XTERRA Greece, the third stop on the XTERRA European Tour, is sold out for the second straight year having reached its capacity of 380 racers.
“XTERRA Greece will be the first big battle for our European elites this season. With 20 elite men and eight elite women, all the big names will be there, and we are looking forward to seeing some great action,” said Nicolas Lebrun, XTERRA European Tour Director.
Last year’s race featured a major battle between the Spaniards, with 2017 XTERRA Malta Champ Roger Serrano breaking three-time XTERRA World Champ Ruben Ruzafa’s winning streak of 13 straight victories in Europe. The two were together until the run, when Serrano pulled away for the win in 2:17:22, less than a minute in front of Ruzafa. Frenchman Brice Daubord finished third.
“On the men side, expect fireworks from the start,” said Lebrun. “Jens Roth is the favorite on the swim, with Roger Serrano and Julien Buffe. And of course, there’s Ruzafa. It could be another race between Roger and Ruben.”
Fresh off his victory at XTERRA Reunion on April 16th, Ruzafa is going for his 25th career win at XTERRA Greece on April 30th in the city of Vouliagmeni. At last week’s race on the island of La Reunion, Ruzafa finished more than two minutes ahead of Brice Daubord and four minutes ahead of 2015 Reunion Champ Brad Weiss.
“I felt strong on the bike,” said Ruzafa. “I really pushed hard to gain ground before the run.”
“Known for his skill on the bike, expect Ruben to push as hard as he can to get to the front, but don’t write off Serrano, Daubord, or Francois Carloni,” said Lebrun.
"I had a long rest after Maui," said Carloni, "And I started training slowly until the middle of January. But after three months of solid training, I'm feeling ready and excited."
Others to watch in the men’s race include Jens Roth, the German Champ, Jan Pyott, who was 4th at Malta, Hannes Wolpert, a new German up-and-comer, and Belgian Kris Coddens, who is always quick on the run.
“My strategy is always the same,” said Coddens. “Try to keep up on the swim and then pick people off. Normally I don’t have to set my strategy based on someone else because they are all in front of me after the swim."
In the women’s race last year, 2017 XTERRA Malta and Cyprus Champ Brigitta Poor of Hungary pulled away on the bike but was reeled in by Ladina Buss and Helena Erbenova on the run. Ultimately, it was Erbenova who pulled away on the final downhill to break the tape first in 2:43:39, less than 20 seconds in front of Poor, with Buss coming in close behind for third. The top three women all finished within a minute of each other.
Poor and Erbenova will be facing off again this year as well as 34-time XTERRA Champ Renata Bucher and young Morgane Riou.
“Last year in Greece, Morgane started the bike with Brigitta but then flatted and lost time,” said Lebrun, who coaches Riou. “This year, with three races already under her belt and more confidence, Morgane might be a contender. Helena isn’t known for coming out of the water first, on the swim, but she’s come from behind for the win many times before.”
The course for XTERRA Greece is located in the city of Vouliagmeni, just 20 km south of Athens at the foot of the Hymettus mountain range and along beautiful beaches. The town has a rich history of athletics and was the site of the triathlon competition in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Competitors can expect tough climbs, challenging and varied terrain, and water of about 19C (66F), with wetsuits optional. Both the bike and run courses feature great sets of steps that wind up the steep, Greek hills. The downhills are equally steep and incredibly fast. The race uses some side roads in Vouliagmeni that include bistros, restaurants, and of course, many cheering spectators.
“Greece is a destination that everyone would love to visit at least once in a lifetime,” said Konstantino Koumargialis, race director, XTERRA Greece.
Athens has a rich history going back thousands of years and still has archeological relics from ancient times, such as the Acropolis, the temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Parthenon. It is the birthplace of democracy as well as the marathon, and is the home to philosophical ideals and athletic marvels.
“We are thrilled that XTERRA Greece is so close to Athens,” said Koumargialis. “Although Lake Plastira, where we had the race the first three years was a magical location, it was far from central airports and main cities. Our numbers increased from 230 people in 2015 to 320 in 2016 and this year to 380 entrants, making it one of the biggest triathlon events in the country.”
View last year's results at www.XTERRA.com
Watch a course preview of XTERRA Greece.