XTERRA Belgium, the fourth of 11 stops on the 2016 XTERRA European Tour, is sold-out with more than 1,000 triathletes signed-up to take on the inaugural event in Namur next Saturday, June 11.
There are 650 racers registered for the championship event, 350 on board for the half-distance race, and 50 little ones rearing to get their feet wet with the XTERRA Kids Aquathlon.
Among those 1,000 are four of Belgium’s finest and most influential XTERRA racers – elites Kris Coddens, Yeray Luxem, Tim Van Daele, and Jim Thijs.
“I can’t describe in words how much I’m looking forward to this race,” said Luxem, a 30-year-old from Merksem who finished 7th at the XTERRA World Championship last year.
The local boys will have heaps of competition, however, led by a formidable contingent of elites from France with Francois Carloni, Brice Daubord, Arthur Serrieres, Nicolas Fernandez, and others. Kiwi Sam Osborne is also keen on making a splash on the XTERRA European Tour this year.
XTERRA European Tour Champ Helena Erbenova highlights the women’s field, alongside Carina Wasle, Louise Fox, and Jessie Roberts who all finished in the top five in the 2015 tour standings. In all there are more than 30 elites racing in Namur next Saturday.
Coddens, who won XTERRA Greece and XTERRA Denmark in 2015, said it’s “very nice to me because now my friends and family will have an opportunity to see what we actually do.”
Coddens added that “the area itself at the Citadel of Namur, is a very nice, unique, and historic location (see the pictures). Swimming around an island in a river will be something different. Bike course very hilly, also beautiful but not so technical. I thought about Xonrupt and Zittau while riding it the first time. The run course has a lot of climbing too, not the steepest but quite long climbs. Climbs on the bike and run are never longer than about 300ft elevation gain, but they are there.”
Dave Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour who developed the European Tour from one race to a dozen in the past decade, thinks Belgium is a great addition to the tour.
“We’re really looking forward to this one,” he said. “Nico (Lebrun) assisted with getting the trails and infrastructure to work well. The organizers Denis Detinne and Florian Badoux are actual XTERRA competitors, so they know what our athletes expect. I have to bet this will be a great course.”
Detinne said they chose Namur because “the location is just beautiful to organize such an event. The athletes will ride around the Citadel of Namur which is an historical site from the 17th century. Namur is also the capital of Wallonia and has a large offer of hotels, restaurants, shops, museums… and last but not least we live there so we know all the tracks of the region :)”
Thijs says he has “no doubts XTERRA Belgium will be a huge success. The organization is doing a great job on all levels. I’m trying to convince everyone I know to participate. From the age groupers I coach to Ironman champions. And most of them say YES!”
“I also think the after-party will be one to remember,” added Luxem.