Udpated Preview: http://www.xterraeurope.com/2017/06/xterra-belgium-pre-race-report/
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The highly anticipated return of XTERRA Belgium has arrived, and here XTERRA European Tour Director Nico Lebrun shares his insight on the race, the place, and the elites competing next weekend . . .
Our 6th stop of the 2017 European Tour will be in Namur, Belgium. This is the Wallonia, the French speaking part of the country. Namur is a beautiful old town, with the famous citadel as the central point of the XTERRA Belgium race action. Like in Tarragona, Spain this race will have two transition areas. The swim will take place in Meuse, a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea. It has a total length of 925 km (575 mi).
Last year with a flood in France and Belgium, the river was not safe for swimming and we had to cancel the swim turning the race into a duathlon. But for this year, it looks like there will be no problem, and the local triathlon team already did a lot of training in the river. The swim will be one loop around an Island in the middle of the Meuse, the first half facing the flow, and the second way much faster going down.
From T1 you will cross the Meuse river through a small dam regulating the flow, then up to the citadel direction T2, for the first climb out of 11 of the day! From there you start your two loops with 5 climbs each. This brings us a total climb of 1,100m+ : who said that Belgium is flat! Nothing extreme, but you will have some single track, mud, routs, steep climb, technical rocky descent, flat and fast parts, road… And at the end to get back to the citadel for the 3rd time this will be exhausting. The run part is also challenging. Again, you will go up and down all the time, following various paths of the citadel, cobble, bridge, single track up and down, stairs, tunnel… the kind of loop where you change the pace all the time, and you pay cash if you didn’t save some energy on the bike.
But at the end, you will enjoy it. With 1000 athletes in the inaugural event last year, and more than 1,200 this year, XTERRA Belgium has been a big event from the beginning and looks to be growing from strength-to-strength. It is clear that organizers Denis and Florian are doing phenomenal work.
The one thing (most) all of us have in common on Saturday night after the race in Namur is good Belgian beer in our blood. The Belgians know how to party and everybody still remembers what happened there last year! XTERRA is not only training, racing, and returning home to analyze your GPS file from the day. It’s about ‘Living More” and enjoying the race, the place, the people, and the XTERRA Tribe way of living with mud, tears and beers. : )
WOMEN’S ELITE RACE PREVIEW
In the women’s elite race Tour leader Brigitta Poor will not be in Namur to battle against her rival Helena Erbenova, who might have an easier day as a result. But wait, Carina Wasle is here and she was in front of Erbeenova at the last race in Portugal. Helena will likely lose 3-4 minutes in the swim to Jessie Roberts and maybe Morgane Riou & Wasle, so will have to go out and push hard on the bike and the run to come back. It’s never easy when you are not a good swimmer, and I know first-hand what I am saying.
It appears Wasle will be the best contender for Erbenova with Riou the front-runner for the third place on the podium, but in this sport anything can happen. Is it possible to have the exact same podium like last year?
Maybe, but this year Lizzie Orchard, who won XTERRA Philippines, XTERRA New Zealand, and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Australia last year, is coming from New Zealand to compete in Europe and will start her trip in Namur. She is able to disturb those girls and their habits and a good chance for us to see her skills and know her better after this one.
Isabelle Klein will be in Namur as well. Klein was 4th here last year, and is a very strong cyclist that can perform well in this hard mountain bike course.
This will be the first race of the year for Roberts (Ranked 15th on the Tour last year) and she will swim in the front and fight hard to stay there. I think she can mix it into the top five for sure. Maud Golsteyn is another athlete to watch, she finished 4th twice this year in Malta and Portugal, and would like nothing more than a top three performance in Belgium. Cecilia Jensen started in Cyprus and will have a stronger field to deal with this time, but race after race she gets stronger. Then Anne Sophie will be at home, representing Belgium in the elite race. She had some mechanical issues in Greece at her first race of the season and hope this time she will be lucky and able to fight at 100%, in her own country.
I want to also focus on Claire Avril, this young girl was 3rd last year in the Euro tour but also in Maui in the 25/29 category, she is from Namur, and one of those who worked for this MTB bike loop! This is her playground and she is here to take revenge on her poor performance last year as she was anemic and finished far back. She proved last year in Maui that she is strong, she had a very good race in Greece, she had a hard training camp to get ready and now is 100% recovered ready to do her home race in full potential.
