This week the XTERRA European Tour will stop in Xonrupt, for XTERRA France.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is on-site for the race and gives us his thoughts...
This will be the 9th edition of this race, which is based at the beautiful lake of Longemer. We are in Les Vosges, a beautiful forested part of northeastern France with small mountains covered in fresh pine forest. Overlooked by La Boule de Diable - a huge boulder left after the Ice Age - the lake is a fantastic venue for this iconic XTERRA venue. We have had some epic mud here in the past, as the weather can be very rainy.
Many returning athletes will remember the conditions from last year, which led to the breakout of Laura Philipp. This event is also the largest XTERRA event in Europe, with over 2000 athletes signing up to compete over the weekend. In addition to the XTERRA race, the weekend will also include a kids’ race and a sprint triathlon.
In terms of the course, the bike loop will be a little bit easier this year, and the forecast for this coming weekend is for dry and warm conditions. This combination should provide much faster terrain for everyone to compete on.
We are very excited about the elite men and women who will be competing this year. It will be a very tough race indeed, as almost 90 percent of the best will be here on the start line.
In the men’s race, the big question is if anyone can beat Ruben Ruzafa. This race suits him perfectly as it’s always a very long, hard mountain bike loop, where Ruben can really make the difference and make up lots of time. He won the last four editions here where he always posted the best bike split time. But we have seen this year that the new generation of athletes has started to become stronger and stronger. I can’t wait to see what “the Arthurs” can produce here, especially Forissier who last weekend did a fantastic race and won for the third time in Switzerland. It was in this race, many years ago, that young Forissier first showed his huge potential. Again, as in Switzerland, he can count on one or maybe two of his team mates: Theo Dupras and Arthur Serrieres. If both are recovered and able to race like in Lake Garda, they will all be serious contenders for the win, but also to help Arthur.
In addition to the talented European athletes, the reigning XTERRA World Champion will be on the start line too. Bradley Weiss from South Africa was only fourth last year in this race, but he gained speed and momentum through the season and captured the win at the European Championship in Denmark. Since then he won XTERRA Worlds last October and the XTERRA Asia Pacific Championship this April in Cebu. However, this will be Weiss’ first race in front of Ruben since last October. Sam Osborne from New Zealand will be here too, both cheering for his friend Weiss while he tries to beat him to the finish. Osborne is in great shape, and recently won XTERRA Albay in the Philippines two weeks ago, leaving Weiss in second place. We have no doubt we will see some excitement on the course in France.
While these three will be competitive, we can’t discount the ITU World Champion, Francisco Serrano from Mexico, who was fourth in Maui last year. Australian Ben Allen will start here too, and while this isn’t his favorite race, he could be a threat to the rest of the field, given that he was on the podium in Maui twice already in 2015 and 2016.
Xavier Dafllon had his bike stolen the night before the race last year, but we know that this race can suit him perfectly and he can come back to the head of the race and play a big role. The remaining two I would like to mention are the French pair of Francois Carloni and Max Chané. Carloni had a fabulous race and won XTERRA Belgium in June and was on the podium here two years ago. We know he is taking XTERRA France seriously because he skipped XTERRA Switzerland to prepare as best that he can. Therefore, he has the potential to put in a top performance, maybe not for the win but definitely a top five.
Chané has had a similar build up as Francois and has made this race a big goal! He has shown a big potential already this season, but as yet never achieved a big result but XTERRA France will be a chance to see how he does on his home soil.
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For the women’s race we also have the exciting prospect of a huge international pro field lining up at the edge of Lake Longemer. All of our Euro leaders will be present and able to test themselves to the max against some of the best XTERRA athletes on the planet.
Lesley Paterson from Scotland, via California, is going to be tough as she knows and respects this race so well and has won here two years ago already. While Paterson is a two-time XTERRA World Champ, if Brigitta Poor can stay mentally tough, she could be a threat. We have already seen that Poor has already won four races this season, which may give her the confidence that she needs.
Jacqui Slack-Allen from Great Britain will unfortunately not be on the start line this year because of an Achilles injury, which should heal in the next month. While she will be missed at XTERRA France, we have no doubt she will use this time to cross train, get stronger, and be ready for Maui in October.
Our XTERRA European Tour leader, Carina Wasle from Austria, will be on the start line here in France too. Unfortunately she had a hard time here last year, finishing a very disappointing sixth. However this year she has been incredibly strong so far, and has been on the podium eight times in all of the races she has entered. If she can pull yet another fantastic performance out of the bag, then she will definitely be fighting hard near the front to maintain her top position at the top of the Euro Tour leaderboard.
Last year’s XTERRA European Tour Champ, Helena Karaskova, was third here last year in this race and we know she likes the tough bike legs. So if she has a good day, then she can definitely fight once again for a podium position. Angela Niklaus from Switzerland was 8th here last year and with her best performance put in, could be a threat to the others on the podium positions.
Last but not least is Penny Slater from Australia. She won the Asia Pacific Tour and we have no doubt she will push herself to the max here at XTERRA France.
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XTERRA France is the last chance for athletes to be in the top ten and get free entry for the last race of the season. So while some athletes will be gunning for the podium, others will be out to gaining more points on the XTERRA European Tour. For everyone competing, it will be a big chance to test themselves against some of the best XTERRA athletes in the world.
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