Felix Forissier (FRA) and Solenne Billouin (FRA) won the XTERRA Czech Republic full-distance off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful afternoon in Prachatice on Saturday, August 12, 2023.
It’s the fourth career XTERRA World Tour win for Forissier and his second straight full-distance victory on the XTERRA World Cup following his win at the XTERRA European Championship in June. For Billouin, the reigning XTERRA World Champion, the win is her first of the season and fifth in her career.
Today’s race was the sixth of 12 races in the XTERRA World Cup. Tomorrow, Sunday, August 13, the series continues with the invite-only, action-packed XTERRA Short Track race at Ktišský Lake. Fans can watch it live on xterraplanet.com starting at 10am local time (CEST). The women’s race starts at 10:15am and the men’s race at 11:15am. Start lists here.
In the men’s race Jens Roth (GER) pulled away early with the fastest swim split (18:33) of the day. Michele Bonacina (ITA) was 30 seconds back, followed closely by Keller Norland (USA), Jules Dumas (FRA), and Matteo Sfregola (ITA), but none of those men would ultimately crack the top 10.
Among the contenders, Maxim Chané (FRA) and home country favorite Lukáš Kočař (CZE) came out of the water together in 19:40, followed by reigning XTERRA World Champion Arthur Serrières (FRA) and Felix Forissier in 19:44, then Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) in 19:55, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) two minutes back in 21:42, and Sébastien Carabin (BEL) in 21:59.
Once on the bike a big pack went to the front early with Felix Forissier leading Kočař, Sullivan Middaugh (USA), and Chané at the one-kilometer mark. The big story early was news that Arthur Forissier, Felix’s older brother, had a big crash on a long fast downhill in the first 10K of the bike requiring medical help for a suspected broken collarbone.
“On behalf of all the athletes we want to send a message of ‘get well soon’ to Arthur who crashed and finished his race in the hospital,” said Serrières. “Everyone knows he was the favorite for the XTERRA World Cup this year, and it would be a shame to see his season end like this, so hopefully he will be back soon.”
At about the 10K mark on the bike Felix Forissier was leading with Kočař and Chané right behind but at the next big uphill he kicked it into another gear and started riding away with it.
“I had planned before the race to push really hard for this gap, but I found myself riding with Lukáš and Max at 10km, and started to wonder how I would drop these guys, but on the top of the next climb I turned around and couldn’t see anyone,” said Forissier. “My legs were feeling good, they were making the difference!”
Forissier posted the fastest bike split of the day with a 1:46:39 split that was more than two minutes faster than Chané, more than three minutes quicker than Kočař, Francois Vie (POR), and Serrières, and four minutes faster than the mountain bike specialists, Ruzafa and Nielsen.
By the time he reached the bike-to-run transition Forissier had a one-minute lead on Chané, with Vie and Kočař together two minutes back, and the speediest runner on tour, Serrières, in fifth place and two minutes, 10 seconds behind.
Serrières did indeed cut into Forissier’s lead, but not enough, as Felix took the tape in 2:36:21 in front of a huge crowd lined along the cobblestone streets in the medieval town square.
“I’m really happy with this great race,” said Forissier. “This year I’ve been able to make a difference on the bike. I can take a gap on the bike and hold on during the run even after pushing so hard on two wheels. I did it in Belgium, and now I've done it again here in Czech.”
When asked if he’ll be gunning for a weekend sweep by winning the Short Track race tomorrow, Forissier said, “It’s difficult to think about getting ready for the short track tomorrow, it's not something you think about when being chased by Serrières! But I will give everything I have left for a perfect weekend.”
Serrières ran past Vie, Kočař, and Chané to finish second.
“I wasn’t in my best shape today after coming down from altitude training camp, but I fought all day while battling some issues with nutrition and hydration so I’m really proud of this position,” said Serrières. “Felix was another level today, and even in my best shape I don’t know how I would beat him, he doesn’t seem to have a weakness right now. I made up some time on the run today but without that spark, I just couldn’t close the gap.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow and the World Cup overall, Serrières said, “I’ve no idea how I’ll race tomorrow. I’ll expect nothing from the body and be surprised if I feel good. After some bad races in Taiwan and Belgium, I need to pivot and look towards the World Championship over salvaging a position in the World Cup.”
