The XTERRA World Tour flies into Stockholm for the inaugural XTERRA Sweden Championship at Hellasgarden Park on Sunday. South Africa’s Dan Hugo, fresh off a win at the XTERRA Pezula duathlon in South Africa on Thursday, will join a staple of the European Tour regulars for race No. 6 of 11 in the Series this Sunday.
XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas is on-site and brings us this report…
What a wonderful surprise taking in the terrain and trails of the first XTERRA Sweden. The course is no more than 30 minutes from the center of the Old Town part of Stockholm and even closer to the newer suburb of Nacka.
Stockholm is separated by huge bays and inlets and a lot of residents actually take ferries from one part of town where they live to another where they work. Buses everywhere and a very nice underground. Combine that with hundreds of folks on bikes and for a city of millions we have not seen traffic jams.
The park at Hellasgarden is a gem. Totally in nature yet so close to population. A big, clear freshwater lake surrounded by pine and hardwood forests and huge outcrops of rocks (mostly granite). "The bike course is awesome" agree pros Ben Allen, Rory Downie, Carina Wasle and Louise Fox. A great combination of climbs, rocks and roots, quite technical but fun all over. The bike is two laps and comes back through the main compound.
I did the run today and it is also fantastic. The run starts flat and fast around the lake but turns uphill after about 1K. Then things get interesting as one has to scramble over the huge rocks jutting out of the hills. Think an uphill dry-way from Richmond. The climbs are not long but they are technical and you'll need confidence and some strength left in your legs to literally leap from one to the other to make fast times. The trails go from totally open rock faces to very slim and technical (roots and rocks every inch to twist your ankles) trails then back to more climbing and finally to coming back down to lake level to start your second lap. The views at the top are spectacular and the smells inside the forest from the pines and woods is perfume to any XTERRA racer.
The pro field is filling up and I will have a better handle on it tomorrow. As the race is on Sunday some did not arrive until today. We do know that Dan Hugo is making an appearance as is the return of Helena Erbenova. Jacqui Slack had commitments in England this weekend so Ben is here alone. Kathrin Mueller had raced four straight weekends and is taking this one off as a well-deserved rest.
The best part has to be the weather. Sunny and in the low 80's, beautiful sky blue/pink sunsets. The weatherman predicts 60% chance of rain for Sunday, but in this part of the world weather is not an exact science.