The 2016 XTERRA European Tour gets underway at XTERRA Malta on April 3rd, and our technical director for the Tour Nico Lebrun has been counting down the days. Here he brings us his thoughts on the race and season to come…
The spotlight is on Malta this weekend, as the first of eleven races in this year’s XTERRA European Tour. The big question is, will 2015 Tour winners Roger and Helena repeat, or who will beat them?
On the women’s side the focus is on the young Hungarian, Brigitta Poor, as Helena Erbenova who competes in both XTERRA and adventure races will not start until later in the Tour. Poor was runner up in last year’s Series and is the reigning XTERRA Malta champion. If she can step it up again, like she did last year, she will be hard to beat.
Morgane Riou and Maud Golsteyn are both likely to fight for the podium. Morgane has been working with Organicoach on her mountain bike skills and I can't wait to see how she improves in the race. Last year, Maud was exhausted coming in from the Cape Epic race, but if she is 100%, she will be strong. There’s also Diane Lee. As an age grouper, she took second place overall in Denmark last year, and this will be her first XTERRA race as a pro, and she may be able to move fast over Malta’s rock. I will also look for a strong performance from Anne Sophie Maréchal. She is an age grouper with a strong athletic background and wants to race pro in the future. And of course, all of Malta will be cheering for home country favorite Danica Spiteri.
On the men side, Spaniard Roger Serrano is back with his magic beard. Serrano is highly charismatic and does a great job promoting XTERRA. He was second last year in Malta 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 beat out world champion, Josiah Middaugh in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and like every Shaw brother, they are hard to beat when they are on their game.
Brice Daubord, who was third in Malta last year, won XTERRA Tahiti last year and is a 3-time French cross triathlon champ. He will fight for the podium again, and guys, ride fast because he will run faster than you!
Brice has the run covered, but Jens Roth has the swim. Last year, he was first out of the water at cross tri worlds and third overall at XTERRA Denmark. This young German is improving, and is likely to stay longer in the front of the field.
From last year’s top ten in Malta we will have also Fabien Combaluzier, a father of two and natural runner. He will have a good race if he doesn't lose too much time on the mountain bike. Jan Pyott, who finished 4th in the 2015 European Tour, will also start the season in Malta. We will see if his Swiss winter training has put him in good shape.
It will also be exciting to see new pros who had amazing results in age group or in Elite ETU racing. These include Julen Lorono, who was second in ETU’s Duathlon Euro Championship behind Kris Koddens, and young Maxim Chané, who is jumping into pro out of Junior ranks and into the Pro field. I saw some improvement on his run this winter, so I'm sure he will be a surprise. It would not be a surprise to see Christophe Betard in the top 10. He finished top 10 in France and is our overall age group world champion. Betard will fight for a prize money finish and if he improved his swim, he can be close. Also look for Hannes Wolper, 20-24 cross tri world champ in Sardinia, and Julien Buffe overall age group winner in Portugal last year. Finally, we have age grouper Nicolas Durin, who I hope will move to pro. Durin won the overall amateur at ITU cross tri worlds 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 marketing associates Kristian and Andreas in Malta. Onward!