Leading up to October 1st, more than 700 athletes from 40+ countries across the globe descended on the beautiful mountain town of Molveno in pursuit of XTERRA’s crown jewel - the World Championship.
They came by trains, planes, and automobiles … even cruise liners. Some came with dozens of loyal family and friends, while others cycled solo all the way from Milan. When it comes to XTERRA Worlds, the journey there is often half the battle, but the glory on race day goes to those who not only made it to the starting line, but also conquered off-road triathlon’s greatest day.
Following part 1 of this series, these are the stories of the class of '22...
Talk about adventures! Janet Soule’s improbable journey to the top step at XTERRA Worlds was more than 20 years in the making.
In her first attempt back in 2001 while racing in the 35-39 division, just finishing was the goal. She was coming back from a knee injury that went from bad to worse after surgery. It was so bad her doctor told her to sell her two-story house and buy one without stairs, and sports would never be an option again.
“I was so excited to cross the finish line that year and know that I had beat the odds and done something I’d never thought possible,” she remembers.
More than a decade and hundreds of XTERRA races later, Janet went from “just finishing” to contending and then to winning. She won her first regional championship in 2014, and in 2015, after being honored as “Mrs. XTERRA” for best exemplifying the spirit of XTERRA, she won the 50-54 XTERRA USA Championship for the first time.
The World Championship crown was always elusive, however, and after years of suffering in the heat and humidity of Hawaii, the move to Molveno was just what the doctor ordered.
“We had a great pre ride earlier in the week before the rains hit. The course was so fun (and dry) and fast! It had lots of climbing but the scenery and the tiny twisty trails made it all worth it! I have to say, the rain made me a little nervous going into race day. I had missed the two rainy years in Maui, so I’d never experienced the famous “Maui Mud-Fest” that so many others had endured in years past. After the swim, I jumped on my bike and the first few miles were great, but after hitting the mud, reality set in. After falling numerous times, sliding off the trail and losing my chain time and again, I realized my goal of being on the podium had changed to a goal of “just finishing without killing myself.”
"My helmet cracked in 3 places, and my glasses broke, but my bike survived, so I took off on my next lap."
My first lap took ages to complete. I got clipped by a fast age-grouper heading down the last descent into town and it sent me head over heels - off my bike and into the bushes. My helmet cracked in 3 places, and my glasses broke, but my bike survived, so I took off on my next lap. Lap 2 was a bit faster, but still riddled with falls and chain issues. Rolling into transition to start my run, I was exhausted but so ready to hang up my bike and get on the trails!
I felt great, and as I wound my way along the lake I had time to just think about how lucky I was to be racing in such a world class event with friends and competitors. When I came into the finish line, I was thrilled to finish. Bruised, muddy and sore, but so happy. I had no idea I’d placed until about an hour before the awards ceremony. I’ve raced worlds for more than 20 years, and to have earned a World Championship title, AT LAST, was the best!
I’d given up racing worlds in Maui. With two finishes that resulted in heat exhaustion and a trip to the hospital, I realized that it wasn’t my kind of race. When the venue changed to Italy, suddenly I had a chance to compete at Worlds again. To not only compete, but to win my age group, and have my sis and husband there to celebrate with me, was icing on the cake.
I loved the new location! Molveno was such a friendly, quaint village tucked next to the mountains! It was fun to stay at a hotel that was just a few miles away from an old castle, at the base of a gondola, and looked out over the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Molveno. It was pretty special.
My favorite part of the trip was seeing my coach, Rife Hilgartner, at the start line. After battling Stage 4 Colon Cancer, he was all smiles and ready to take on the day. Running next to him for a bit on the course was inspiring. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. XTERRA’s motto of LIVE MORE is exemplified by people like Rife, and being able to get my award with him in the audience to help share the excitement was awesome.”
One of the greatest things about XTERRA are the connections you make with other participants at events around the world.
For Laurent Beuzeboc, who won the 35-39 division XTERRA World Championship in Maui, getting to see friends he made more than a decade ago was his favorite part of the trip.
