XTERRA Greece this Sunday in Athens
Roger Serrano and Brigitta Poor will both be there and have the chance to win their third race in as many weeks and take a commanding lead in the early points standings for the Tour.
XTERRA European Tour director Nico Lebrun will also be on-site, and here are his thoughts heading into Sunday’s race in the beautiful seaside suburb of Athens…
This is our third year in Vouliagmeni, where the 2004 Olympic triathlon was held. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a holiday with a nice beach, calm waters, and lots of good places to enjoy the famous Greek salad. Before we relax, however, we must race.
For the elite women, it’s all about Brigitta Poor. Who can beat her? Well, Helena Karaskova won here last year and captured four of the five previous XTERRA Greece titles, but in the last six months the duel between our two stars has gone Brigitta’s way. And now, following a big win in Cyprus against one of the worlds best triathletes, Barbara Riveros (who was 5th at Rio Olympics), she must be brimming with confidence. She is the reigning XTERRA European Champion, was 4th in Maui last year, and has eight wins in Europe in the last year.
That said, anything can happen in an XTERRA race. Helena was not 100% in Malta, as she was still tired and nursing an injury from a big swimrun just before that race, so we will see in Vouliagmeni if she can still scare Brigitta. Of course, they are not the only two contenders. Nicole Walters wants to break into this battle and show she can play in the front. I think she can. Then there is Carina Wasle, who already has two wins this year in South Africa and Danao, was 2nd in Malta and looks to be in great shape. The question is if she will be 100% recovered from those three races and a big trip to the Philippines in the middle. If yes, she will fight for the podium for sure. The fifth girl we need to watch out for is Morgane Riou, she was 4th in Malta despite a flat tire, she won her first XTERRA last year in Dominican Republic, and she is more focused on the Euro tour this season, chasing for points. For this third race of the tour, the density will be higher. Maud Golsteyn from the Netherlands is racing after a solid 5th place in Malta two weeks ago. It will be nice to see Jessie Roberts from UK back racing with us again, and Cecilia Jessen from Sweden might consolidate her third-place standing in the tour rankings after this one. Also of note are Ine Couckuyt from Belgium and Sandra Mairhofer from Italy.
In the elite men’s race, Serrano will be hunted by lots of young athletes who believe they can win. Maxim Chané was second last week in Cyprus, and he didn’t lose too much time on the run in that one. He is building lots of confidence, and after managing the last two races differently he might find the right way to win this time. He will be not alone in the hunt, as we have the two French Arthur’s, Forissier and Serrieres, both young and talented and poised to do something great. Forissier won XTERRA Switzerland last year and Serrieres was 2nd in Germany, our biggest event on the tour, in front of world champion Bradley Weiss. It will be very interesting to see what they did in the winter and how strong they will be this season. Another young athlete I will have an eye on is Marcello Ugazio from Italy. He showed huge potential last year by winning the ETU European Championship and finishing 6th at XTERRA France. Maximilan Sasserath from Germany could be in the mix as well, and showed promise with his third-place finish in Malta two weeks ago. I can also imagine two guys, who aren’t the best swimmers, collaborating on the bike to work their way to the front - Kris Coddens from Belgium and Xavier Dafflon from Switzerland. Kris won in Greece already and loves this race and Xavier made his elite debut here last year. Both are great riders and runners and might be very strong and disturb the leaders in second part of the race. Another ex-winner here will start on Sunday, Frenchman François Carloni, who was 4th in Malta and for sure will make these guys suffer on the bike. Doug Hall, who was 5th last week, will fight for a top 10 spot among this strong field, same for Riu Dolores from Portugal. With 23 elite men on the start list, XTERRA Greece will be very intense to watch.
I’m looking forward to see what Roger will do. Does he have a strategy to surprise everybody again like he did in Malta? Despite a big crash in Malta he managed to win again in Cyprus, and I wasn’t even sure he would race. I have the feeling that this time he will try to escape from the start with Maxim, and push hard together the entire bike then try to finish the job on the trail run. Lastly, I don’t want to forget our Greek athlete Grigoris Souvatzoglou, who did his first elite race in Cyprus and finish 9th. I’m sure at home he will be fired-up to stay in the top 10 despite the stronger field.
Like at every race on the tour, we will try to give some updates from the race on our XTERRA Europe Facebook page. It starts Sunday at 9am in Athens, tune-in and follow along.
All-Time XTERRA Greece Elite Champions
Year - Men / Women
2013 - Ben Allen / Helena Erbenova
2014 - Francois Carloni / Kathrin Mueller
2015 - Kris Coddens / Helena Erbenova
2016 - Roger Serrano / Helena Erbenova
2017 - Ruben Ruzafa / Helena Erbenova