Roger Serrano from Spain and Brigitta Poor from Hungary captured the elite titles at the XTERRA European Tour season-opener in Malta today.
It’s the third XTERRA Malta win in a row for Serrano and the fourth straight for Poor.
XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun was on-site to take in all the action and brings us this report…
The women’s race unfolded like many other races we’ve had in the past with Nicole Walters leading the swim, Brigitta Poor taking a big lead during the bike and staying there, Carina Wasle posting a consistent race to finish in second, and Helena Karaskova coming from well behind in the swim to ultimately finish in third.
The race might have been different towards the front had Walters and Morgane Riou not suffered flat tires on the bike that removed both from contention for podium spots.
At the swim-to-bike transition Walters had about 45-seconds on Diane Luethi from Switzerland and Ine Couckuyt from Belgium. Poor was about one-minute behind with Wasle, while Riou Carina right behind. Riou was about 2:20 back and Karaskova was more than three-minutes behind the swim leaders.
As for the weather, it was a perfect day, and we were lucky not to have wind storms like we experienced yesterday.
After one loop of bike (15km) Poor was more than two-minutes ahead of Walters, with Wasle in third, Luethi in fourth, and Karaskova in fifth. At this point Riou already had a flat, and she explained “I dropped my chain twice and started losing control. I went too fast on the next downhill and paid dearly for this mistake. I was feeling strong today and when I will finally got my new bike, I was sure I would be able to fight more with those girls.”
For Walters, her flat came on the second loop. We will have to wait to see the true results of all her winter improvements, especially coming off a three-week training camp in Lanzaroth, until next week’s race at XTERRA Cyprus.
By the end of the bike Poor had a solid lead, but still she pushed all the way to the finish line and won here for the 4th time in a row with a time of 2:42:29, almost five minutes ahead of Wasle.
“I’m so happy to win again and start the season like this, but I got lucky that Nicole had a flat, as I think she improved and might be a strong competitor soon,” said Poor. “I still have work to do to reach my best level, but I think it’s already quite good for mid-April.”
Wasle, who was coming off a victory at XTERRA South Africa, was strong again today and finish second.
“I had my chain stuck three times between my cassette and spokes, but I felt very good, and even if I had a perfect race, Poor was way too strong today,” said Wasle. “After the bad luck I had here last year, I’m very happy with this second place.”
In 3rd was Karaskova, also quite happy with her position. “I knew my bike legs would not be there today after my long swim run last week in Croatia, so I’m very happy to be in the podium,” she said.
Riou was fourth and Maud Golsteyn finished 5th but was still positive. “The women’s elite field was strong today, and to finish top 5 is very good and I will take it for sure,” she said.
We will see Golsteyn in Greece in two weeks with her husband Lars who won his age group in Malta today. Walters was 6th, Luethi, a new elite, was 7th, Cecilia Jessen, coming from a cold winter was 8th and Couckuyt 9th.
Tentative Elite Women's Results
|1.||Brigitta Poor, HUN||2:42:29||75||22:03||1:33:36||43:25||$1 200|
|2.||Carina Wasle, AUT||2:47:14||67||22:05||1:38:52||42:59||$900|
|3.||Helena Karaskova-Erbenova, CZE||2:49:01||61||25:14||1:36:01||44:14||$700|
|4.||Morgane Riou, FRA||2:54:20||56||24:26||1:43:24||43:16||$550|
|5.||Maud Golsteyn, NED||3:01:12||51||25:23||1:43:09||48:54||$400|
|6.||Nicole Walters, GBR||3:01:13||47||21:12||1:51:51||44:12|
|7.||Diane Luethi, SUI||3:01:40||43||21:57||1:47:29||47:30|
|8.||Cecila Jessen, SWE||3:05:46||39||25:14||1:48:41||47:22|
|9.||Ine Couckuyt, BEL||3:06:50||36||21:56||1:52:26||48:47|
For the men, the race was exciting from the start to the finish...
Max Chane from France exited the swim with Serrano and had the faster transition time to get on the bike with the lead. Chane was on fire today, maybe a little too much, at 22 years old he will need to work on finding a good pace. On the other hand, the veteran Serrano knows exactly what he is doing and won this race for the third time, even with a big crash on the bike costing him maybe more than a minute.
Chane came out first from T1 and just hammered the bike, with Serrano a few seconds behind.
“I felt strong and didn’t realize that I was, maybe, riding too fast,” said Chane. “When I knew my gap after one loop, I was quite surprised, but it was too late.”
Brice Daubord started the bike with Serrano but was not able to follow him, however, he quickly found two good bikers to ride with; Maximilan Sasserath from Germany and François Carloni from France. Veit Hoenle from Germany also started the bike up front but was not able to catch this train.
After one loop Chane was 1’45’’ in front of Serrano who had a bad crash on the first loop.
“I crashed on a very fast downhill on a paved road,” explained Serrano. “I hit something and lost control of my front wheel and went down quite badly and needed some time to recover and get back on my bike.”
