The 2016 XTERRA European Tour gets underway in one-week at XTERRA Malta, and our technical director for the Tour Nico Lebrun has been counting the days. Here he brings us his thoughts on the race and season to come…
First race of the season in Europe! Malta will once again have all the light shining upon it in one week as the first race of 11 in this year’s European Tour. The big question is, who will replace Roger and Helena, our 2015 tour winners, or can they repeat?
On the women’s side Helena Erbenova will not race in Malta. We know Helena alternates XTERRA and adventure racing, and may start later like last year. So all our focus in Malta will be on Brigitta Poor, this sweet young Hungarian pro, who took second place last year in the series, and won Malta to show how much she improved and that she was ready to win. If she can make the same step from 2014 to 2015 again this season she will be hard to beat.
For the Podium, if I look at the list, I think two other girls will fight for it … Morgane Riou and Maud Golsteyn, I had Morgane in camp with me so I know she improved a lot on the mountain bike and I can't wait to see her improvements in the race. Maud was dead coming from Cape Epic last year, but if she is 100% she can be strong. I want to talk about Diane Lee, she will race pro after a second place overall in Denmark last year, so maybe she can move fast over Malta's rock. I will also look Anne Sophie Maréchal, she will race AG but want to race pro in the future, and she comes from an athletic career. And of course all of Malta will be cheering for home country favorite Danica Spiteri.
On the men side, Roger Serrano is back. We will see his magic beard again, this guy who does a great job for XTERRA with a lot of promotion and is such a nice and charismatic athlete. He was second last year to Nico Fernandez who will not be racing.
The victory will not be easy for Roger, however, as Karl Shaw will be on the start line. Shaw just beat our world champion in Costa Rica, and like every Shaw brother, at 100% they are hard to beat.
Brice Daubord, who was third in Malta last year, won XTERRA Tahiti last year and is a 3-time Cross triathlon champ. He will fight for the podium again, and guys, ride fast because he will run faster than you!
Ok for the run split we have Brice, but for the swim we have Jens Roth, he was first out of the water at Cross tri worlds and third overall at XTERRA Denmark, this young German is improving, and I’d think he will stay longer in the front.
From last year’s top ten we will have also Fabien Combaluzier, a father of two, natural runner, can have a good race if he doesn't lose too much time on the MTB. Jan Pyott, who was 4th of the tour last year, will also start the season in Malta. We will see if the Swiss winter training will bring him in good shape?
It will also be really exciting to see new pros who had amazing results in AG or in Elite ETU like Julen Lorono, second in Duathlon Euro Champ ETU behind Kris Koddens, and young Maxim Chané, out of Junior, he jumped into Pro, this is good for XTERRA. I saw some improvement on his run this winter, so I'm sure he will be a surprise. Not a surprise would be to see Christophe Betard in the top 10, he was already in France and he is our overall AG world champ. Betard will fight for money podium and if he improved his swim, he can be close. Also Hannes Wolper, 20-24 cross tri world champ in Sardinia, and Julien Buffe overall AG winner in Portugal last year. Finally, we have Nicolas Durin, he is in age group group but I hope he will move to pro, he won the overall amateur Sardinia ITU world last year and is very fast.
It will also be great to see our XTERRA Warrior, David DeSantis, who will be doing his 4th race of 16 around the world this year to raise awareness and money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. DeSantis will also race in France, Italy and Germany, and a lot more! Another inspiring athlete is Michel Gonon, a Challenge Athlete who was third in Maui in 2014.
It’s going to be an exciting race, and an exciting season, and I’m looking forward to seeing our new Euro Tour associates Kristian and Andreas in Malta. Onward!