With upwards of 2,000 athletes competing across the full and sprint XTERRA events alongside a SwimRun, Gravel bike events, and kids racing, this will be one action packed weekend.
We are deep into the European Tour for 2019, eight races have already come and gone and the Tour moves into its biggest and best races of the season. XTERRA France will be the first GOLD event for 2019. It was first held in St Raphael in 2006 before moving to its current home in Xonrupt in 2010. Since then the Charbonnier family has turned it into one of the biggest races of the year. With 2500 athletes competing across the full and sprint XTERRA events alongside SwimRun, Gravel bike events and kids racing, this will be one action packed weekend.
XTERRA France is known for being one of the hardest events, with a tough bike course. While our elite athletes will race for glory, there will be a race for the age group athletes to make the finish line before the cut off.
A BIG field of elite men has assembled in Xonrupt, with some serious quality. In fact, only one athlete from 2018’s top 20 is missing!
Ruben Ruzafa has waited until July to start his XTERRA season. The Spaniard has won nearly everything in his career. Multiple World and European titles, and he returns to France having won the last five editions! This long MTB loop with several big climbs suits Ruzafa perfectly so he will start as the big favorite on Sunday.
His biggest challenge should come from Arthur Forissier, the French athlete has been unstoppable this year with wins at XTERRA Lake Garda, Switzerland and the ITU Cross Tri World Championships in Pontedvedra (beating Rufaza in the process). Racing in his home country in front of his biggest fans could provide the extra motivation to win XTERRA France for the first time.
Alongside Forissier, there will be four further French athletes with a chance of winning at home. Arthurr Serrieres won XTERRA Greece and finished second at XTERRA Lake Garda and just won the ETU Cross Duathlon Championships on Tuesday in Romania. The 2018 European Tour Champion François Carloni has been preparing specifically for this race looking to improve on his third place finish in 2015.
"I feel ready for my national XTERRA," said Serrieres. "I think Ruben will be too strong. I hope for a top 5 and why not a podium. I raced in the ETU Cross Triathlon and Duathlon Championship and I have to see if I recovered enough. Weather is not an issue for me, I am ready for all conditions."
Veteran athlete Cedric Fleureton races having recorded two second place finishes this year at XTERRA Tahiti and Switzerland. Maxim Chané will look to put on a big performance. He finished an uncharacteristic 11th last week at XTERRA Switzerland at the end of a big training block, but with some rest this week he will be firing on all cylinders in Xonrupt.
Third time lucky for Xavier Dafflon? The Swiss athlete had his bike stolen in 2017, and a race ending mechanical in 2018 so will be wanting to show what he is capable of at XTERRA France. Current European Tour leader Rui Dolores was only 15th last year, but 2019 has seen a new level of racing from the Portuguese athlete that could see him break the top 5 positions this year.
"We enter the most important phase of the season and XTERRA France is one of the best races of the Tour," said Dolores. "I have made a good preparation and I hope to keep a good shape over the next few weeks. It will be a race with a strong field, demanding courses and I like that. It is my third time in Xonrupt and already competed with rain, mud and dry conditions. The weather could influence the final result."
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (Denmark), Geert Lauryssen (Belgium) and Samuel Jud (Switzerland) will all have a similar route towards a potential top ten finish. Limiting their losses on the swim, hammering the bike and hanging on during the run!
Other athletes we may see in the top ten at some point during Sunday’s event will be Karel Dusek (Czech Republic), Jens Roth, Peter Lehmann (Germany), Doug Hall (UK), Dominic Wychera (Austria), Tommaso Gatti and Francesco Fifini (Italy)
Multiple Ironman and 70.3 Champion Stephen Bayliss from the UK could also be one to watch. His ability to race hard for a long time is without doubt and he is skilled on a mountain bike.
XTERRA Switzerland Elite Men
XET Rank/’18 FRA Position / Bib - Name, NAT
|14||NR||28||SLOTH NIELSEN||Jens Emil||DEN|
Nico Lebrun’s Top Picks
**** Ruben Ruzafa, Arthur Forissier
*** Arthur Serrieres, Francios Carloni, Cedric Fluerton, Xavier Dafflon
* Maxime Chane, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, Geert Laurissen (Belgium) and Samuel Jud
It's impressive to see 19 elite women on the start list for XTERRA France. With seven athletes from last years top 10 returning we should see a level of competition typically only seen at continental championships.
This years big favorite will be Morgane Riou from France. She won XTERRA Italy Lake Garda, XTERRA Belgium, and the ETU Cross Triathlon and Duathlon last week in Romania. Riou has always been a solid athlete but this is a new status for her as outright favorite. Could she be the first French woman to win in France since Marion Lorblanchet in 2010?
