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The chase for the inaugural XTERRA World Cup starts Saturday, April 15, in Taiwan’s Kenting National Park with the most impressive elite field ever assembled for an off-road triathlon in the Asia-Pacific region.
With 30 elites from 15 countries including the top five ranked men and women in the world on the start line, this year’s XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race is set to become the most epic season-opener in sport history as all the sports biggest stars, the best of the best, have committed to the series in an effort to take their sport to the next level.
“This is how it should be,” said Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen from Denmark. “The best off-road triathletes in the world signed on for this, to travel to Taiwan and belt it out against each other, and we won’t see any surprise athletes coming from the road triathlon circuit anymore. We’ve pushed the level of competition to new heights over the last few years and these are the best athletes our sport has, and we’re ready to battle it out.”
Saturday’s race, which starts at 6am in the warm, calm, and clear turquoise waters of the South China Sea at Little Bay Beach, is the first of seven stops on the all-new XTERRA World Cup and the local vibe offers a wealth of new experiences and opportunities for elites heading into the 2023 season.
The defending XTERRA World Champions, Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin from France, feel like there’s room for more wins and another title this year. Their challengers, however, have made it clear that the past is history, and this year’s story will be different.
“I think my older brother, Arthur (Forissier), should be considered the favorite,” said Felix Forissier, one of the “fab four” elite men from France who have dominated the podium over the last two years. “I’ve seen him all winter and he’s really strong. He was strong at XTERRA Worlds last year when he finished second behind Serrieres, and he will be even stronger here.”
A lot of people think Felix should be the favorite, including his brother. The two arrived in Taiwan two weeks early to acclimate to the heat and humidity, familiarize themselves with the course, and adjust to the time zone.
“I tried to do everything I could to maximize my chances to have a good race on Saturday, and I feel good, I’m confident, I know the track, and I’m ready,” said Arthur Forissier, who added that Felix will be hard to beat.
Maxim Chane (FRA), who is the only contender in the field with XTERRA race experience in Taiwan (he finished 5th in 2019), said he spent the off-season focused specifically on Saturday’s race.
“Arthur Serrieres is the one everyone should be scared of,” said Chane. “I think I’m part of the game too, and Ruben and the other French guys are strong and fit so it will be in play for all those guys but I’ve improved a lot since last year, and feel good on the run and more confident.”
Seven-time World Champion Ruben Ruzafa from Spain is also confident and especially motivated to race in the new World Cup.
“This is the most excited I’ve ever been for an April race,” said Ruzafa. “I’ve never trained so much this early in the season and I’m motivated to win the World Cup. It’s something new, and I never won the World Cup in mountain biking, so I really want to win the first one with XTERRA.”
Walking around the grounds of the Kenting Youth Activity Center, a classic Minnan style building full of character where all the elites are staying, one gets the feeling that any of the top contenders could come out on top.
Nobody can really be sure how hard the others trained in the off-season, or how the travel or heat or the rugged course that is quick to flatten a mountain bike tire might affect performances, but one thing is certain - they’re all chasing the same goal.
“For everybody the dream is the same, to win the XTERRA World Cup and the World Championship, and that pursuit starts right here in Taiwan,” said Arthur Forissier.
2023 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship
Elite Men’s Start List
XTERRA World Ranking - Name, NAT
1 - Arthur Serrieres, FRA
2 - Ruben Ruzafa, ESP
3 - Arthur Forissier, FRA
4 - Felix Forissier, FRA
5 - Sebastien Carabin, BEL
6 - Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN
7 - Maxim Chane, FRA
8 - Lukas Kocar, CZE
15 - Xavier Dafflon, SUI
19 - Kieran McPherson, NZL
24 - Michele Bonacina, ITA
38 - Dominik Wychera, AUT
62 - Andres Carnevali del Castillo, ESP
85 - Paris Fellman, LUX
119 - Taylor Charlton, AUS
NR - Yen Ching Chiang, TWN
NR - Kohei Yamamoto, JPN
In the women’s elite race, Solenne Billouin is determined not to let the world title soften her drive to get even better.
