levels of 2011 but close. Renata looks cheery as does Helena Erbenova. Erbanova's father brought a 6 pack of great Czech beer to repay me for giving him a ride from the swim start in Spain back to town. I got the better of that deal for sure.
Ben Allen looked spiffy in a down vest and knit cap, Asa Shaw was laughing as his mate Francois Carloni got a bad shock when he leaned against an electrified wire fence while the two were out training earlier. Carloni said he was totally stunned for a few minutes and was still a bit shook up an hour later. Hector Guerra was tanned and fit and shivering after coming in from the warm summer weather in Spain. Yeray Luxem was dressed like Ben but was smiling. "Same weather in Belgium" he said.
Rain predicted in the morning with some clearing in the afternoon. Trails were slick this morning but OK in the afternoon. Frankly, the weatherman will play a huge role in what happens tomorrow. I've got sweaters and my XTERRA yellow slicker and am hoping to be able to get around and bring you a full report and photos. It's anybody's guess what will happen but hey, it's XTERRA. Deal with it.