“My special story from XTERRA Worlds was how I reunited with friends I went to Hawaii with in 2007 that I hadn't seen since,” he exclaimed. “We found ourselves almost next to each other at the campsite. It was great because I only returned to triathlon this year. I stopped racing in 2008 and came back this year and managed to achieve my goals with the title of European and World Champion.”
Beuzeboc, a special education teacher who lives in the Hautes-Alpes department in France, said the biggest challenge on race day might have been the cold conditions.
“I really liked Trentino despite the weather. I love these mountain landscapes and this magnificent town of Molveno by the lake. My day went well despite the cold water and swimming not being my strong point. Coming out of the water, I was more than three minutes behind the head of my age group, but I still took my time in transition to put on a sleeveless jacket for the bike. The start of the bike didn't go too well, my thighs were cold and it was hard to get into the rhythm, but I stayed confident and found good sensations on the second lap. I let go of everything on the last descent and got off the bike a little more than two minutes back. I realized I was second in the age group when I arrived at T2 and saw only one bike in line with my age group. I felt really good on the run and took the lead after only 2km, which gave me wings. Very satisfied with my race and super happy!!”
The French dominated the men’s amateur race, winning eight of the 13 divisions, but none went faster than the overall amateur champion Luuk Chambeyrom.
The young gun from Gordes in the south of France earned his degree in osteopathy in June, turned 23-years-old on Monday before the race, and celebrated both with a performance worthy of a world title and an invitation to race in the elite ranks next season.
"Crossing the finish line at the head of the race, having the tears rising and making my family proud, it's one of the most beautiful memories.”
“It's a real pride to have won the amateur scratch this year, especially since in 2019 I had given up 150 meters from the finish line because I was suffering from dehydration,” said Chambeyron.
“I wanted revenge for that moment for three years, and oh what a feeling. It’s the culmination of a lot of work and sacrifice, and now I can move forward in the pros! Crossing the finish line at the head of the race, having the tears rising and making my family proud, it's one of the most beautiful memories.”
Chambeyrom had the 129th best swim among amateurs, and then took over with the fastest bike split of the day and passed everyone in the field after the first lap.
“I raced for a very long time against Timothée Augel, another Frenchman with whom I get along very well, and it was cool to race against my friend. And this Molveno region is magnificent! I will surely come back for XTERRA next year, but also and above all, to come here on vacation!”
Having XTERRA Worlds in northern Italy opened the door for a lot of European athletes who might not have been able to attend if the race was far away in Europe.
Lorena Erl was one of them. She explains…
“I was so happy that the World Championship was in Molveno this year, because it is not so far away from my hometown and therefore possible for me to take part in it.
I live in Füssen, Germany, close to the border in Austria, and took the four hour drive to Molveno after work on Friday, and although I didn’t have time to pre-ride, I was happy to be on the startline Saturday morning.
I had fun on the course, even though there were hard conditions. It was just my third XTERRA ever, but for sure I will do more in future because I really liked it! After a solid swim I started to bike and enjoyed the uphill but it kept getting more and more muddy. I was wondering why so many people were standing and fiddling around with their bikes, until of course I had to stop myself after a few meters. The chain no longer held on to the chainrings because of the mud, and at that point I knew why everyone was standing around.
The run was tough, but fun, and I don't really know when I took the lead but on the second lap of the run someone said I was leading my age group. I was glad to finish, happy to win, and excited to qualify for the Short Track race the next day.
What I remember the best, was to be in contact with so many nice people, and Molveno is a beautiful place for a competition with the clear water, the mountains, and the incredible views.”
Aurelien Lescure, an engineer from Toulouse, France who works for Thales Alenia Space applications and solutions, appeared to solve the problems of the day with relative ease.
He blitzed the swim (10th best time out of 400 men in 17:37), took the lead on the first climb on the bike, and then ran away with the title.
