The XTERRA European Tour is set to finish the 2021 season on a high this weekend as athletes head to the stunning Majjistral Nature Reserve for the 7th annual XTERRA Malta off-road triathlons, trail runs, and kids races.
The main event on Saturday, October 23, provides a great opportunity for elite off-roaders to check their race fitness and form ahead of the XTERRA World Championships set for December 5 in Kapalua, Maui.
The scenic and rugged course starts with a 1.5km swim in the crystal-clear blue waters of beautiful Golden Bay before athletes take on the breathtaking, cliff-edge trails along the 30km mountain bike course and 10km trail run.
In the men’s elite race Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen from Denmark, who was the runner-up at the XTERRA European Championships in August, is the top ranked racer in the field and hoping to pick-up his first XTERRA World Tour victory in Malta on Saturday.
“I am here for the win,” said Sloth Nielsen. “I have been building up some solid training blocks and feel good for the race here in Malta. There are some fast guys, but I’m ready to battle.”
Karel Dusek (CZE), who finished 7th at XTERRA Worlds in 2019, is one of those fast guys along with Sebastien Carabin from Belgium. Last year in Malta, Carabin posted the fastest bike and run splits of the day to finish second behind only Arthur Serrieres.
Gaeten Vivien (FRA) is looking on good form and will have some extra confidence to carry him into this weekend’s race following a great performance at XTERRA Greece last week.
“XTERRA Greece was incredible for me,” said Vivien, who finished fourth last Saturday. “I think I had a race at my level, and it is probably the first time this year I have been able to show what I am capable of. Even though I am older than most of the guys in the elite field, I proved to myself I can continue to improve.”
“It is the end of the season, and the body begins to send some alarms. So, if I managed to race like I did in Greece here at XTERRA Malta then it will be a very good result for me. If there is an opportunity to get a podium spot, then I will be there,” he added.
Having previewed the bike course earlier in the week, Vivien also gave some advice to riders ahead of tackling the course. “It’s very rocky, so athletes need to choose the right line, so they don’t get punctures.”
XTERRA World Ranking - Name, NAT
8 - Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DNK
15 - Karel Dusek, CZE
19 - Sebastien Carabin, BEL
33 – Geert Lauryssen, BEL
35 – Rui Dolores, POR
107 – Gaetan Vivien, FRA
185 – Joep Staps, NLD
383 - Marek Olszewski, POL
In the women’s race, Morgane Riou has returned to defend her XTERRA Malta title.
Last month, Riou defended her title at the European Cross Duathlon Championships, before backing it up with a 6th place finish just two days later at the XTERRA Trentino/European Triathlon Championship race.
“I was so happy with my win at the Cross-Duathlon European Championship,” said Riou. “I was not expecting such a good performance after my injury earlier this year, so it was a great surprise for me to be able to defend my 2019 title against such a strong field. It felt like I was flying on the bike, such a good feeling.”
“I also raced the triathlon two days later but there was not enough time to recover so I was a little disappointed with my result, but no regrets! After those two races, I was supposed to be preparing for the cross-triathlon world championship in Spain but due to two big events and then a full-time job which involves 12 hours per day at a desk, I found it hard to prepare so I decided to take the pressure off and just race two beautiful races, starting with XTERRA Malta this weekend.”
Speaking about the course, she said, “I really like this beautiful place and the race in Malta. It will be my fourth time and I always enjoy the rocky bike loop and the hilly run loop. After my win last year in very hot conditions, I hope to have the same good feelings on Saturday.”
Lara Buttigieg is looking forward to welcoming the elite field to her home country and racing in front of a home crowd. She will be joined on the start line by Louise Fox, Maud Golsteyn, Carina Wasle, and Solenne Billouin who all raced XTERRA Greece last weekend and finished in the top six, while Riou and Aneta Grabmullerova will be heading into the race with fresher legs.
XTERRA World Ranking - Name, NAT
7 – Morgane Riou, FRA
12 - Solenne Billouin, FRA
15 – Carina Wasle, AUT
33 - Aneta Grabmullerova, CZE
82 - Maud Golsteyn, NLD
100 - Louise Fox, GBR
244 - Lara Buttigieg, MLT
Find live updates from XTERRA Malta this weekend on XTERRA Europe’s Instagram.
All Time XTERRA Malta Elite Champions
2015 Nicolas Fernandez/Brigitta Poor
2016 Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor
2017 Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor
2018 Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor
2019 Rui Dolores/Maria Doring
2020 Arthur Serrieres/Morgane Riou