XTERRA Czech on Sunday-Race Preview
XTERRA is back in the Czech Republic!
This is another very special place for XTERRA. A special country where XTERRA started in Europe. Yes, the first race was in UK in 2000, but the Tour really got started properly here in the Czech, followed by Germany and Netherland. The first few years the race was among the castles of Hluboka nad Vlatavou, then following this with a move to the North in the resort of Spindleruv Mlyn in 2009, and finally a change to this beautiful 13th century City of Prachatice, in the Southern Bohemia where we have since had the last few editions before a temporary break during 2016 and 2017.
Czech XTERRA like Belgium, is also very famous for great after parties and fantastic atmosphere. Prachatice is not very big, but this very nice city which is situated in the middle of a beautiful forest, makes the venue a perfect set up for our sport.
Since the start it’s always been a family run project. Michal Pilousek started the legacy and now his son has taken over the race organisation with this exciting new era for XTERRA in Czech. So Stop number 9 on the tour will definitely have a huge taste of Xterra history and excitement.
XTERRA European director Nico Lebrun is on-site for the race and gives us his thoughts...
All of our athletes will have to start by setting down their running shoes in the City Rennaissance Great Square, in T2. Then they will have a short ride as a warm up to the nearby T1 with their bikes, and then head to the swim start. The 1500m swim will be two loops of 750m in a small mountain lake, called Kristonovicky Pond. Unfortunately the water can be a little brown, but there is no need to worry here, as it is completely clean and only dirt as there is definitely no polution here ! Next up comes the 32km Mountain Bike leg. This exciting part of the race comprises some very fast firetrack, with lots of technical singletrack, and some short sharp climbs too. The majority of the bike leg will be in deep Pine Forest and this beautiful setting will be completely at one with nature.
So let us look at the top contenders for this race. Only 5 days after the ITU World Championship, it might be a little more relaxed…but will it ? !
First up we have the Elite Women. Finishing a fine second in Denmark and currently 3rd in the European Tour, Nicole Walters will once again have to be seen as one of the favorites here. She will definitely want to use this race to pass Brigitta on the tour ranking, as Poor is taking a well earned break before the second part of the season and will not be racing here in Czech. But our tour leader, Carina Wasle is definitely here and will also be present to try to consolidate her fantastic position at the top of the table. We must hope that her foot injury from Denmark has recovered, and let us also remember that she has been 7 times on the podium in 7 races on The Europe Tour already this year.
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But we will all have our eyeballs on Helena Karaskova. She of course will have the advantage of racing on home soil, and also didn’t race at the ITU Worlds. So this will mean she will be fresh and full of motivation and support. She will be my favorite for sure. Next up is a new racer in XTERRA. Her name is Samantha Kingsford, from New Zealand who will start in Prachatice, full of confidence after a stunning 5th place at the ITU Worlds in Denmark. Penny Slater from Australia is another one to watch, and will also take to the start, with her brand new U23 World Champion title under her belt. I’m sure also that Ania Tomica will be capable of making yet more good points and might move up to 6th place on the Euro Tour with a good race too. Bianca Morvillo will also be here and after a very good race in Lake Garda can definitely fight for a possible top 5 position. Aina Picas will also race for the second time after Portugal. Renata Bucher is on the list, but might be more help for me with my crutches…
Now we can take a look at the men. I have checked out the start list and quickly see the one who stands out once again here as the clear favourite….After XTERRA France and the ITU Worlds, Mr Ruben Ruzafa is definitely THE BOSS !. If Ruben is racing, of course it will be hard for anybody to win as this year he looks even stronger than ever. He has worked very hard on his swim and is now losing less time in the water. He is still hammering the bike like always and running faster too ! I think his competitors are starting to have a very hard time finding a way to beat him ! But luckily we have some very strong up and coming young talented athletes that will always do their best to give him a fight.
Sam Osborne will be one ! He was second in the ITU Worlds and will definitely be giving it his all to try to take his revenge ! He has already won this year in Albay, Philipines. He won last year in both Poland and Germany and on his best day, he has the confidence and capability to know that he can do it. Bradley Weiss will be here and angry too. After losing his place on the podium in Denmark he will definitely be giving it full gas and trying to make amends. But maybe our World Champion is not 100% ready yet ? I think for sure he will keep building his fine potential form during the season and will be in the fight for the victory in the Czech forest.
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After focusing on those 3 main potential competitors, Max Chane will once again try to escape from the start and put up a good fight in the front for as long as possible. He was 9th in the Worlds on Tuesday, but 2nd for the U23. But with a podium in Czech he could also move up to 3rd on the tour ranking. It is good to see that Ben Allen is on the start sheet here too. He took 8th in the ITU race and he was the last winner here in Prachatice in 2015 and that will give him great confidence that he needs. He perhaps will not be in his best shape possible, but I’m sure he will find that little extra energy here if he can. Peter Lehmann will be here also and chasing points. He is currently up in 6th position. He may not move but with a good result could get closer and his goal will be a top 5 on Sunday.
Doug Hall is coming back slowly after his crash and might try to get some points being in the top 15. He had a great race in 20th on Tuesday in Denmark. Germans, Kerner and Wolpert will start in Czech, the XTERRA family. From Slovakia, Tomas Kubek will push some big watts on the bike for sure and will definitely be in the fight for a top ten. Of course we will have to keep an eye on the locals too. They were always strong ! I remember racing here in Czech Republic and having to fight hard against athletes that I had never seen before ! Karel Zadak is one of them. We will watch also Lukas Kokar, Tomas Matera and Lukas Netik. Also from New Zealand we have Adriaan Myburgh and Nico Sterck who will do their very best when they start as Elite with us.
I will be very happy and excited to follow this race, as the last time I was racing here was back in 2013. Having won here 5 times in the past also, this place will definitely be like home for me !
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