Are you ready to conquer the Citadel?
XTERRA Belgium is the sixth stop on the 2018 XTERRA European Tour and on Saturday athletes will tackle the famous Citadel of Namur in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium. It’s the 3rd edition of XTERRA Belgium and this race has quickly become a favorite among athletes from around the world. With a river swim, spectator packed town and wild after party, you won’t leave the place without fond memories. And if you think of Belgium as being flat, you might be surprised to find that this two-loop bike and run course includes 1300m of climbing, a tough challenge indeed.
We are guaranteed a lot of movement on the tour points leaderboard following this race. Roger Serrano is kept busy organizing the Spanish XTERRA Tour and might just lose his top ranking to the young Maxim Chané, who is in the best position to take the lead. Brigitta retook the lead on the women’s table after her victory in Portugal but might relinquish it again to Nicole Walters, who will be well rested after taking a break from racing.
On Saturday the action will start at 14:30 in the River Meuse, with one loop around a small Island in the middle of this major European waterway. If Doug Hall's info is correct, strong swimmer Will Crudgington might be the first out of the water with Jens Roth followed shortly by Chané, who would like to reach The Citadel in first place once more.
“I foresee a group of four athletes entering T2 in quick proximity. Chané, if he feels as strong as he did in Malta and Tahiti, Arthur Serrieres after winning at Lake Garda, François Carloni who always loved this race and Xavier Dafflon who is one of the most powerful cyclists,” said XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun.
Serrieres will be hard to beat on the run if he puts in another performance as he did in Italy. Dafflon will surely be on the podium and Lebrun is confident that Carloni will take third as Maxim is currently training hard, with his sights set on XTERRA France in a few weeks’ time. It’s a big challenge for athletes to be at their best all the time, as there are so many races in Europe and mixing training with racing takes its toll on the body.
Lebrun says he will also be keeping a close eye on the local Belgian athletes as they are always ready to perform in front of their home supporters.
"This year will prove difficult for Kris Coddens and Yeray Luxem to claim a place on the podium," said Lebrun. "Kris won XTERRA Belgium two years ago but is currently fighting Lyme disease, which means he will most definitely not be at his best. As we saw in Portugal, Yeray is also not back to his best. Geert Lauryssen, who was 6th in Malta and 7th in Lake Garda, or Tim Van Daele, who had his best result of 5th in Portugal, might surprise us and be the first Belgian across the finish line."
|Elite Men Start List|
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On the women’s side we have several contenders for the overall title led by Nicole Walters, Carina Wasle and Helena Karaskova.
"Carina was struggling in Portugal even though she made coming second to Brigitta look easy," said Lebrun. "Helena raced and won the Czech National Championship, so perhaps she will come to form on Saturday, and Walters will be well rested as she is the only one of the top females who did not race since finishing 3rd at XTERRA Italy. The bike course in Namur will suit her better with short climbs and longer flat sections where she can use her power. My money will be on Nicole winning this weekend with Helena second and Carina third."
Lebrun added that two other athletes with an outside chance to podium are Morgane Riou, who has had more than a month to prepare for this race, and Lizzie Orchard, who will start her season in Namur and even though she’s not running at 100% at the moment, she will be mixing it up with the girls she was cheering in Italy 10 days ago.
"For Maud Golsteyn a top five is a real possibility and I bet she will be happy with that," said Lebrun. "Jessie Roberts will also be looking to gain some points and get back in the top 10 of the tour ranking, and Diane Lee from the UK will also compete in Belgium."
|Elite Women Start List|
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Stay tuned on www.facebook.com/xterraeurope for all the action this weekend.