Felix Forissier (FRA) and Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) won the XTERRA European Championship full-distance off-road triathlon elite titles at the Citadel in Namur, Belgium this afternoon.
It’s the third career XTERRA World Tour win for Forissier (2022 XTERRA France, 2021 XTERRA Portugal), and the second for Duvoisin, who won her first at XTERRA Czech in 2021.
Today’s race was the fourth of 12 races in the XTERRA World Cup. Tomorrow, Sunday, June 11, the series continues with the fifth race in the Cup when the invite-only XTERRA Short Track race unfolds at the fortress. Fans can watch it live on xterraplanet.com starting at 10:30am local time.
In the men’s race, XTERRA newcomer Anthony Pujades (FRA) was first out of the water in 18:08, a full 20 seconds ahead of Jens Roth (GER) and 50 seconds in front of Michele Bonacina (ITA) who led a pack that included Arthur Serrières (FRA), Lukas Kočař (CZE), and Maxim Chane (FRA).
Felix Forissier was 13th out of the water, more than one-minute back with his older brother, Arthur Forissier (FRA), right behind. Seven-time World Champ Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) was 29th out of the water (2:30 back) and current Cup leader, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN), was the 38th man out (-2:40).
Things changed quickly on the bike, with the first glimpse of video showing Arthur Forissier, who won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Taiwan two months ago, leading a pack up the cobblestone steps of the iconic Citadel on the bike with younger brother in tow and Kočař in the mix.
“That was the plan, to push from the start, I wanted to attack and influence the race,” said Arthur Forissier. “On the second lap, though, Felix was stronger than me and I wasn’t able to follow him. Or if I tried I wouldn’t have been able to run afterwards, so I had to slow down and follow my own pace so I could get to the finish line.”
In a field full of magnificent mountain bikers, Felix Forissier threw down the fastest split of the day, a 1:30:19 that was better than Ruzafa, his brother Arthur, Sloth Nielsen, home country favorite Sébastien Carabin (BEL), and even Olympic gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavý (CZE).
“I think I’m in the best shape of my life,” said Felix Forissier, who also recently won the World Triathlon Cross Tri Championship title. “I had a quality bike, pushed a lot, and was a little scared I might have gone too hard but I wanted to make a difference.”
If he went too hard, his run didn’t show it. He posted the fastest 10K split (39:32) to widen the gap and crossed the line in 2:31:21, then waited more than three minutes to give his brother Arthur a big hug for finishing second.
“I’m incredibly happy to take the XTERRA European Championship title against such strong competition,” said Felix Forissier, who suffered a flat at the first race in the XTERRA World Cup in Taiwan but with this result is right back on track in the chase for the crown. “I wanted the points for this race and now I look forward to getting some more tomorrow.”
Coming in third was Ruzafa, who had the second best bike split and third best run to finish just 25-seconds behind Arthur Forissier.
“I’m just trying to keep up with these younger guys,” said Ruzafa. “There are so many strong XTERRA athletes racing now, the level of competition is so high. I had good energy today, and was really happy with my performance and the points I earned.”
Sloth Nielsen finished in fourth place, with Chane about 30 seconds back in fifth. Three-time XTERRA European Champion and reigning World Champ Arthur Serrières said he “overcooked” his training, and never truly recovered from XTERRA Oak Mountain, the travel, and a tough race at XTERRA Lake Garda. He finished 12th, and said he’s looking forward to the break before XTERRA Czech in August.
Everyone in the top 10 deserves a special mention, but perhaps none more than 2015 XTERRA World Champion, Josiah Middaugh (USA), who passed 110 people on the bike to finish 10th, or perhaps more remarkably, Carabin, who went from 198th out of the water to 11th at the finish line.
Top 10 Elite Men
Pos - Name, NAT (Time)
1 - Felix Forissier, FRA (2:31:21)
2 - Arthur Forissier, FRA (2:34:33)
3 - Ruben Ruzafa, ESP (2:34:58)
4 - Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (2:36:42)
5 - Maxim Chane, FRA (2:37:15)
6 - Anthony Pujades, FRA (2:38:25)
7 - Lukáš Kočař, CZE (2:39:01)
8 - Sebastian Neef, GER (2:39:09)
9 - Michele Bonacina, ITA (2:39:41)
10 - Josiah Middaugh, USA (2:41:11)
In the women’s race, Daisy Davies led a trio of British speedsters out of the water in 19:17, which was good for an impressive 15th overall in a field that featured more than 50 elite men. Maisie Aubrey was second out of the water in 19:31 and 15-19 division all-star, Isla Hedley, was third just three seconds back.
Among the contenders, Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) posted a 21:02, about 1:40 off the front, with World Cup leader Alizée Paties (FRA) and reigning XTERRA World Champion, Solenne Billouin (FRA), another minute behind. Duvoisin was another 1:30 back in 23:41.
Just like in the men’s race, the race was quick to change shape once the mountain bike portion was underway and the cream of the crop rose to the top.
