After last week's event at Lake Garda in Italy, the XTERRA European tour reaches its fifth stop, landing in the small town of Golega, Portugal.
The XTERRA European tour reaches its fifth stop, landing in the small town of Golega, Portugal. This will be the sixth time Portugal has hosted XTERRA and 2019 will also see the Portuguese National Cross Triathlon championships take place at the same time. As with all the other races on the tour, we’ve already previewed the course in detail if you want some tips on how best to prepare for the event.
With Portugal so warm this week it could be a non-wetsuit swim, there will be loose rocks to deal with during the mountain bike section and a super-fast, flat run with the odd dip back into the water! After the race make sure you have a nice Nata pastry and a cold drink in the beautiful town square.
Here are some of the best horse breeding farms of the famous Lusitano horse breed used for dressage in Portugal. Once a year, in November, Golega becomes the beating hearth of Portuguese tradition and international interest during the National horse fair.
Golega is also famous for having one of the first photography studios in Europe, hopefully Carel will show us around this special place.
In the mens race the big question is who can beat Rui Dolores?
In the last two weeks Dolores has really found his stride, winning in Malta before finishing fourth in an extremely competitive field in Lake Garda. Dolores was a solid athlete in 2018, but these breakthrough results see him leading the European tour for the first time in his career. Improvements to his swim and bike disciplines over winter has allowed him to save some energy to start the run fresher and much nearer to the front than before. With the home advantage, Dolores is the standout favorite for Saturday’s race, with only a mechanical problem standing between him and another win on the European Tour.
"It is always a pleasure and extra motivation when racing at home" said Dolores. "I will try to keep the consistency of the last races and do a good performance to maintain my lead in the Euro tour. It will be a tough race with hot weather conditions on a hard bike course where it's important to manage the pace to be able to run fast in flat course"
Germany’s Peter Lehmann was fourth in Malta two weeks ago; a mechanical issue perhaps stopping him from showing the form that saw him on the podium three times last season. Lehmann’s excellent 2018 ended with a third place finish in the overall series, so suggests he could be the man to push Dolores to the finish.
"In Malta I had some technical problems with my Bike and I lost time having to run/walk the last two kilometers of the bike course" said Lehmann. "So I didn’t get to show my current shape. I’ve trained hard for two weeks and will travel to Portugal with some good memories of last year"!
Ander Lazcano from Spain was fourth last year in Golega, and will fight again for a top five alongside Belgium athlete Tim Van Daele. Van Daele had a tough race last week in Lake Garda, so will be looking for redemption on a course that suits him better. In contrasting fortunes, Aliex Sierra and Oliver Young should start in Portugal with some confidence. The young Spaniard finished 14th last week in Italy during his debut Elite race.
Tiago Maia from Portugal will likely lead the swim. Maia had a great start to the season in Cyprus but couldn’t back it up in Garda. However, the extra energy from racing at home should spur him onto a potential top 5 position. Rafael Gomes and Rafael Domingos will join Dolores and Maia in the fight for the Portuguese national title.
2019 XTERRA Euro Tour Rank/2018 Portugal Place - Name, NAT
In the women's race, Brigitta Poor is back! The 2018 XTERRA European champion from Hungary was far from her usual self at XTERRA Cyprus and at the ITU Cross Championships, but she loves Golega and feels at home racing on a course she knows well. The technical section in the middle of the course really suits her skills so if she is back to her winning ways we expect to see her take advantage of this difficult section of the course.
"I feel ok and I have trained a lot in the last 3 weeks" said Poor. "My form is getting better but I’m still not at my best. My plan has always been to build towards the XTERRA European Championship! So yes, it was a sh**t season to start with but luckily I found my motivation again"!
Poor will have strong competition, what the start list lacks in numbers it makes up for in depth. Eleonora Peroncini, the ITU world champion continues her 2019 XTERRA European campaign after second in Cyprus and third in Lake Garda. She wants to keep improving over the longer, more technical races typical of the European Tour so finds herself in Portugal to gain experience for future races. She may fade during the second half of the race, but the Italian athlete is a serious contender for the win.
"I had a tough time at Garda! The XTERRA is longer and more demanding than the races I am used to, so I’m racing as much as possible to learn so many things" said Peroncini! "Racing the best athletes in the sport is always stimulating, so I'm looking forward to competing and seeing what Golega has to offer! I’ve no expectations, only to learn and develop... but you never know what can happen!"
The ever smiling Eva Garcia from Spain will also feature in Portugal. She finished second in 2018 before going onto win XTERRA Italy in Scanno. Earlier this year she was the fastest AG athlete by a long way at the ITU cross championships, unable to race elite due to a strange regulation with the Spanish Federation. Her finish time in Spain was comparable with the best Cross Triathletes in the world, so she has every chance of a victory this Saturday in Portugal.
"I’ve tried to improve my swimming this year as that’s always been a weakness, whilst continuing my improvement on the bike combining mountain bike and road cycling training" said Garcia. "I can’t wait to start competing in XTERRA again because for me it is the best triathlon format that exists. XTERRA Portugal is going to be my first test this year and I have the desire and excitement, but you never know what will happen and that is exciting. Being the first race of the year, you never know what your fitness is with respect to the other participants. As always, the level in the elite is very high, so for me the most important thing is going to be feeling good during the race, Not crashing, and enjoying myself with giving 100%. If I can do that, I will cross the finish line very happy".
Young Portuguese athlete Pauline Vie will be the favorite for the National title. Finishing seventh last year as an age group athlete, Vie has worked hard in training this year and will fight for more than just the Portuguese honors. Malvina Gomes joins Vie in the battle for the National Title, looking to improve on her 11th place finish in 2018.
2019 XTERRA Euro Tour Rank/2018 Portugal Place - Name, NAT
The XTERRA European team will be in Golega bringing us updates ahead of the race on Saturday, as normal there will be some live coverage (mobile phone signal dependent!).
The 2019 XTERRA European Tour is fully underway, with a good result Rui Dolores will begin to build a good lead in the series, whilst Tiago Maia and Peter Lehmann should enter the top ten. Eleonora Peroncini should overtake Carina Walse in the standing and Pauline Vie will also move into the top ten.
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