XTERRA Malta, the third of 14 majors on the 2019 XTERRA European Tour, takes place Saturday, May 18, at the Majjistral Nature Reserve. The fifth-annual XTERRA Malta off-road triathlon and accompanying sports festival is the last of three event weekends in the Mediterranean to kick-off the racing season, following XTERRA Cyprus on April 7 and XTERRA Greece on April 21.
To learn more about the XTERRA Malta experience, we turn to Christopher Dupré, who finished 3rd in the 25-29 division at the 2018 XTERRA World Championship in Maui. Last year in Malta, Dupre finished 2nd in his age group and 14th overall.
XTERRA Malta moves from its season opening slot to May 18 to coincide with the first round of the XTERRA Malta Swim/Run series and 5K trail run races on Sunday, May 19. Flying into the historical city of Valleta, you’ll be greeted by amazing weather and a welcoming culture from an Island with some rich and varied history.
Malta does have public transport, but your best option will be to rent a car to travel to the race site at the Raddison Blue Hotel, overlooking Golden Bay Beach in the Majjistral Nature Reserve. The hotel is perfect for staying close to the race, however, there are also Airbnb’s and guesthouses within 10-15 minutes of the venue. One quirk worth visiting this side of the island is the Popeye Village, built especially for the 1980 musical film!
The swim is held in the beautiful Golden Bay, where conditions are dependent on the tide and the wind. If the two combine then there could be some swell to deal with, and if not, it could be perfectly flat. The race starts with a nice wide beach run, and an Australian exit after the first 750-meter loop. After exiting the water you’ll have a run across the beach and up a short flight of stairs to enter transition. If you want, you can leave some spare running shoes on the beach to help protect your feet as you run towards your bike.
The 30K, two-loop bike course heads north along the coast, with a gradual climb to start. The course is very rocky which requires a lot of concentration and good line choice to stay smooth. Riding fast on this type of terrain is hard, you’ll need big bursts of power on the very technical sections to keep your speed high. There are two sections per lap where you will have to hike with your bike.
Like in Cyprus and Greece, I recommend using a tire with a reinforced sidewall, whilst these may be a little heavier than regular tires, the sharp-edged rocks have caused several punctures over the years. To finish first, first you must finish!
After leaving the second transition, you’ll head out onto the two-lap, 11K run course. The first half of the loop is the hardest, with a long uphill scramble along some cliffs. Only the best athletes will be able to keep running, most will need to walk and use their hands to help climb. Once at the top, make sure you look at the view from this plateau – it is stunning! The second half of the loop is much faster, with some nice single track before traversing a technical downhill into the second lap.
Below is an example session I use to help prepare myself for the technical challenges of Malta’s mountain bike course.
30mins easy riding
Choose a gradual uphill trail that has lots of technical trail features. Rocks are best to replicate Malta’s terrain, but roots will work well too.
8-10 x 3mins @ 80% of your maximum Heart Rate + ride downhill recovery
These efforts will be hard but controlled. Look to find a good rhythm and stay smooth over the rocks to keep your speed. Your cadence will vary as the terrain changes so keep changing gear to keep the power on.
30mins easy riding
Looking forward to see you all in Malta in a couple of months.
For more info and registrations visit xterraplanet.com.