Here is his story…
“The bike course was really hard for me, too technical in the muddy parts. I succeeded in keeping the lead of my AG but I spent a lot of energy. Then on the run, that is usually my strongest point, feelings were not so good in the second lap, but I still enjoyed the course and I managed to keep the lead in my AG until the finish line.
In the end, I was happy to finish this crazy race and satisfied to win my AG.
This was my first XTERRA World Championship, and it was really special because I shared it with my father, who was also racing in his AG, and my mother who was there to support us. This weekend will stay in our memories for a long time.
Molveno is a quite beautiful place for natural sports such as XTERRA, and I really enjoyed the courses even if I prefer hot conditions. And the after race party was fun getting to meet people from all around the world. That was a great experience.”
There’s an old saying that goes, “Those who can’t play … coach!”
Well, that’s certainly not the case for Peter Naegeli, an accomplished XTERRA Certified Coach from Switzerland who played the game better than anyone in the 65-69 division on October 1.
Although he’s got a CV full of XTERRA European wins and ITU Cross Tri World titles, this was Peter’s first XTERRA World Championship win.
Here, he talks about his race…
“Before the race while doing the recce, when it was still dry, the course looked easy. But the terrain is quite similar to what we have in Switzerland, so I knew that we would end up walking up a few short parts on race day if it rained, which of course it did.
And I was a little worried, as I had raced in Trentino last year and got passed on the first climb on the bike. But everything was absolutely fine.
Swimming is my best discipline, so I knew I got out of the water first in my age group, but the question was by how much? Turns out I had the lead in T1 by four minutes! Then I felt strong on the nice bike course and did a few smart line choices in the mud so as not to get stuck on the fire road as many others. Had fun on the nice technical downhill, and really enjoyed that flow trail.
I got intel from a spectator that I had gained another four minutes on my chase group during the bike, which was very motivating, and from there I was well paced on the beautiful trail run.
I’m really happy with this title. I was ITU World Champ before, but twice I finished 3rd at XTERRA Worlds in Maui so this means a lot. It was really a great feeling to know that all the hard training was paying off, to be able to pace well and feel in control. Plus, it’s such a beautiful location.”
Barbara Peterson is one of the most accomplished, determined, and prolific XTERRA racers of all-time, and in Italy on October 1, she won her ninth world title.
This is what she had to say about her day…
“When the email came through six months ago that the XTERRA World Championship would be held in the Dolomites, it was a dream come true for me! Knowing well what the grand Dolomites in Süd Tirol offered from having already skied there, this experience was a ’not-to-be-missed’ opportunity, and a chance for a 9th world champion title.
But one can’t just sign up for Worlds, and I wasn’t sure if my shoulder would be ready, since the timing for Italy would be less than a year since rotator cuff surgery. The only way to find out and hopefully qualify meant going to XTERRA Greece in April, which worked out great! And the next test at XTERRA Beaver Creek “The Beast” in mid-July was all good so the planning for Italy began.
I coordinated every detail with my XTERRA sister, Lorenn Walker, and wow, what a time it was! The day was not quite what any of us anticipated but I’m thrilled with completing 157 XTERRAs in extreme conditions, with a 9th world champion AG title. Lorenn and I will return next year, like almost everyone who was there for the inaugural XTERRA Worlds in Italy!”
Arnaud Taurelle, an engineer from Lorraine, France, was the second fastest amateur overall and won the 30-34 division by nearly five minutes.
Here he explains how his day unfolded…
“My race day was very special and moving. It is the first time I raced XTERRA Worlds, and I had my wife and children by my side (a 3 year old boy and a 5 month old girl).
The hours before the start were stressful but once the race started, you forget everything and give it your best. Swimming is not my strong point, so I came out of the water quite far from the lead, then I did a big mountain bike to take the lead during T2, and then I increased my lead on the run. At this point I was feeling good, but I had to stay focused until the line as emotion can quickly take over.
For me, what makes this race so special is the magnificent setting of this place. The water of the lake is blue with the reflection of the mountains. The mountain bike circuit is physically hard and the trail run part in the woods is very technical. Add to this a little bit of rain and the recipe is perfect and makes this race very difficult and unforgettable. And the hospitality of our hosts, the Italians are very nice, we will keep in touch and come back.”
