The seventh of 17 majors on the 2018 XTERRA European Tour will take place this Saturday, June 23, in Vallee de Joux, Switzerland.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is on-site for the race and gives us his thoughts...
We are back for the 6th edition here in « les Charbonnières » for XTERRA Switzerland. This beautifully tranquil place, where the sound of cow bell noise ringing in the distant green pastures will invite you for a little post race nap. The weather forecast is looking very positive, not too hot or cold, no rain, and perfect racing conditions await competitors.
Vallee de Joux is in the Swiss Jura, one-hour north from the fabulous city of Geneva. The race venue is not in the large Alpine mountain ranges like you imagine in Switzerland, but in the beautifully picturesque mini Alps that divide France from Switzerland.
In the women’s race, the top six ranked elites on the Euro tour will be on the start line, which will make for a very exciting race. Morgane Riou, who just won Belgium, Nicole Walters, our Greece winner, Helena Karaskova, Lake Garda champ, Brigitta Poor, who won Malta and Cyprus, and Carina Wasle, our new Euro Tour points leader, will all be present. So who will be the victor in this one?
This is a very hard question for me to answer. In most cases, I have a good idea based on current form, but for this race it’s really hard. Being a short race and quite different to the norm, where last year’s top athletes like Helena and Brigitta finished 7th and 9th, it will suit the shorter distance capable athletes better, where Morgane was and is very strong. Nicole was also very strong last year, but didn’t have her best run here, but we know she has improved this discipline a lot in the off season. Maybe the bike is too short for Helena to come back. Carina has had some rest and recovery last week, and could possibly be strong like in Italy. Brigitta should love this kind of race too but will have to forget her bad race at this venue last year. So, it is really hard for me to choose one of those top five athletes for the victory. Even though I think this race will suit both Brigitta and Nicole, we will have to wait and see...
We must also have a look at some of the strong and promising outsiders. The first is a local girl. She will be ready, fresh and full of eager motivation! I’m talking about Loanne Duvoisin, she was the first woman amateur last year in Maui at 19 years old, and an incredible 12th overall, so I think that it will be no surprise to see her playing a bigger role in this race within the front end of the field of athletes. I really hope that for this potential future champion, with this being her first race as an elite, even with a lot of pressure on her shoulders, that she will rise to the occasion and produce a race that she is more than capable of. Most of the others have raced many times already, but she hasn’t and we saw previously that this is a key, to be fresh when the start gun goes off. Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand had such bad luck, with a big crash in Belgium and broke a couple of ribs and sadly had to stop. I think she will not be 100% ready.
Ladina Buss is more than capable to fight for the title of best Swiss athlete, and a top 10 or maybe better will be possible, but it will be her first race on the tour. Diane Luethi is currently 10th in the Euro Tour and has only raced twice. Angela Niklaus will be the fourth Swiss on the elite list. Maud Goldsteyn will also be there for a possible top 10 finish, even though the bike leg might be a little short for her. However, she was a fabulous 8th last year in this race and 6th in the Euro tour.
For the men, it’s easy for me to place a bet on Arthur Forissier! He won here twice in previous years, he won in Greece and was second at Lake Garda, so he is for me the stand alone favorite. He decided to take a break from racing in Belgium so again will be fresh on the start line. And, after his fun video promoting this race I’m sure even locals will cheer for him very loudly. His teammate Arthur Serrieres could be his main competitor but I’m not sure he will be 100% recovered from his big crash in Belgium, as he ended up at the hospital with a few stitches to his knee. But if he is back, and fully recovered, we might see a very quick leg on the bike, the Tvert train hammering the race. With what Theo Dupras showed in Belgium, they could possibly be the three in the lead with the same kit!
But we must remember, that one very high profile guy is back. The one who will definitely be in the front top five of the race, analyzing the situation and waiting for others to make mistakes. That will be the superb presence of Roger Serrano, who is both very smart and strong and will be such an exciting prospect. He will hopefully be recovered from operating his first tour race in Spain. We can see from his social media, that he is well trained, so he will be near or at the front for sure. But he knows the Arthur’s and also Marcello Ugazio will be very strong on the run, as they all gave him a hard time in Greece, so what will his strategy be? We will soon find out on Saturday afternoon...
Talking about Ugazio, he is another one who can win this race. The bike loop is not too technical, therefore he can make up valuable time as his his weakness technically will not be an issue. So you can be sure that he will use that superb power and speed on the bike to his advantage. If he can combine a fast bike with a similar run leg too, then the combination could get him well up into the leaders of the race.
Xavier Dafflon will be racing on home soil, but he knows that even with this advantage and the best supporters, this race will not be the best for him. He is a pure biker and thrives on a very hard bike loop, like in Belgium, France or Italy to get more chance to come back. Last year he was 5th and is swimming much better this year. So, I am thinking that I will see him possibly come back through the field for the podium but it will be hard for him to take the win unless he pulls out of the bag, a storming performance all around. It will be interesting also to see how Corentin Duclos takes the pressure. He did a fantastic race and finished 6th overall two weeks ago in Belgium and was the first amateur, and will now race for the first time as an elite here in Switzerland.
This race will also suit Pierrick Page, he can run fast, but not after a long bike like in Belgium. Rui Dolores, Clement Briere, Jan Kubicek or Tim Van Daele will also start for a top 15 and get some points for the overall ranking. One guy who is also in the hunt for big overall tour points is Peter Lehmann. He is 3rd on the tour, and is more than capable of moving up for a good finish position. They all know that to get free entry for the last nine races of the season, from XTERRA Czech to Spain, they have to be in the top 10 of the ranking after France, so they only have two more racing opportunities to move back up.
For the overall European Tour ranking, as we have the top six racing for the women here in Switzerland, I don’t think we will see lots of change at the top of the table. Walters can possibly take back the lead or an in-form Carina can continue her fabulous run to stay on top. But Brigitta, Helena or Morgane can gain points and can easily be further up the the table following this race.
|EU tour||XT Swiss #17||Name/surname||country|
On the men’s tour ranking table, Francois Carloni will probably lose his lead as he is not on the start list, therefore Roger just needs to finish in the top 13 to take the lead back. But it will be harder for Peter Lehmann to move up as he will need an outstanding top 3 performance to pass François. The possible big move will be for the two Arthur’s, Xavier and Marcello who could possibly secure their top 10 position overall with this race, and most probably a top five for Dafflon, Forissier or Serrieres too.
|EU tour||XT Swiss #17||Name/surname||country|
|2||NR||SERRANO SALGADO ROGER||ESP|
|16||NR||VAN DAELE TIM||BEL|
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