The local hero Kočař won the battle for third place, landing him on the podium in the full-distance race here in the Czech Republic for the first time.
“Finally a podium in the main race here in Czech, it’s so nice to finally deliver a good result in the full-distance event in front of the home crowd” he said. “Three weeks ago I didn’t think I would be racing here after some difficulties this past month, but I put together two or three good weeks of training and I couldn’t let the home crowd down. I tried to race smart, or at least smarter than before. I didn’t have the training to go full gas like normal but I think that actually worked in my favor because I was still able to run fast despite feeling terrible throughout.”
Kočař is without a doubt more excited about tomorrow’s Short Track race than anyone else in the field.
“I can’t wait,” he exclaimed. “I’m really looking forward to the short track tomorrow, I am the defending champion, and I am the guy to beat at this distance and everyone knows it so I’ll go full gas in front of the huge crowds.”
XTERRA World Cup leader Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen ran his way into fourth place at the finish line, followed by Chané, Carabin, and Ruzafa.
Top 10 Elite Men
Place - WC Position - World Rank - Name, NAT (Time)
1 - 3 - 4 - Felix Forissier, FRA (2:36:21)
2 - 2 - 1 - Arthur Serrières, FRA (2:37:47)
3 - 8 - 9 - Lukáš Kočař, CZE (2:38:00)
4 - 1 - 7 - Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (2:38:14)
5 - 9 - 10 - Maxim Chane, FRA (2:38:46)
6 - 4 - 5 - Sébastien Carabin, BEL (2:39:17)
7 - 5 - 3 - Ruben Ruzafa, ESP (2:40:06)
8 - 27 - 14 - Francois Vie, POR (2:41:28)
9 - 12 - 18 - Sullivan Middaugh, USA (2:43:14)
10 - 15 - 26 - Théo Dupras, FRA (2:45:41)
In the women’s elite race Emma Ducreux (FRA) set the pace in the swim with the fastest split of the day in 20:46, followed by Marta Menditto (ITA) in 21:32, and local favorite Aneta Grabmüller and Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) together 20 seconds back.
Among the contenders, XTERRA World Cup leader Alizée Paties (FRA) was 7th out of the water in 22:23, Billouin was 10th in 22:41, and Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) 12th in 23:54.
Once on the bike, Mairhofer took to the front early followed by Billouin, Grabmüller, and Paties, but just like in the men’s race, a big crash shook up the day.
Mairhofer, arguably the best women’s mountain biker on the XTERRA World Cup circuit, apparently hit a hole at high speed and went down hard, opening up a cut on her face that “made it looked like she had just come out of the Octagon rather than a triathlon,” said one official.
Mairhofer stayed in the race, and ultimately finished fourth to collect some valuable points, but Billouin took the lead on the bike after the crash and never looked back.
“I was catching Sandra on the bike and had closed the gap to around 200m before she unfortunately crashed,” said Billouin. “It looked bad so I hope she is okay, but it felt good to be riding up to the wheel of someone as strong as her.”
Billouin had close to a three minute lead on Paties at the bike-to-run transition and added to that lead on the run to cross the finish line uncontested with a winning time of 3:02:02.
“I’m so proud of that performance, I took some time to reset after Belgium and did three weeks of the best training I have done since the World Championships last year,” said Billouin. “Being able to show it on the race course was really nice after an up-and-down start to the season. I knew I would go well today on the bike, and then once I started running on this hard course, I wanted to run a really fast first lap just to make the gap back to Alizee solid before getting a time check to know that I could run the second lap with more control, perhaps saving something for the next few races!”
When asked about her thoughts heading into tomorrow’s Short Track, Billouin said, “I’m looking forward to it. I always enjoy this format and now with this win in the pocket I have nothing to lose. There is always a good close battle with the high quality of the women’s field right now, and I love going bar to bar and toe to toe over this format.”
Paties was strong all day to finish in second place and retain her top spot in the World Cup standings.
