This Sunday, the XTERRA European Tour finds itself in the most southern and eastern part of Europe on the ancient island of Cyprus for the inaugural XTERRA Cyprus off-road triathlon. It’s the second of 15 stops on this year’s tour and promises to provide an experience like no other for the XTERRA Tribe.
“Our event is in the Paphos district,” explained XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas. “Coastal Paphos is famed for its archaeological sites relating to the cult of Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs, and mosaic-tiled villas.”
A dozen of XTERRA’s best off-roaders will be in Cyprus to welcome the new venue, led by the reigning XTERRA Poland Champion Yeray Luxem for the men and the reigning XTERRA European Tour women’s champion Brigitta Poor for the women.
Both will have plenty of competition. For Luxem, it’s Francois Carloni, Hannes Wolpert, Thomas Kerner, Stephan Radeck, Sebastian Neef, Julian Buffe, and Oivind Bjerkseth. For Poor, its Morgane Riou, Daz Parker, and Cecilia Jessen.
“There is no doubt Brigitta is the favorite,” said Nico Lebrun, XTERRA European Tour director. “She was in perfect shape in Malta and able to beat the very strong Helena Erbenova. Her main opponent in Cyprus will be Morgane Riou, who was twice on the podium at XTERRA Argentina and Chile and was 5th last year on the Euro Tour. Morgane has improved a lot and this is a good test for her shape in front of the last year Euro Tour winner.”
Cecilia Jessen was 8th at XTERRA Malta and will likely go toe-to-toe for the podium with Daz Parker, who works as a stunt woman when she’s not racing.
“On the men side, I think we will see a battle between Luxem and Carloni,” said Lebrun. “Carloni was strong in Malta and I bet he will finish the bike leading the race, but he will need more than two-minutes on Luxem to stay in the front and capture his second XTERRA title after Greece in 2015. Luxem, after winning his first major in Poland last year, should be more relaxed and motivated.”
For a place on the podium, Lebrun bets on Wolpert, and says Kerner should also be in good shape, “according to what he was posting on Facebook during the winter.”
Julien Buffe, who already raced twice on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour, will likely be the first man out of the water and if he has a good day, could find himself in the top five.
Norwegian Oivind Bjerkseth, who was 10th at XTERRA Malta, and Stephane Radeck, 13th in Malta, can move up high in the XTERRA European Tour rankings with a good race in Cyprus.
“As we are still at the start of the season and there are 13 races to follow, certainly things will change in the standings,” said Lebrun. “However, with this year’s new theme “Every Race Counts” every point matters for these racers.”
CYPRUS TRULY A DESTINATION RACE
XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas is discovering the sights and sounds of Cyprus in advance of Sunday’s inaugural event. Here he tells us all about it…
The French/US team has arrived and Nico Lebrun and I are hard at work helping prepare for the first XTERRA on Cyprus. We are in Paphos, the ancient port city on the southwest coast and this place rocks. This is not a sleepy little island village but a vibrant area with hundreds of restaurants, disco's, nightlife and more history and archaeological sites than one can take in. Whatever your pleasure, you can find it in Paphos and Cyprus.
We're located in Coral Bay just west of the city and about 30 minutes from the actual race site. The site is pristine and very rural requiring about 2 miles of rocky, dirt road to arrive at the wonderful Lara Beach cafe, race headquarters. Cyprus has had a drought condition for several years but this winter brought the rains and the area is green and beautiful. The bays and Mediterranean are always stunning, but both the bike and run are swamped in beautiful fields of blue and yellow wild flowers. While there are no tall trees (the Egyptians cut the forests thousands of years ago to build boats) the green shrubbery against the white coral and sandstone make for quite a beautiful course.
Nico Lebrun wrote a nice piece on the bike course and while it does have some short steep climbs and a couple hike a bike sections it is not too technical. While the two bike loops will equal about 36K the riding time will be about the same as a 30K distance. The run is basically flat but with a few wonderful sections including a very narrow single track after a brief drop off above Lara Bay. The view is breathtaking but there is no real danger of falling. If this old man can do it, then all XTERRA warriors will have no problem. This is followed by a twisting and turning plateau through short, green bushes and over an uneven, rocky path. At the end, you'll wonder where the trail is as you arrive at a white stone cliff about 50' above the beach. But there is a way down through crevices and natural steps to arrive at the final quarter mile of beach run. Stay close to the water as that's where the dark gray sand is hard.
The port of Paphos is true fun with restaurants along the harbor, an ancient castle and dozens of shops to buy your memento's.
Cyprus has it all. Great weather, fabulous trails for running and biking, mountains in the center (Mount Olympus for one) super clear aqua waters, great food and tasty local beer and wine. Add to this that Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite and often visited by the Gods and you will not be able to experience it all in one visit.
It is still quite British and you drive on the left as in England. The currency is the Euro so money is not a problem. The financial problems a few years ago are finished and ATM's are everywhere and the shops and restaurants take credit cards without a problem.
With Greece the week after, all the XTERRA family needs to consider this fantastic Mediterranean two-week Odyssey. The race is Sunday and we'll have more to report as we get closer.
The history of Cyprus is one of the oldest recorded in the world and its historical significance is disproportionate to its small size. Cyprus has just over a million population and is divided with the northeast part being Turkish and the rest of the island the Republic of Cyprus. Blessed with the beauty of nature’s best palette, the scenery of Cyprus unfolds across glittering coasts, rolling mountains, fragrant forests and rugged headlands. It is not a secret that sportspersons and teams from all over the world, including endurance athletes, European football teams, cycling, swimming & triathlon teams and seasoned medallists, all give themselves a competitive advantage by opting to train towards their goals in Cyprus, thanks to a winning formula of services.
One of the most attractive reasons for choosing the island is indeed its almost-guaranteed daily sunshine, mild winter temperatures and minimal rainfall year-round. The fresh local cuisine is an important part of the island’s culture. From hearty meat dishes and specialty cheeses to unique desserts of carob and grape, the Cypriot cuisine is an exotic blend of Greek and Middle Eastern flavours. The ‘Mediterranean diet’ is considered to be of the healthiest, thanks to its abundance of heart-healthy olive oil, pulses, lean meat, local herbs and freshly grown fruits and vegetables.
Comprised of its old and new towns, rural villages and picturesque resorts, the region is home to some of the most stunning areas of natural beauty on the island, whilst its many archaeological sites are historically invaluable, with Katos Paphos declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The actual race site is the beautiful Akamas National Park and Lara Beach - which is a breeding site for turtles, and the traditional fishing shelter of Latchi.
The athletes will start with a sea swim on the sandy beach next to the transition area, followed by a 2-loop mtb ride on a dry, sandy and rocky terrain. The first part is flat, along the beach. Then you will start to climb, still on a dirt road, but quite rocky and in some parts very steep. At the top, you will reach the aid station, get some fluids to keep yourself hydrated as for sure it will be hot out there.
After that point, you will start to descent with some few technical parts, then up again on a steep climb! Don’t forget to say hello to the typical black pig that you will see on the small farm on your left! Finishing this second climb, the rest part is a fast downhill mainly on a dirt road. At some point you will reach, a new technical point that organizers added to make things more difficult.
This is in general the bike loop that you will have to do twice. The run course is almost flat but not always fast. Some twisted parts of trail run on rocks will be tricky and you will have to focus on your feet and be precise and quick. The end of the loop is along the beach and this is always slow and painful too.
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