The 5th race on European tour will take place in Golega, a beautiful town located 100km north of Lisbon. Notorious for being the equestrian capital of Portugal, you will also enjoy the food, architecture and the smell of oranges that fills the air.
XTERRA Portugal is very much a community-built race with Jaime Rosa and his family at the helm. His passion for the sport has made this a highlight in the calendar for the locals and the entire town gets involved.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is in Golega to take in all the action and here he gives us his thoughts on the elite races this weekend:
I visited Golega for the first time during the winter of 2014, to have a look at the location as well as the bike loop. I was taken aback by the steep rocky climbs and the lack of single track and mentioned that this would be a tough challenge for our athletes. They promised me that they are committed to deliver an exciting bike course, and that they have! When you ride the bike course you will be amazed at what they manage to build using shovels and pickaxes, I cannot imagine how many man hours they must have dedicated to deliver an exciting course which is now permanently marked with painted rocks.
The town is currently building a new permanent bridge which links transition with the run course as before they had to build one specifically for the race. This means, that for this year only transition has moved to a new location but fear not, the race village always delivers a fun and spectator friendly atmosphere around the finish line with delicious food and festive music. In years past, we experienced scorching hot weather, but even with the race date moved to later in the season, it seems like we will be blessed with perfect conditions in 2018 with temperatures around 20°.
Although the elite field will not be that deep, he will have to fight hard to claim his 5th victory in Golega. Yeray Luxem might almost feel like a local as he is staying with race organiser Jaime and his family ahead of the race. He loves this race and it will be a dream come true to beat Ruben here, and I think he might just be up to the challenge this time round. Yeray, doesn't race a lot as he chooses his events carefully and trains specifically for them, this formula has helped him achieve great results in the past and I am sure this year will be no different. We expect a fantastic battle between these two and in my opinion they will be a cut above the rest come Saturday.
That leaves one vacant spot on the podium and this 3rd place will be hotly contested by a host of local athletes, as they have a strong team. Rui Dolores, 13th in Maui last year and 5th in the European Tour will be dreaming of victory or at least a top 3 place in a major XTERRA race in his own country. His countryman Bruno Pais, who beat me in 2010 at the first XTERRA Portugal in Figueira da Foz and Tiago Maia who claims this race does not suit him that well, will both be hoping for a good result on home turf, as this race also doubles up as the Portuguese cross triathlon championship.
Raphael Gomez was 20th here last year, José Estrangeiro fared well in Greece and a newcomer like Joao Pedro Silva or Rafael Dominos will also be fighting hard in front of their supporters. Spain is also well represented with Ruzafa, Anders Lazkano (3rd in Rincon de la Victoria) and Jordi Gil Faus who placed 15th on Golega last year. Alejandro Salmeron was 17th last year and Ricard Puigpelat finished 15th on Greece. The current top ranked athlete in Golega will be Peter Lehmann from Germany who has a chance to podium and Tim van Daele from Belgium will surely finish in the top 10.
As for the Women, well we have a similar situation. Brigitta Poor has been winning races all over Europe and proved that she is fearless. In Greece she did show that even a Champion like herself can have a bad day when you are racing week in and week out. She competed in the Hungarian long course championship last weekend so it will be interesting so see how much that took out of her. Her main rival will be Carina Wasle from Austria who was on fire at Lake Garda in Italy, finishing a close second to Helena Erbanova who caught Carina close to the finish on a storming run. Wasle showed great speed during the swim in Italy so might just be able to hang on to Brigitta’s heels heading into transition. Carina is a surprisingly strong biker for her size, so if she can stay with Brigitta on the bike we will be in for a very exciting run.
As with the mens race the third spot on the podium will be in the sights of a few athletes. The strongest competitor after Poor and Wasle will be Eva Garcia Gonzalez who won every age group race she entered in 2017, even finishing in the top 5 amongst the pro females. I encouraged her to race as an Elite this year as she is so much stronger as any of the other athletes in the 40/44 age group, and if she makes the podium I am sure she will not regret her decision. Fellow Spaniard Aina Picas races with us regularly and for Mariana Brigger from Brazil it will be her first XTERRA race on the European Tour.
We are looking forward to seeing all of you racing hard for your age group places and Maui slots on Saturday. I will be broadcasting all the action via Facebook live and Carel will be providing some beautiful images from Golega.
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