It’s about to get real on the XTERRA European Tour. Stop number six of 12 takes the tour to Xonrupt, Gerardmer in northeastern France for one of the World Tour’s most iconic races on Sunday.
The XTERRA France Championship is arguably the toughest and most popular off-road triathlon in Europe. The main event sold out in three months at 1,000 entries, the light race has 900 entries, and there are more than 200 kids racing as well.
Among this massive collection of XTERRA Warriors are 43 elites from a dozen countries, including some of the finest off-road triathletes on the planet. Just look at this list…
RUBEN RUZAFA, ESP – Reigning and 3x World Champ. Hasn’t lost a race since 2013 (11 straight W’s)
KRIS CODDENS, BEL – 2015 XTERRA Greece Champion
BRADLEY WEISS, RSA – 2015 XTERRA Philippines, Reunion, and Asian Tour Title in Malaysia
ARTHUR FORISSIER, FRA – 2015 XTERRA Switzerland Champion
NICOLAS FERNANDEZ, FRA – 2015 XTERRA Malta Champion
FRANÇOIS CARLONI, FRA – 2014 XTERRA Greece Champion, Ranked No. 2 in Euro Tour standings
Plus: YERAY LUXEM, BEL; DR FELIX SCHUMANN, GER; LLEWELLYN HOLMES, GBR; DAMIEN DEROBERT, FRA; ANTHONY PACAUD, FRA; KEVIN GRIETEN, BEL; KENNY VAN LAERE, BEL; DAMIEN GUILLEMET, FRA; STIJN SWIJNS, BEL; TOMAS JIRANEK, CZE; MAXIME BOUDOT, FRA; SEBASTIAN VEITH, GER; MALTE PLAPPERT, GER; HANNES BONAMI, BEL; JENS ROTH, GER; JON HEASMAN, GBR; TIM MCDOWELL, GBR; VEIT HÖNLE, DEU; HENRY SLEIGHT, GBR; PIERRE-YVES FACOMPREZ, FRA; MARC PSCHEBIZIN, GER; SÉBASTIEN VEITH, GER
The women’s elite field is equally impressive:
KATHRIN MÜLLER, GER – 2015 XTERRA European Tour Champ, 2015 XTERRA Portugal Champ
HELENA ERBENOVA, CZE – 2015 XTERRA Spain & Greece Champ, 2x Euro Tour Champ
CARINA WASLE, AUT – XTERRA Guam and Switzerland Champ
MYRIAM GUILLOT-BOISSET, FRA – XTERRA Asian Tour Championship in Malaysia
BRIGITTA POOR, HUN – XTERRA Malta Champ, Ranked No. 1 in Euro Tour
LOUISE FOX, GBR – Ranked No. 3 in Euro Tour
JESSICA ROBERTS, GBR – Ranked No. 4 in Euro Tour
KARIN HANSEN, SUI – Ranked No. 5 in Euro Tour
Plus: CORALIE REDELSPERGER, FRA; MORGANE RIOU, FRA; SANDRA KOBLMÜLLER, AUT; BECCI KALTENMEIER, GER; LENKA CIBULKOVA, CZE; CÉLINE AUGUEUX, FRA; NICOLE OLIVARI, ITA
Race organizer Paul Charbonnier believes the women’s race will come down to a big battle between two past winners – last year’s champ Kathrin Mueller and two-time winner Helena Erbenova (2012-13). “Each time these women won, they just destroyed the field,” he said.
The spoilers could be Carina Wasle who was super strong in Switzerland last weekend and young Brigitta Poor who is having a breakout season and sits atop the European Tour standings after the first five events.
In talking about the men’s race he wonders, like the rest of the XTERRA Planet, if anyone can catch Ruzafa. “I think the South African Brad Weiss will give him a tough challenge, along with the strong Frenchmen Francois Carloni, Arthur Forissier, and the fast Belgians Yeray Luxem and Kris Coddens.”
Ruzafa won last year’s race in front of Braden Currie and Coddens, but fell to hometown hero Nico Lebrun in 2013.
“That was the last time he lost a race in Europe,” explained Charbonnier. “He was passed by Lebrun in the last 2k of the run course. It's rare for a rookie to win XTERRA France.”
The signature spot on the XTERRA France course is a huge man-made, twisting-and-turning bike ramp in the middle of the village to the delight of spectators and racers alike. This year they are running the bike course in the opposite director to give all those who have raced it before a whole new experience. Also new this year, Charbonnier is hosting the “XTERRA Eliminator” competition on Saturday before the main event. It’s all on and around the ramp with a mountain bike loop of 800-meters. Four mountain bikers race at a time and the winner advances, thus the name, Eliminator.
We caught up with former XTERRA World Champ Nico Lebrun to hear what he had to say about XTERRA France…
“XTERRA France is the best race of the Euro tour, off course, I'm French,” “With Zittau and Maui those three races are the biggest organizations I’ve seen, and from what I’ve heard we can add South Africa, New Zealand, and soon England to that list.
The Charbonnier Family have a great background organizing triathlons, a really professional staff, an amazing reputation, and they grow this race every year. Last year with the ramp they added something enormous I had never seen in XTERRA before. I won this race twice, and I’m really proud of it, first because it's always special to win at home, but winning this kind of perfect and big event make it even better. Last year I was on the side, for XTERRA and my Organicoach team, and to see the campground with the huge ramp around a big screen, spectators all around, music and speakers lighting the fire when an athlete was riding it, showing him on the screen it made me speechless! We have to thank Paul and his family to bring XTERRA to this level, and invest in our sport like this!
So just for that this race is already special. Then you have the beautiful Vosges Forest, with the smell of pine, green foam. It’s a tough bike, maybe too much, but people look like they love to suffer, and to have a big challenge even if they are not sure to make the cut off time.
For the elites, I think Ruben will be again the freak of the day with young Forissier full off motivation, Coddens on a race he was strong last year, Carloni rest last week to be fresh on this one, and Fernandez want to show Malta was not an accident. For the women, another battle between Muller and Erbenova with Poor and Wasle stronger than ever and I bet on Guillot for a surprise on this one!”
Follow along on our XTERRA Europe Facebook page for updates as the race nears.