The 10th edition of XTERRA France takes place this Sunday, July 3, in the beautiful Vosges mountains of Xonrupt. The sixth stop on the XTERRA European Tour is an important gold-scoring event, boasts one of the most difficult courses on the World Tour, has more than 60 of the best off-roaders in the world racing, and it is once again sold-out.
“The Charbonnier family are the key to the success of XTERRA France,” said Nicolas Lebrun, a three-time winner of the event who now serves as the technical director for the European Tour. “They have with the triathlon of Gerardmer one of the oldest races in France, and a very professional crew with all the structure to be really the best set up in the tour.”
Lebrun last won XTERRA France in 2013, then Ruben Ruzafa took over with victories the last two years.
“It’s a big race and with the big screen showing all the live action, two pro announcers, and lots and lots of spectators it feels really special to win here in France,” added Lebrun.
XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas is also in France to take in all the action and brings us this report from around the field on Thursday…
The buildup for Europe's biggest event is well underway. The always fabulous "le monster" wood track is about half finished, the Canyon bridge is done, the ramp for Saturdays eliminator start is done and the best part - the pallets of beer have arrived. Tomorrow things start happening as registration opens at 14:00 (2pm). At 10am Nico Lebrun will lead an investigation ride of the very tough mountain bike course. Lebrun will also compete in the Eliminator head to head competition on Saturday with some extreme bikers.
Francois Carloni is here for his home race, Nicolas Fernandez and Yeray Luxem are also back in action. They all will have to go through the Spanish duo of Ruben Ruzafa and Roger Serrano who have dominated the men’s races to date. Kris Coddens has a win and a second in the last two races and has been riding and running very fast. Never count out South African Bradley Weiss. Brad did not have a good race in Switzerland nor did Ben Allen. Look to both of them to get it right here in France. Sam Osborne has been knocking on the door all season but has had a string of bad luck. Sam "Bam" can never be counted out. Some great competition is coming from Germany with Veit Honle having his best race ever last week in Switzerland, the fastest swimmer Jens Roth always contends and an old friend in Felix Schumann returns to XTERRA. This is their home race and besides the always fast Carloni, Arthur Forissier and Arthur Serrieres and Damien Guillemet are legitimate podium contenders.
For the women we have two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson here. She will provide some very tough competition for current leader Helena Erbenova who is recovering from an injury that kept her out of Switzerland, France's home hope Myriam Guillot-Boisset, the “Swiss-Miss” Renata Bucher, Britain’s Jacqui Slack, Austrian Carina Wasle, Hungarian points leader Brigitta Poor, and a host of other fast women (Find the full start list on their homepage at xterra-france.com).
Make no mistake - France is the toughest race around. It usually rains, the hills are long and steep going up and coming down. It is two laps and that means the fast pros are lapping the age groupers and it can cause problems. Asa Shaw had a bad accident when forced off the trail by a back-marker a few years ago and is only now recovering. The run is also steep and has its muddy, off-camber and narrow sections. You can expect a few thousand spectators all over the hills and at the start line that features "the monster" and lots of music.
As always, the Charbonnier family has changed things up a bit. The "monster" of last year has been toned down but has become an even better show. It now features more dips on the first section, but no banked wall. Now riders will circle around the first section and have to navigate a series of jumps - a la motocross. For the less adventurous there is a chicane that is pretty slow but avoids the jumps.
Brad Weiss looks quite happy. He had an OK race last weekend in Switzerland but is happier here.
"I like hills and Switzerland was pretty flat. I should have a good race on Sunday," he said.
Francois Carloni skipped Swiss to prepare for his home race in France. "I had a great weekend of training and feel very strong," he said "this is my goal for 2016, to win in France."
The bearded one, Roger Serrano loves the downhills "I can crush them and will on the first lap - but I must slow down a bit on the second when passing age groupers."
He had a wicked smile when he said that and somehow I don't think the Spaniard will slow down much. Llewellyn Holmes showed up with a red beard and we all poked fun at him because it has a lot of gray in it. Nicolas Fernandez also looked happy. "I like the long races as I am in good shape and won't get tired." As this is the longest race in Europe look for good things from him.
Helena Erbenova is back after missing Switzerland. "I was so sick" she moaned "but I am better now and think I am OK."
Rain is expected tomorrow but only a 50% chance. It was partly sunny and cool today in the mid 70's. If we can get Sunday like today it will be perfect.
There are two great kids races (with some 500 kids!), lots of food, dozens of vendors and the always popular beer tent. Now if the weather will only cooperate. Here in the north in the beautiful Vosges mountains one can never be certain.
Follow along in the days to coming and during the race (which starts at 1:30pm in France) at https://www.facebook.com/xterraeurope.
|All-Time XTERRA France Elite Winners|
|Year||Men's Champ||Women's Champ||Site|
|2006||Cedric Fleureton||Renata Bucher||Saint Raphael|
|2008||Nicolas Lebrun||Renata Bucher||Auron|
|2008||Nicolas Lebrun||Renata Bucher||Mondelieu|
|2010||Nicolas Lebrun||Marion Lorblanchet||Xonrupt|
|2011||Victor Del Corral||Renata Bucher||Xonrupt|
|2012||Asa Shaw||Helena Erbenova||Xonrupt|
|2013||Nicolas Lebrun||Helena Erbenova||Xonrupt|
|2014||Ruben Ruzafa||Kathrin Mueller||Xonrupt|
|2015||Ruben Ruzafa||Kathrin Mueller||Xonrupt|