About 35-seconds behind Serrano, François Carloni, Maximilian Sasserath and Daubord were all riding together.
“I was happy to be able to ride with Carloni this year,” said Sasserath. “I had a solid winter of training on the bike and it’s good when you can see the work payoff.”
Veit Hoenle was 25-seconds behind this group but losing time as he was less than 10-seconds from the leader out of the water. Doug Hall from the UK was behind Hoenle, then Tomas Kubeck from Czech and with him Victor Del Corral from Spain. Del Corral lost two minutes on the swim and another minute on the first bike loop, but knowing his results in long distance, and on the running part, we knew he was not done yet.
“I was not feeling that strong on the bike, but after so many years without racing XTERRA, it was finally not that bad,” said Del Corral. “Mountain biking is different, and I will get better and better.”
At the bike to run transition Chane was still in the lead with the exact same 1’45’’ gap to Serrano, followed by Carloni and Daubord. Sasserath lost this group at the end and was 15-seconds back.
At this point of the race, knowing all those athletes, I was thinking the best chance was for Daubord, and Chane on the podium with Serrano maybe, but this race was unpredictable! Del Corral came to transition in 6th position with 1’10’’ on the second place so almost three minutes behind Chane.
After 5km on the run, Chane was still leading, but was losing time and more important he was quite white and not looking good.
“I completely ran out of energy very quick on the run, and realized that for the power I put today, I didn’t eat enough,” said Chane.
Behind him in second place was Sasserath, who this time was my first choice for the win. But Serrano was right behind and the surprise for me was Carloni, as he is not as fast a runner as he can ride, but he was looking solid.
“I changed my run training a little bit this winter and I think I found a good balance with more sessions but shorter, so I felt very good today on the run part,” said Carloni.
With no more Daubord at this point, my prediction was really wrong, in fact Daubord told us that he had an injury and would not be 100% on the run. But I was an athlete, so I know we cannot trust them, as many times, they finish strong despite what they say. This time, however, it was true, and Daubord didn’t even finish because of that injury. So now Del Corral was back in 5th and closing the gap, and I started to think about him on the podium too.
Finally, knowing this race perfectly, Serrano was able to push at the right time, passing Chane who was in very bad shape.
“Even with my crash I was able to stay in the group and feeling like I was breathing more easily than others, so on the run I didn’t panic and waited my time,” said Serrano. “When I saw Chane just in front and slowing down a lot, I pushed harder, and saw that Sasserath was not able to follow, so I pushed very hard for about 1km and then tried to relax. Luckily, I turned back 100m before the finish and saw Del Corral just behind and had to sprint to the finish to take this third victory here.”
Del Corral had an amazing run to finish in second place. “I’m very happy to be on the podium after about five years without racing XTERRA, that makes me confident for the next races,” said Del Corral.
Sasserath got third, Carloni managed to stay in fourth and they were both happy with that today. Chane came in 5th and needed lots of food. He got past the disappointment of finishing 5th after leading 80% of the race and was happy to see his improvement and know what he must do for the future.
All in all, it was a very nice race to follow, with perfect conditions and happy people all around. After the race there was plenty of good food and beer to enjoy, after all, this is XTERRA.
Tentative Elite Men's Results
|1.||Roger Serrano, ESP||2:22:22||75||19:13||1:22:39||37:40||$1 200|
|2.||Victor Del Corral, ESP||2:22:28||67||21:15||1:21:37||36:36||$900|
|3.||Maximilian Sasserath, GER||2:23:20||61||19:55||1:22:15||38:09||$700|
|4.||Francois Carloni, FRA||2:24:05||56||20:32||1:21:20||39:20||$550|
|5.||Maxim Chane, FRA||2:25:20||51||19:14||1:21:10||42:21||$400|
|6.||Geert Lauryssen, BEL||2:25:25||47||21:54||1:20:55||39:27|
|7.||Veit Hoenle, GER||2:27:05||43||19:18||1:24:33||40:15|
|8.||Doug Hall, GBR||2:27:53||39||19:40||1:25:17||40:03|
|9.||Rui Dolores, POR||2:28:05||36||21:11||1:25:47||38:03|
|10.||Peter Lehmann, GER||2:29:52||33||20:33||1:27:15||39:03|
|11.||Jose Estrangeiro, POR||2:30:54||30||20:30||1:27:25||39:46|
|12.||Tomas Kubek, SVK||2:31:22||27||20:33||1:24:02||43:25|
|13.||Clement Briere, FRA||2:34:23||25||21:46||1:29:00||40:29|
|14.||Hannes Wolpert, GER||2:35:43||23||19:40||1:28:24||44:24|
|15.||Damien Guillemet, FRA||2:38:18||22||24:49||1:29:50||39:52|
Next week: XTERRA Cyprus, April 22
All-Time XTERRA Malta Elite Champions
Year - M/W
2018 - Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor
2017 - Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor
2016 - Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor
2015 - Nicolas Fernandez / Brigitta Poor
Finish line photos courtesy Steffi Demartino