The XTERRA European Tour returns to Vallee de Joux in the Jura Mountains for the seventh straight year on Saturday, June 29.
XTERRA Switzerland is the eighth of 14 stops on this year’s Euro circuit, and home to some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery on the world tour.
To take us on a tour of this amazing location we enlisted the help of Mathieu Desserprit, the reigning 30-34 division XTERRA World Champion who hails from Reunion Island.
Last year XTERRA Switzerland was my first XTERRA ever! The location in the Vallée de Joux is exactly like you imagine Switzerland to be like. Beautiful green mountains, plenty of quiet cows watching trains pass through the small mountain village, and very tasty cheese.
Located only one hour’s drive from Geneva airport, the race is easy to get to and you can even get a train directly to the race start. The border with France is very close by, with the Jura mountains overlooking the entire race valley.
The race is quite short compared to other events on the tour, so a good swim is key to a good final position. The swim takes place in the smaller of the two lakes in the valley, and the water is very clean because of natural protection from the surrounding vegetation. The course is a single 1500m lap and because it is difficult to come back from a poor swim at this race, the start is always fast. The first buoy is close to the start, so if you are good swimmer, go fast for the first 200m to be on the front for the first turn. If you are not a good swimmer, pace yourself and don’t be afraid to take a longer route around the buoy to avoid the chaos.
The bike course is very fast with not a lot of climbing. You’ll do two laps to make the 28km distance. Whilst it is a short bike ride, there is nowhere to recover so you must keep the power on for the whole duration. The only easy sections are the first and last 600m on the road near transition. During a key section of the course next to the lake, you’ll find the track is very fast but there are two awkward turns with some small loose rocks that can be slippery and end your race if you lose concentration and crash. Shortly after this section you climb on narrow single track; it will be difficult to pass other bikers here so take the time to recover and save energy. I will choose a full suspension mountain bike for this race; even though it is an easier race you will save more energy and your muscles for the trail run. For the last few years, the weather has been kind and fast summer tires have been perfect. However, if the rain comes you will need a proper mud tire for slippery conditions.
Like the bike course, the run is very fast. If you feel good, then push straight away as you have 3km on the flat before starting the single steep uphill on the course. This climb is hard but doesn’t last that long before transitioning to a draggy section across a cow field which can get really muddy if its wet. If it’s dry then watch your ankles in the holes left by those beautiful cows you will see during your stay there and don't worry, they will be on other places on race day. I choose a fast and light running shoe as even if it is wet, the muddy section is very short.
Here is a sample training session I’m doing for the swim to get ready for the fast start
Warm up and drills
8 x 200m r 30" : (25 fly max + 25 free max + 150 free at 80% / 25 free max + 25 polo max + 150 free at 80%) X 4
If you can't swim fly style, do the first one only 50m max freestyle.
The goal will be to be able to recover while swimming after a really hard 50m effort, so during the 150, imagine that you have to now recover but keep moving and be as efficient as possible.