You might recognize him for his black racing kit and red socks. You have likely seen him at the finish line, jumping high in the air with his legs behind him and hands held high. You will most certainly recognize his bright blue eyes and inviting smile. And this year, you’ll see him on the top step of the XTERRA European Tour 45-49 podium.
He is Christophe Maury, aka the “Frenchman”, a nickname given to him by XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas, who was surprised to discover a French man who spoke only English around him. Dave started calling him the Frenchman every time he saw him, then others did as well, and finally Christophe adopted the name and branded his Facebook page “The Frenchman XTERRA Triathlete”.
Maury started racing XTERRA five years ago after seeing a picture of the race in France. His background in adventure racing and love for the outdoors were a perfect prelude to the rigors of XTERRA.
“After the second year when I raced XTERRA France then XTERRA Switzerland I knew this sport was for me, and it became a lifestyle and a passion,” said Maury over a plate of pasta on a beautiful afternoon in Tisvilde. “It’s outdoors, its several sports into one. I need open space, and I love the experiences.”
A teacher by trade Maury has the luxury of spending summer vacation traveling the XTERRA circuit. He has raced eight of the 11 European majors – the most of any amateur. It has come with consequences, however.
“I miss my kids terribly,” said Maury, who has a 12-year-old son, 9, and 6-year-old daughters. “It is hard because I don’t see them as much as I want to, but I Skype with them every day. I bring them souvenirs, send postcards, and take so many pictures. I do this for them and post them on Facebook so they are with me that way.”
He’ll also work with them on math problems – everyday – and explain in detail the experiences he has.
“I tell them everything, how it is and what it is like. I think they are proud. Proud because I succeed in my age group. I tell them if you want to be good you have to practice, that sometimes it’s hard. Mostly, I tell them I love them. I know it’s hard for them, but they are with me every day.”
2014 has been a breakout year for Maury, with a win at XTERRA Sweden and several top finishes within his division. It’s part of a step-by-step plan that ends with a world title in 2015.
“I race first for the experience, but I keep in mind I’m an athlete and here to compete,” said Maury. “When I was 2nd in my division in Europe last year I finished 38th in Maui. I came up with a plan. This year to be European Champion, and top 10 in Maui. Next year I want to be Euro Champ, and Maui Champ. The plan is coming along, slowly, step-by-step. But these plans come after the experience. If I succeed its good. If I enjoy the experience, I win.”
And regardless of how he places, “the jump” will come.
“I always jump. I have to jump. It’s hard because when I finish I have no more legs, but I started doing it in Maui last year and now it is a must. To me it means I’m happy, that this is XTERRA. I think people can see my joy. I finish my race not when I cross the line, but after I jump and slap my legs on the way down with all my energy. Then it’s finished.”
Asked what he would do next, after Sunday’s XTERRA Denmark Championship and before the XTERRA World Championship...
“I will play tennis with my daughter, and love my family.”