“I’m not at my best level after some big training the past few weeks but I think I can be happy with this performance,” she said. “I swam okay, but then it took nearly the whole bike for my legs to wake up. I started to run fast to try to catch Solenne but there was nothing I could do. I plan on going full gas tomorrow in the Short Track so hopefully I can take a big lead in the World Cup heading into the last few races of the season.”
Duvoisin, who won the XTERRA European Championship in June, finished all by herself in third place.
“I don’t know what happened in the swim, I lost some time but I don’t know why, so all I could do is push push push on the bike and try to ride my way through the field,” she said. “Then on the run I gave everything that I could. Perhaps I need some racing to find my level so I hope to go better tomorrow in the Short Track and again next week in Germany.”
Mairhofer courageously carried on after her crash to finish in fourth position but will not race in the Short Track tomorrow, nor will fifth place finisher, Czech XTERRA legend Helena Karásková Erbenová.
Top 10 Elite Women
Place - WC Position - World Rank - Name, NAT (Time)
1 - 4 - 2 - Solenne Billouin, FRA (3:02:02)
2 - 1 - 3 - Alizée Paties, FRA (3:05:35)
3 - 2 - 4 - Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (3:06:58)
4 - 5 - 1 - Sandra Mairhofer, ITA (3:12:07)
5 - 8 - 10 - Helena Karásková Erbenová, CZE (3:14:45)
6 - 21 - NR - Jana Dubcová, CZE (3:15:17)
7 - 11 - 40 - Stepanka Bisová, CZE (3:17:11)
8 - 9 - 14 - Carina Wasle, AUT (3:19:14)
9 - 27 - 36 - Kerri-Ann Upham, GBR (3:21:37)
10 - 33 - NR - Aneta Grabmüller, CZE (3:25:12)
All-time XTERRA Czech Elite Champions
Year - Men / Women
2002 - Olivier Marceau / Candy Angle
2003 - Nicolas Lebrun / Jamie Whitmore
2004 - Nicolas Lebrun / Jamie Whitmore
2005 - Olivier Marceau / Renata Bucher
2006 - Nicolas Lebrun / Renata Bucher
2008 - Nicolas Lebrun / Carina Wasle
2009 - Franky Batelier / Carina Wasle
2010 - Franky Batelier / Renata Bucher
2011 - Ronny Dietz / Marion Lorblanchet
2012 - Nicolas Lebrun / Helena Erbenova
2013 - Felix Schumann / Helena Erbenova
2014 - Ruben Ruzafa / Kathrin Mueller
2015 - Ben Allen / Helena Erbenova
2018 - Ruben Ruzafa / Helena Erbenova
2019 - Arthur Serrières / Morgane Riou
2020 - Arthur Serrières / Laura Philipp
2021 - Arthur Serrières / Loanne Duvoisin
2022 - Arthur Serrières / Sandra Mairhofer
2023 - Felix Forissier / Solenne Billouin
SLOTH NIELSEN, PATIES STILL GOLDEN ON THE WORLD CUP
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen and Alizée Paties remain on top of the XTERRA World Cup standings at the midway point with six races in the book and six still to go.
In the men’s chase Serrières is still in second, Felix Forissier made the biggest move, jumping up four spots from No. 7 to No. 3, while Carabin picked up two spots to go from No. 6 to No. 4.
In the women’s standings the top three remained the same with Paties, Duvoisin, and Menditto, but Billouin leapfrogged past Mairhofer into the fourth spot, dropping Suzie Snyder to No. 6.
Today’s race was the start of an intense set of five races in 15 days across three countries. XTERRA Czech Short Track is tomorrow, XTERRA Germany Short Track is Friday, August 18, XTERRA Germany full-distance is Saturday, August 19, then the XTERRA USA Championship takes place in Colorado next Saturday, August 26. The series concludes with the XTERRA Trentino Short Track on September 21 followed by the XTERRA World Championship on September 23.
To determine XTERRA World Cup Champions, elites will add their best four scores from the first six full-distance races with their best three Short Track scores and whatever they get (or don’t get) at the XTERRA World Championship.
Follow all the coverage at xterraplanet.com/worldcup.
Find updated XTERRA World Cup standings here
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