More than 30 elites representing 18 countries are headed to the historic town of Krakow for the inaugural running of XTERRA Poland on Sunday (August 7).
The eighth of 11 stops on this year’s XTERRA European Tour has attracted the top three women in the Tour standings – Brigitta Poor, Helena Erbenova, and Renata Bucher – as well as the men’s winners from this year’s races at XTERRA Belgium (Kris Coddens), XTERRA Italy (Mauricio Mendez), and XTERRA Brazil (Albert Soley).
The brand new event will dish out a few surprises, including a bike section that traverses rock tunnels in Krakow?
Photo Tomasz Ksiazek
“The bike loop will be fun, with lots of twists and some really good mountain biking,” said XTERRA European Tour technical director Nicolas Lebrun, fresh off a 16-hour drive from Italy through Austria and the Czech Republic to help the Polish crew get things ready for this weekend.
The course is close to the heart of Krakow, so has a unique urban/forest vibe, and the crew worked hard to build much of the track from scratch.
“It’s great to have a course like this after Italy, it’ll be a completely different race,” said Lebrun. “Italy was for the climbers, this one will be more for the powerful athletes with good technical skills who are able to keep their speed on all the curves and use the terrain to their advantage. It’s the kind of race that would be perfect for the Caveman. And if you like the pump track, you will love it here!”
Lebrun added that "the lake (Zalew Zakrzowek) is unique, it’s an old mine for rocks and sand, and at some points, they dug too much and water came out, and now it is a beautiful lake!”
The warm water will likely create a non-wetsuit swim for all racers.
As for the competition itself, the 20-year-old phenom from Mexico City faces a whole new set of challengers on a completely different kind of course, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does here.
“I think Mendez can lead the race, maybe from start to finish, but with guys like Kris Coddens who can run fast like him – we could see a really exciting foot race here,” said Lebrun. “Plus, Kubicek had a terrific race last weekend in Italy, with a 4th place finish, so he could take another step up and Yeray Luxem is here and has been racing great this year (2nd in Portugal and France).”
Théo Blignaut from South Africa was in Poland last year when organizers held a test event, so he knows the course better than most, and “I hope our Vegan chef, Fabrizio Bartolli, will put more energy into the race this time than into his cooking like he did last week,” said Lebrun. “He was dead in Scanno and told me during the race he would save some energy for Poland. It’s also nice to see Soley, the XTERRA Brazil winner, back on the Euro tour. And, of course, there are lots of locals from here in Poland and close-by who can be strong. I remember the Czech race when I was still competing, we always had to fight with some strong athletes that we never saw in other races. They are tough people here!”
The women’s race is certain to be a thriller with Poor, Erbenova, and Bucher – the Tour’s top three.
“If we look only at the name we might say Helena is the strongest, but in this race with no wetsuit and a flat and technical bike course, Brigitta and Renata have a real chance, especially if they can race together during the bike,” said Lebrun. “And Brigitta will probably have more energy as the Italian race must have caused a lot of physical damage after 1750m+ climbing on the bike + run under 35°c! Ladina is here too, she was 4th last week and put a lot of energy to finish, so hope she will recover well. We haven’t seen a lot of Diane Lee this year, but I remember her being strong last year in Denmark (2nd) on the same kind of race, so maybe she will fight for a top five.”
Outside of race day there are all kinds of cool things for visiting racers to see and do. Krakow lies on the Vistula River, the largest river in Poland, and on the boundary between Kraków-Częstochowa Upland and the Carpathian Mountains. Its history dates back to the Paleolithic period.
“There are a lot of great attractions in the area and one could easily spend a week visiting all the tourist and outdoor sights,” said Kris Kowal, one of the event organizers. “Old town is on the UNESCO list, as are the Wileiczka salt mines and Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp.”
Elite Start Lists for inaugural XTERRA Poland
As of 8.3.16
XTERRA European Tour Rank, Name, Nationality
2 - Kris Coddens, BEL
7 - Yeray Luxem, BEL
10 - Peter Lehmann, GER
11 - Jan Kubicek, CZE
17 - Tomas Kubek, SVK
25 - Fabrizio Bartoli, ITA
26 - Mauricio Mendez, MEX
29 - Sebastian Norberg, GER
32 - Tim Van Daele, BEL
34 - Markus Benesch, AUT
42 - Tomas Jurkovic, SVK
50 - Tiago Maia, POR
NR - Mester Bálint, HUN
NR - Theo Blignaut, RSA
NR - Tomas Jiranek, CZE
NR - Xavier Jové Riart, ESP
NR - Krzysztof Kokot, POL
NR - Daniel Molnar, USA
NR - Aidan Nugent, NZL
NR - Robert Skillman, AUS
NR - Albert Soley, ESP (XTERRA Brazil Champion)
NR - Emil Stoynev, BUL
NR - Lubos Truhlar, CZE
XTERRA European Tour Rank, Name, Nationality
1 - Brigitta Poór, HUN
2 - Helena Erbenová, CZE
3 - Renata Bucher, SUI
8 - Ladina Buss, SUI
17 - Kristina Nec Lapinova, SVK
22 - Diane Lee, GBR
25 - Lenka Cibulková, CZE
NR - Sabina Rzepka, POL
Photo Credit Marcin Zielinski