2017 XET Rank – Name, NAT
2 – Helena Erbenova, CZE
3 – Maud Golsteyn, NED
4 – Morgane Riou, FRA
5 – Carina Wasle, AUT
6 – Cecilia Jessen, SWE
NR – Isabelle Klein, LUX
NR – Anne-Sophie Marechal, BEL
NR – Jessica Roberts, GBR
MEN’S ELITE RACE PREVIEW
On the men’s side many athletes should be happy knowing that last year’s winner and maybe the strongest Belgian XTERRA athlete, Kris Coddens, will not start in Namur. We know that all these years he is able to balance work, family and sport, but this time he will be in a wedding! For sure his body will be at the wedding, but we know his mind will be in Namur.
So that leaves us with … Ruben, again?! (No, we will get him drunk before the race : )
That will be the challenge of the weekend for you guys, if you race pro and want a chance to win. Yeray Luxem, François Carloni, Roger Serrano, Arthur Serrieres, Bradley Weiss, you should find a solution. If Ruben is here and in good shape, he is hard to beat. But many athletes will try, and fight hard, because this is a grail, crossing the line in front of Ruben in an XTERRA? Not a lot can say they’ve done that.
So let’s talk about the one who did it last year, Roger Serrano! I don’t know if he recovered from putting on his event in XTERRA Spain and also Jan Pyott’s wedding! So I bet he will not be 100% ready to fight for 1st place, but for the podium I think he is. Yeray is in his home country and was second at the last race in Portugal behind Ruben. We have Bradley Weiss, who is traveling from South Africa and for sure he is not coming to visit The Citadel! He had a fantastic race in his country this winter and if he is on the same shape, he can scare Ruben. From the rest, according to last year results, Sam and Kris aren’t there so François is the next favorite. He finished 3rd in Portugal, was able to finish 3rd last year in a duathlon, that means this race suit him perfectly. He improved a lot his swim this year and that makes him stronger. I also want to mention Xavier Dafflon, 4th in Portugal, but with the best bike split, 10” faster than Ruben! In just his second race as a pro, if he keeps improving that fast, he will start to scare a lot of people. You should all feel lucky that he is swimming as slow as your XTERRA European Director : )
Another guy with a similar profile is Damien Guillemet, 5th last year in Namur, he was lucky with the Duathlon format, as he will lose more on the swim, but will be again chasing a top 10. We will have also to follow Arthur, 5th in Greece this year and the XTERRA Swiss 2015 Champion, he will be there to chase a new podium.
It’s always good to talk about the locals, and in this case it’s Tim Van Daele, who has been racing with us for many years and is a former amateur XTERRA World Champion. Tim was 12th in Greece and will love to finish top 10 here, and I bet the same dream holds true for Geert Lauryssen who started the season with a 9th place showing at Malta.
The German team will be strong again, to get some points and maybe try the Belgian beer with Hannes Wolpert, Peter Lehmann, Stephen Radeck and Thomas Kerner. There are 5 French elites here, François, Arthur, we will see Julien Buffe and Max Chane on the first pack during the swim, and Christophe Betard pushing some big watt on the bike. The Brits, Henry Sleight and Llewellyn Holmes, will also be here to “play” with their friends. We will welcome Morten Olesen, who will race first time in the elites in the Euro tour. And of course Jan Kubicek, almost as old as me but still racing and not ready to let his spot go so easily!
Finally, I want to finish my report with one local hero from last year, Sylvain Denis, he was 9th overall last year. He is normally racing Ironman. He did Kona last year and was 130th overall in less than 9h30’. But this is a race he doesn’t want to miss as its less than 10km from his house! This year he did IM Lanzarote on May 20th so I am not sure if he will be back 100%. But knowing the race, his performance last year, and the support that he will get from friends I believe that he will fight for being the first amateur and get a spot in the top 10.
2017 XET Rank – Name, NAT
1 – Ruben Ruzafa, ESP
2 – Francois Carloni, FRA
3 – Roger Serrano, ESP
4 – Yeray Luxem, BEL
10 – Xavier Dafflon, SUI
12 – Thomas Kerner, GER
13 – Julien Buffe, FRA
14 – Hannes Wolpert, GER
15 – Maxim Chane, FRA
16 – Stephen Radeck, GER
17 – Arthur Serrieres, FRA
18 – Llewellyn Holmes, GBR
25 – Mark Hamersma, NED
29 – Jan Kubicek, CZE
31 – Geert Lauryssen, BEL
36 – Tim Van Daele, BEL
37 – Peter Lehmann, GER
NR – Christophe Betard, FRA
NR – Damien Guillemet, FRA
NR – Morten Olesen, DEN
NR – Henry Sleight, GBR
NR – Bradley Weiss, RSA