(Papeete, Tahiti)- Brice Daubord from Orleans, France and Sarah Backler from Tauranga, New Zealand captured the inaugural XTERRA Tahiti Championship on a beautiful island day.
Nico Lebrun, the technical director for the XTERRA European Tour, drew the lucky assignment to cover the cross-island challenge and brings us this report…
“Everyone gathered at 6:30 this morning in front of the town hall of Papeete, bikes on trucks, athletes on buses, press, VIP on 4x4’s and off for an hour drive along the cost to Mataeia - a small village where T1 and the swim are located.
It’s a nice black sand beach with perfect water, warmer then Maui ;)
Triathlon legend Mark Allen had the honor to start the race, a two loops of 750-meters. Something I’ve never seen before, they had a band sitting on a dock in the middle of the water playing music.
Brice Daubord, French Olympian Tony Moulay, and a great local swimmer were the first three men out of the water, with Olly Shaw about one-minute back. In the women’s race Backler took control in the swim, and never looked back.
For 10km on rocky and bumpy fire road Moulay and Daubord stayed together.
"I had to stop to remove air in my tires" said Daubord, who was fighting with his bike, and that was the smart point, because after that, he caught Moulay, passed him and started to open the gap when they went by Lake Vaihiria.
Backler had a good gap out of the water and was able to pace herself, that what I thought, but talking to her "it was so steep going up to the tunnel, that I had no choice but to push and just keep going."
At the top of the mountain bike part, a dark tunnel to ride through at 750-meters of altitude.
"We were lucky to get this little rain, going up" said all the athletes I talked with, because it was hot like in Maui, but more humid.
Starting the descent, Daubord was the strong leader as it seems Moulay, although an Olympian in triathlon, is not so confident on his mountain bike and gets passed by Olly Shaw. Tony can run fast, however. so if he manages to stay close he could catch him on the run. At 6 or 7k from T2 Moulay lost a cleat under his shoes, and had no chance, but with a big gap now he can enjoy the rest of the race, and the beautiful landscape.
Daubord started the run with about 2' lead, but he is a fantastic runner, so no worry for him but the trail was hard with lots of creek crossings and slippery rocks...
“I fell in the creek but it felt so good that I took my time to get back on my feet, then kept running" said Daubord.
Backler, who had no Idea on her lead, said she just pushed at a good pace, to make sure.
Organizers set a finish line in the valley to complete this traverse from the west side of the Island to the East, with a traditional band from the Marquise Island. It was a pretty intense and emotional finish line, with Mark Allen there to congratulate all the finishers.
XTERRA Tahiti is a truly unique XTERRA, a point to point race that is extremely well organized. They have lots of support from the local government and sponsors, tons of volunteers, an amazing landscape, a tough race. They have all the right ingredients to be a major race on the XTERRA World Tour, and all in paradise. After the race we learned Air Tahiti Nui will sponsor the airfare to Maui for the top local finishers, so we will have great representatives from French Polynesia at this year’s XTERRA World Championship.
“I'm really happy for my first victory on the XTERRA World Tour and so thankful for Jean Michel and the VSOP team for inviting me here,” said Daubord. “It was a great experience, the whole week here was amazing. Swimming with stingrays and sharks on a blue Lagoon was amazing. Today I led the whole race, first with Tony then alone. The first part was terrible, then I removed air from my tires and started to really ride properly and able to push hard. The finish line with the typical Polynesian "band" was amazing, and something I will always remember.”
Backler was equally impressed with the event and organization, saying “The environment here is incredible and even though the bike and run were so much harder than I expected I loved every minute. We were lucky to get a little bit of rain to cool us down and all those river crossings kept us cool too. I wasn’t sure where the girls were behind me but still took a little more time than usal to really enjoy the scenery and especially the waterfalls in the last 2km of the run. Really, the entire atmosphere was amazing, an incredible experience.”
Top three men:
Brice Daubord, FRA, 2:46:45
Olly Shaw, NZL, 2:48:45
Tony Moulay, FRA, 2:54:31
Top three women:
Sarah Backler, NZL, 3:32:06
Yasmina Chenel, Tahiti, 4:43:48
Sandra Labbeyi, Tahiti, 4:55:36
2015 XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS
XTERRA Tahiti was the 11th of 40 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the globe could qualify to race at the 20th annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on Nov. 1, 2015.
* European Tour / + Asian Tour / # America Tour / ! Canada Series / = Hawaii qualifiers
|May 2||XTERRA Malaysia / XTERRA Asian Tour Championship, Langkawi+|