We are now entering into the last phase of the 2018 XTERRA European tour. Last week, XTERRA Romania was the first race in a block of six consecutive races to finish up the busy season. This week the XTERRA crew packed up their bags and have found themselves in Krakow for XTERRA Poland, the 12th stop of the European Tour.
This is the third year that Wojtek and his crew welcome XTERRA athletes to the town of Krakow. Since their inaugural race in 2016 they have worked hard to make the race one of the highlights of the year. XTERRA Poland work really hard on engaging with local athletes, getting the community involved with training swims, mountain bike rides and trail running session. All of which are wonderfully documented on their Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Last year XTERRA Poland had more than 1000 competitors across a variety of different races. 2018 looks to be even bigger with a Trail run, Open water swim race, a sprint distance event, the kids race and of course the main XTERRA Event.
Krakow is one of Poland’s most popular cities, with an excellent public transport system it’s easy for athletes to travel into the city centre. There is something for everyone in Krakow, it’s a beautiful city with some amazing buildings and incredible history. If you’re hungry then check out the main square, there are a multitude of fantastic restaurants and bars. You can enjoy some very good food at good prices whilst enjoying the incredible atmosphere that only an Eastern European city can provide.
The race itself takes place around the Zakrzówek mine. This site used to quarry thousands of tonnes of limestone a year until workers dug into an underground spring which flooded the quarry with amazing clear and clean water. Now the area provides the city of Krakow with perfect open water swimming, there are cliffs that the brave amongst us can jump off and deep enough water that there is even a Scuba diving club!
The two-lap swim is no doubt unique on the XTERRA tour with its imposing rock faces edging the swim course. There is also the chance that it could be non-wetsuit given the great weather that Europe has been experiencing lately.
Despite the mountain bike course being located close to a big city and with no mountains, XTERRA Poland has a reputation for being one of the most fun bike courses all year. It doesn’t feature anything too technical, but lots of twisting, flowing single-track means that you will need to have skills and be smooth to go fast. Fortunately, the course is quite flat, so it is easy to ride several practice loops to help remember the corners. There is a unique feature on the course; an old mining tunnel! Whilst on race day this is converted into an XTERRA nightclub with lights and music, during practice it might be worth taking a small torch with you to help navigate through the darkness!
The run is like the bike, no long hills but with plenty of twists and turns which will require changes in speed. There are several short steep banks up and over stone deposits and in one section you will need to use your arms to help climb up a very steep section. As it takes place in the old quarry, it is quite rocky so make sure to wear shoes with some good protection for your feet.
For the Elite races, we have strong fields in both races. XTERRA Poland is just one week before the XTERRA European championship in Germany which given their proximity to each other has made racing both events a very attractive prospect.
5 of the 6 top women in the XTERRA Europe tour rankings will race in Poland
Our tour leader Carina Wasle has had a rare fortnight off racing and should take to the start line fresh and recovered from her last block of races. It will be interesting to see what happens, she might be very strong, or her body might need some adjustment to having 2 weeks without a race! Either way our Austria athlete is looking for a win, something she is still missing from her 2018. As long as she avoids a DNF she will still lead the tour whatever her result, so perhaps with nothing to lose she can go all in for the win.
XTERRA Poland 2017 winner Brigitta Poor, is fresh from a win last week in Romania and will be the athlete to beat. She has won every race she started this season with the exception of Greece. With a third race in a row in Germany next week she may hold something back to keep her powder dry for the European Championships.
Helena Karasková showed some good form at a local cross triathlon last weekend, and in Poland last year was second behind Poor. With a slower swim, this is not an easy race for her as the twisty singletrack is not an easy place to overtake slower athletes, Helena recently told us that 2018 is her last season and following her win at home in Czech we know she will want to go out with a bang.
Morgane Riou is in 5th on the Euro tour, this will be her first time at XTERRA Poland. She was second in Romania and is focusing on a big result in Germany next weekend, so she will be training a lot this week before the race, so she will have to wait and see how the body responds on Sunday.
Samantha Kingsford started the race in Czech this year but was a DNF, unable to back up racing just 5 days after a stunning race at the ITU World Champs. She won XTERRA Albay this year, so I can’t wait to see what she can do against our top European athletes. As always, there is a strong Polish field headed by Ania Tomica, who sits in 6th in the European tour, also Sabina Rzepka who was 9th last year and the best polish athlete.
Unless your name is Bradley Weiss, you will have to beat the World Champion to win the men’s race! It is great to have our 2017 XTERRA world champion taking the start in Poland. We know he is training hard to defend his world title later in the year, so he may not be at 100% strength following a training block at altitude but following a 4th at ITU champs, 3rd in France and 2nd in Czech, be warned the South African will be charging on this course.
Equal favourite and last year’s XTERRA Poland winner Sam Osbourne from New Zealand is back. After an amazing 2nd place at ITU he was disappointed with his race in Czech so he will be fired up to step back up onto the podium. Sam will aim to race from the front and lead all day, the twisty singletrack will suit him and remind him of the riding back home in Rotorua. If he is at the front of the race when he reaches the run it will be hard to beat him.
Perhaps someone who can is Frenchman Arthur Serrieres who ran his way to victory in Romania last weekend. If he can limit his gap after the swim and stay relaxed on the bike then he is a sure bet for a top 3 and possibly the win.
Other contenders include Ben Allen and Max Chané. Allen is returning to form with a 3rd place in Romania, but we know he wants more. Chané will enjoy this course, but he is coming off a big training block ahead of Germany, so he will have to use his skills rather than his legs to achieve a good finish.
It will be interesting to watch this race, I think that the swim will have a big impact on the overall race. We know a group with Chané, Allen, Osbourne will try to get away, but if Weiss or Serrieres can hang with the group and not lose more than 30secs then it’ll take something special to beat them.
If he wins on Sunday, Serrieres can take the lead in the Tour standing by one point ahead of François Carloni. Peter Lehmann who has plans to race every remaining race on the tour, will fight for some good points knowing there is chance he can finish on the Tour podium. He is currently 5th and will move to third if he can finish inside the top 6.
4 Polish athletes will race, the fastest local athlete last year was Sylwester Swat with an impressive 11th place.
This is the last race before the European championship and the last chance to fine tune racing form ahead of the biggest race of the season. We know we will see good racing from everyone, as is the XTERRA spirit that when the race starts, athletes will give everything they have until they cross the finish line.
Kostas and Nico will be on site all week to keep you updated as we head towards race day. As usual there will be a Facebook live feed to follow the action on Sunday.