Helena Karaskova from the Czech Republic will be Riou’s biggest challenge. She has won XTERRA France many times and won XTERRA Denmark three weeks ago, proving that she is still strong and ready to fight. She is a very strong biker and with no recent SwimRun events she will be fresh and undoubtably will post one of the fastest bike/run combinations.
"I had a lot of time for training between Denmark and France," said Karaskova. "But this year one day I feel very well and the next day I am pretty tired. XTERRA France is one of the most challenging races and I am looking forward to be there with all my family. As in Italy, my daughter will be racing XTERRA Kids on Saturday. That will be a nice start of the weekend."
Another fast runner is Camille Defer from France. She won XTERRA Switzerland last week and will also challenge for the podium. Finishing fifth overall last year as an Age Group athlete. With a win in her pocket and some good confidence I am sure she will be in the race of the top 3.
"I'm ready and very motivated for Sunday," said Defer. "Since Switzerland I only tried to rest and be in good shape. Last year, Xonrupt was my first XTERRA, so I can't wait to see my progress in this sport ! I like the course in France: it's long with big climbs so it's perfect for me. The weather isn't a problem, I can perform well in all conditions. All I know is I want to do my best"
Carina Wasle from Austria is the current European Tour leader. She won XTERRA Cyprus but after a DNF in Romania last week she may not be at 100%. Hopefully she can recover in time to challenge for a result, but if not she may employ a damage limitation strategy to secure some Tour points and keep her lead in the series.
"When I think of XTERRA France I think of "beaucoup de bruits," monster ramp, high 5s, champagne shower...all those things come to my mind," said Wasle. "I usually finish in the top 3 in France, but I've never won this race. This year my preparation leading up to the biggest XTERRA wasn't the best. I'm still struggling to come back strong since my bike crash at XTERRA Greece. At the moment I'm not at my top level after my injury. But XTERRA France suits me and I'm always aiming for a good finish. Maybe I surprise myself and I can do a good job again."
With a long bike course featuring some tough climbs, this may not be the race for the UK’s Nicole Walters. After struggling at the early season races she showed a glimpse of what she is capable of at XTERRA Switzerland building a big lead before a broken wheel took her out of contention. She might not be ready for the top step of the podium, but she might not be far off it.
Fabiola Corona makes the trip all the way from Mexico to race in France. XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champion in 2018 and fifth at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Champs earlier this year shows that she is ready to fight for a top five position in Europe. Swiss Champion Ladina Buss is fresh off a second-place at XTERRA Switzerland last week, her strong mountain bike will allow her to ride towards the front of the race. Italian Sandra Mairhofer podiumed in both Triathlon and Duathlon at the ETU Cross champs in Romania last week, so will look to keep that momentum going with a strong finish in France.
Other athletes we expect to see in the top 15 at the finish line include Alizee Paties (France), Maria Doring (Germany), Pauline Vie (Portugal), and Anna Tomica (Poland).
Like her husband, Bella Bayliss from the UK races with us in France. Bayliss has won multiple Ironman and 70.3 Titles around the world, we look forward to welcoming her into the XTERRA family on Sunday.
XTERRA Switzerland Elite Women
XET Rank/’18 FRA Position / Bib - Name, NAT
|NR||NR||56||CORONA GARCIA||Adriana Fabiola||MEX|
Lebrun's Top Picks
**** Morgan Riou, Helena Karaskova
*** Camille Defer, Carina Wasle, Nicole Walters
* Fabiola Corona, Sandra Mairhofer
More info at www.xterraplanet.com
ALL-TIME XTERRA FRANCE ELITE CHAMPIONS
|Year||Men's Champ||Women's Champ||Site|
|2006||Cedric Fleureton||Renata Bucher||Saint Raphael|
|2008||Nicolas Lebrun||Renata Bucher||Auron|
|2008||Nicolas Lebrun||Renata Bucher||Mondelieu|
|2010||Nicolas Lebrun||Marion Lorblanchet||Xonrupt|
|2011||Victor Del Corral||Renata Bucher||Xonrupt|
|2012||Asa Shaw||Helena Erbenova||Xonrupt|
|2013||Nicolas Lebrun||Helena Erbenova||Xonrupt|
|2014||Ruben Ruzafa||Kathrin Mueller||Xonrupt|
|2015||Ruben Ruzafa||Kathrin Mueller||Xonrupt|
|2016||Ruben Ruzafa||Lesley Paterson||Xonrupt|
|2017||Ruben Ruzafa||Laura Philipp||Xonrupt|
|2018||Ruben Ruzafa||Brigitta Poor||Xonrupt|