The 2018 XTERRA European Tour gets underway Sunday at the Majjistral Nature Reserve in Malta. It’s the first of 17 races on this year’s tour, and the first of three in a row in April followed by XTERRA Cyprus next weekend (April 22) then XTERRA Greece on April 29.
More than 30 elites will line up for the fourth annual event, including defending champs Roger Serrano from Spain and Brigitta Poor from Hungary.
Poor, who won six races including the European Championship last year, is looking to capture her fourth straight XTERRA Malta title.
“She wants to be the queen of Europe for the second year in a row and she will fight hard for it,” said XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun. “With 11 races on her schedule she will be among the favorites for the tour title this year as well. She made a big step in her performance last season and proved she can win big events. This year she is starting the season with a 4th place finish at XTERRA Worlds in Maui under her belt, which gives her great confidence.”
Poor will need every bit of that confidence as the five points scorers in the tour from last year are on the start line, including the reigning and 4x Euro Tour Champ Helena Karaskova from the Czech Republic, Carina Wasle (3rd) from Austria, Nicole Walters (4th) from the UK, Maud Golsteyn (5th) from the Netherlands, plus Morgane Riou – the XTERRA Dominican Republic Champ.
“I learned a lot about racing off-road last year and would really like to improve on that and win a race on the European circuit this time around,” said Walters, who was third behind Karaskova and Poor in Malta and finished second at the XTERRA European Championship last year. “I have spent more time in the gym this winter which has helped improve my strength across swimming, cycling and running. I hope to see the benefits of this on some tough courses this year.”
In the men’s race the top three guys from last year are back, with Serrano, Max Sasserath from Germany who was second and Francois Carloni who was third.
“I’ve been very busy organizing two regional XTERRA races in Spain starting with Rincon De La Victoria which is May 19 and then our gold race in Madrid at the end of the season,” said Serrano, who is also the organizer for XTERRA Spain. “Still, I am in pretty good shape already, and 5kg lighter in comparison with last year. I have no big goals for 2018, I just want to feel happy with my racing performance and will try to be on the podium in some races.”
Other top contenders include IM great Victor Del Corral, who has won XTERRA Switzerland and France in the past and was 5th in Maui five years ago, Xavier Dafflon – one of the tours premier mountain bikers who won XTERRA Italy last year, and Karl Shaw, who won XTERRA Costa Rica a couple years ago.
All-Time XTERRA Malta Elite Champions
Year - M/W
2017 - Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor
2016 - Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor
2015 - Nicolas Fernandez / Brigitta Poor