XTERRA Portugal, the sixth of 21 stops on the 2023 XTERRA EMEA Tour, takes place Saturday, May 20, in the beautiful countryside surrounding Golegã.
Horses rule the cobble-lined narrow streets in this historic village, which is known as the Portuguese capital of horses, so athletes can expect plenty of four-legged traffic as they navigate the town to recce the courses.
“The locals are more used to hooves than pedals and trail shoes but for this weekend, they’re happy to have XTERRA athletes in town to take on a certified classic of the EMEA Tour,” said XTERRA EMEA GM, Doug Hall. “Once they leave town, athletes cross over into one of the largest cork forests in the world, with their tree trunks and access roads making up much of the twists and turns on both the bike and run courses.”
The swim is equally unique, taking place in the Lagoa da Alverca, a lagoon that surrounds the village. Athletes will complete a two-lap 1500m interjected with an Australian exit - giving spectators a chance to see the progress of their favorite athletes.
“Historically, this swim course has been one for the strong, confident open water swimmers, confident of navigating the sometimes weedy, plant-filled water,” said Hall. “But in the winter of 2022, the town of Golegã invested in improving the water condition, dredging and removing as much growth as possible, making the 2023 swim course a much more pleasant experience for all athletes.”
Once on the bike, racers face a single lap, 38km course full of brutal, steep, loose climbing on pebble-based access tracks, interspersed with some dry dusty single track that winds through the cork forests.
“This is a course for a very fit athlete, capable of being very efficient with their energy and ability to stay on top of their hydration strategies as the temperature climbs towards 35 degrees c,” said Hall.
The run course forms a figure eight, offering multiple opportunities for racers to see how they are managing against the competition. The signature spot is the infamous river crossing.
“While at first glance its muddy green water and rope climb out don’t look that appealing, but the cool temperature of the water provides an opportunity to cool off before a final 2km dash to the finish line,” said Hall.
The men’s and women’s elite races are full of local and international XTERRA stars, but the defending Portugal Champions (and also the reigning World Champions) Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin, are in the U.S. racing the XTERRA World Cup this weekend giving a chance for some new names to top the leaderboard.
“Hard to look past Francios Vie for this one,” said Hall. “The Portuguese native has proved he can mix it with the best on multiple occasions, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead from start to finish with only mechanical issues preventing him from a victory.”
Other home favorites include Rui Dolores and Tiago Maia, who will battle for the rest of the podium spots with Dominik Wychera (AUT). Those three are evenly matched so one can expect to see multiple lead changes throughout the race.
Elite Men’s Start List
XTERRA World Rank - Name, NAT
13 - Francois Vie, POR
37 - Dominik Wychera, AUT
39 - Rui Dolores, POR
63 - Tiago Maia, POR
100 - Tim Van Daele, BEL
113 - Brian Tetard, FRA
255 - Octavio Vicente, POR
NR - Antonio Barata, POR
In the women’s race, spectators will be treated to a re-match between the French XTERRA newcomer, Emma Ducreux, and Italy’s Matilde Bolzan after the two went head to head last month in Greece. Ducreux won that one, with Bolzan in second.
“The difficult and long bike course here should play into the Italian’s hands and just might give her the head start she needs to beat Ducreux,” said Hall. “The trio of Maria Calleja, Keri-Ann Upham, and Saleta Castro will be looking to spoil the storyline. British women Upham fresh off a confidence-boosting podium at XTERRA Weston Park last week will certainly want to influence the race from the start, with Calleja and Castro opening their 2023 race account their form currently has a question mark ahead of the weekend.”
Elite Women’s Start List
XTERRA World Rank - Name, NAT
18 - Matilde Bolzan, ITA
29 - Evelyne Trepte, SUI
30 - Beatriz Ferreira, POR
33 - Kerri-Ann Upham, GBR
41 - Maria Calleja, ESP
44 - Saleta Castro, ESP
56 - Pauline Vie, POR
58 - Nicole Valentine, USA
NR - Emma Ducreux, FRA
Find live updates from the elite race on Instagram.
All-time XTERRA Portugal Elite Champions
Year - Male/Female
2014 - Ruben Ruzafa/Coralie Redelsperger
2015 - Ruben Ruzafa/Kathrin Mueller
2016 - Ruben Ruzafa/Helena Erbenova
2017 - Ruben Ruzafa/Brigitta Poor
2018 - Ruben Ruzafa/Brigitta Poor
2019 - Rui Dolores/Eleonora Peroncini
2021 - Felix Forissier/Saleta Castro
2022 - Arthur Serrieres/Solenne Billouin
Also of note, on Sunday, a staggering 522 kids will descend on the race village for the Portuguese youth championships. With clubs from all regions of Portugal making the trip to fight for club honors, it is likely that we’ll see the next generation of Portuguese XTERRA superstars come from this event!
Learn more at xterraplanet.com.
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