Mairhofer, arguably the best biker of the bunch, took to the front and stayed there much of the race despite suffering a flat in her front tire on the first downhill.
“It made it hard to push on the climbs, and I had to go slower on the downhills, but I was still riding good,” she said.
Paties and Duvoisin were riding good, as well, and although Paties was first to arrive into the bike-to-run transition, Duvoisin was just a few seconds behind and took the lead into the run. She had clocked the best bike split of the day in 1:44:49 to erase her deficit out of the water, then posted the best run of the day (46:05) to take the tape in 2:57:11.
“After the swim I thought, okay we can forget it, I was so bad, but then I felt okay on the bike and had some good legs so pushed as hard as I could,” said Duvoisin, who also won the last race in the World Cup, the Short Track showdown in Oak Mountain.
“This bike course was good for me, not too technical, so I was really comfortable on the downhill and could go hard. I wasn’t sure after the bike if I was going to be able to push on the run, but I felt good and just super happy with the win. Such a great atmosphere here for XTERRA.”
Mairhofer, who passed Paties on the run, finished second about one-minute behind Duvoisin, with Paties in third another 1:30 back.
“I did my best, but was completely dead on the run and that second lap was horrible,” said Paties. “I tried to stay with Loanne coming out of T2 but she was just too fast for me today, and so was Sandra.”
Billouin finished strong in fourth, with Marta Menditto (ITA) rounding out the top five, which are the same top five who sit atop the XTERRA World Rankings.
Top 10 Elite Women
Pos - Name, NAT (Time)
1 - Loanne Duvoisin, SUI
2 - Sandra Mairhofer, ITA
3 - Alizée Paties, FRA
4 - Solenne Billouin, FRA
5 - Marta Menditto, ITA
6 - Charlène Clavel, FRA
7 - Suzie Snyder, USA
8 - Bonnie Van Wilgenburg, GBR
9 - Helena Karásková Erbenová, CZE
10 - Emma Ducreux, FRA
SLOTH NIELSEN, PATIES REMAIN ATOP XTERRA WORLD CUP STANDINGS
With their strong showings today, both Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen and Alizée Paties retained their top spot in the XTERRA World Cup standings.
For the men, Serrières is second, and Arthur Forissier jumps up to No. 3 with just two scoring races (whereas everyone else in the top five has four). In the women’s chase, Duvoisin takes over the second spot from Menditto, and Mairhofer moves into the top five.
Both leaderboards will have another shake up tomorrow with the 20 points on offer in the XTERRA Short Track showdown (watch it live here starting at 10:30am local time).
ABOUT THE XTERRA WORLD CUP
In the chase for the Cup, elites add their best four scores from the first six full-distance races with their best three-of-five Short Track scores, and whatever they get (or don’t get) at the XTERRA World Championship.
The highest points’ scorers at the end of the year will be the first to ever lift the XTERRA World Cup trophy, and will take home the lion's share of the series’ €350.000 in prize money.
Following the first stop in Taiwan in April, and the second round in the U.S. in May, this weekend marks the start of the World Cup's European swing as four of the next five stops are in the EU. XTERRA Czech (August 12-13) and XTERRA Germany (August 18-19) are up next. Round six heads to the Rockies in Avon, Colorado for the XTERRA USA Championship (August 26), and the Cup concludes in Trentino, Italy with the final XTERRA Short Track race on Sept. 21 and then the World Championship on Sept. 23.
Find full coverage at xterraplanet.com.
All-time XTERRA European Championship Race Winners
Year Location - Men/Women
2006 Villacidro, Italy - Nicolas Lebrun/Renata Bucher
2007 Sardinia, Italy - Olivier Marceau/Eszter Erdelyi
2008 Sardinia, Italy - Olivier Marceau/Sibylle Matter
2009 Klopeinersee, Austria - Franky Batelier/Renata Bucher
2010 Sardinia, Italy - Franky Batelier/Melanie McQuaid
2011 Zittau, Germany - Olivier Marceau/Marion Lorblanchet
2015 Cranleigh, England - Ruben Ruzafa/Lesley Paterson
2016 Zittau, Germany - Ruben Ruzafa/Michelle Flipo
2017 Mons Klint, Denmark - Bradley Weiss/Brigitta Poor
2018 Zittau, Germany - Bradley Weiss/Brigitta Poor
2019 Prachatice, Czech Republic - Arthur Serrières/Morgane Riou
2021 Zittau, Germany - Arthur Serrières/Sandra Mairhofer
2022 Prachatice, Czech Republic - Arthur Serrières/Sandra Mairhofer
2023 Namur, Belgium - Felix Forissier/Loanne Duvoisin
All-time XTERRA Belgium Elite Champions
2016 – Kris Coddens/Helena Karásková Erbenová
2017 – Ruben Ruzafa/Helena Karásková Erbenová
2018 – Francois Carloni/Morgane Riou
2019 – Yeray Luxem/Morgane Riou
2021 – Arthur Serrières/Solenne Billouin
2022 – Arthur Serrières/Marta Menditto
2023 – Felix Forissier/Loanne Duvoisin
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