“Being the world champion is a title you have forever and it’s very significant, it’s the most important title you can have in XTERRA, but I can get better” she said. “The World Cup is longer with more important races and you need to be consistent throughout the year so I thought it was important to enjoy the winter to keep my energy and motivation for the season high. I enjoyed time with my family, friends, traveling, and racing cyclocross. Now I feel good, I arrived 10 days ago, and I love the course because it’s super challenging. It’s the kind of race you have to stay focused and do your thing.”
While Billouin has the title, Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) has the No. 1 ranking, and said she’s excited to go out and prove she deserves it.
“I’m feeling healthy and confident and ready to give it my best,” said Mairhofer (ITA), who just won the Winter Triathlon World Championship.
One of her off-season training partners, Loanne Duvoisin from Switzerland, said this was her best off-season training ever after finishing up her college degree.
“I did four weeks of training camp with the national team and another one with Sandra that I’ve never been able to do before because I had school,” said Duvoisin. “Now I have more time for training and for recovering, and more quality sessions, and I hope I will be able to show the improvements on Saturday.”
Alizee Paties from France spent her off-season focused on making big improvements, and she was already one of the best mountain bikers in the sport.
“This winter I worked on my weaknesses, so I'm excited to see if I’m better than before,” she said. “I was focused on the swim and the run, that’s what I wanted to do, and it was my best winter of training since I’ve been racing XTERRA. It’s hard to know how I will do against the others, but I’m feeling good and will fight for sure.”
Her teammate Marta Menditto from Italy put much of her focus on finishing her college studies, and while she may not have had the best training experience, she enters with a healthy state of mind which could make all the difference.
“My mind is free right now that I’m done with my geology degree, and it’s cool to be here now as a professional athlete and able to focus on just racing,” she said.
XTERRA World Ranking - Name, NAT
1 - Sandra Mairhofer, ITA
2 - Solenne Billouin, FRA
3 - Loanne Duvoisin, SUI
4 - Alizee Paties, FRA
5 - Marta Menditto, ITA
13 - Carina Wasle, AUT
15 - Suzie Snyder, USA
19 - Maeve Kennedy, AUS
21 - Lizzie Orchard, NZL
28 - Georgia Grobler, RSA
46 - Kate Bramley, AUS
NR - Jessie Koltz, USA
NR - Johandri Leicester, RSA
NR - Chi Wen Chang, TWN
About the XTERRA World Cup
In 2023, for the first-time in XTERRA off-road triathlon history, the most compelling World Tour events from the EMEA, Americas, and Asia-Pacific regions will unite to create a premier series of events that will award roughly $350,000 to XTERRA’s fastest professional athletes.
The seven-stop, 12-race XTERRA World Cup kicks off April 15, 2023 at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Kenting, Taiwan, and culminates September 24 at the XTERRA World Championships in Trentino, Italy.
In addition to seven traditional full-distance events that combine a 1.5-kilometer swim with approximately 30km of mountain biking and 10km of trail running, there are five fast and furious XTERRA Short Track races on the schedule that will be streamed live.
Round two of the XTERRA World Cup will take place at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, AL (May 20-21), rounds 3-thru-5 are in the EU with the XTERRA European Championship in Namur, Belgium (June 10-11), followed by XTERRA Czech (August 12-13), and XTERRA Germany (August 18-19), and round six heads to the Rockies in Avon, Colorado for the XTERRA USA Championship (August 26).
“The XTERRA World Cup was designed to provide a high aspirational race series for our sports’ biggest stars from across the globe, a series of events where our best athletes can race head-to-head on the most epic courses in the world,” said J-D Cousens, XTERRA VP of Operations & Global Marketing.
To determine XTERRA World Cup Series 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.
Find full coverage of the XTERRA World Cup here.
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