The future looks bright for the XTERRA World Championship home country athletes and fans, as four Italians took home titles on October 1. Elke Innerebner (45-49) and Carla Ciaudano (50-54) won for the women, while Massimiliano Donati (55-59) and Matteo Sfregola (18-19) were victorious as well.
Sfregola lives two hours away from Trentino in the “city of beer” Pedavena - home to the largest brewery in Italy. The young gun finished fourth overall after posting the sixth best swim and seventh fastest bike out of 400 amateur men!
“I feel good in the mud so the rain didn't scare me,” said Sfregola, a student in sports science. “It was a very special day all around because my family and friends were cheering me on and my whole hometown supported me. I like Trentino a lot because it has beautiful trails and downhill for mountain biking, and I can't wait to come back.”
XTERRA offers an “open” division for physically challenged athletes, and while the PC athletes with the fastest times are recognized, every PC athlete who conquered the grueling XTERRA World Championship course was honored as a World Champion.
Six entered and six finished a really tough course in rough conditions in Trentino. Hats off to Tetsuki Kaji from Japan (3:37:14), Miroslav Motejzik from the Czech Republic (4:31:37), Jose Abril from Spain (4:34:00), Martin Falch from Austria (4:38:25), Pablo Pomata from Argentina (4:43:32), and Toni Franco from Spain (4:55:45).
You can read more about these six sensational athletes and the motivation that drives them in The Unstoppable PC Athletes Taking on the XTERRA World Championship.
Following a spectacular season that included five division wins and four overall amateur titles, Carole Perrot is going pro.
“Following a discussion I had with Nico Lebrun in Sardinia and given the excellent results I have obtained this season, it would be logical to race with the elites next season,” said Perrot, who finished ninth overall with the fastest amateur time at XTERRA Worlds in Molveno.
“At 43 years old, being able to compete with the world's elite in this discipline is very rewarding, exciting, and motivating, but I will keep my usual wisdom to undertake 2023 with serenity.”
Perrot hails from a small village in the Swiss Bernese Jura, Prêles, where she works part-time as a commercial employee at the technicum in Biel, and full-time as the Mom of two children.
“The sweet mix of my private, professional, and sporting life gives me all the spice I need to be balanced and blooming,” she said.
Perrot is indeed balanced and blooming on and off the course, and here she shares her thoughts on the 2022 XTERRA World Championship week…
"Throughout the race I remained very focused on my business and stayed lucid, so I wouldn’t make any technical mistakes."
"I loved seeing my bike turn into a tank to take on this huge battlefield that was the terrain at Molveno."
"I took the lead at the end of the first mountain bike loop, in the descent to the village of Molveno. My biggest challenge came from myself and against the mud! On my bike, I had a hell of a rhythm and no one ever rode with me.
I loved seeing my bike turn into a tank to take on this huge battlefield that was the terrain at Molveno. I turned the thing to fun, letting the bike slide like a toboggan!
The victory, surrounded by my family, was a fabulous personal achievement and the whole stay was great. I adored Trentino, it's a special region. It has a calming, serene climate ,and the race site is exceptional."
Nicolas Durin is on top of the world … again!
Durin won his first XTERRA World Championship in 2016, and in addition, won the 2015, 2019, 2021, and 2022 ITU Cross Tri World Championship crowns.
The massage therapist/osteopath from Vienna (not in Austria, but near Lyon and Saint-Etienne in France) was thrilled to have a chance to pick up another XTERRA title on European soil.
Here he talks about his day…
"With the departures in successive waves and despite the body tattoos of the different categories, I only learned at the end of the first bike loop that I was probably at the top of my age group, but I wasn’t really sure about it.
During the second bike loop, the ground was more and more degraded, and I just tried to manage the material well and pay attention to the mechanics.
At T2, I could see that there were no other bikes in the 45/49 zone, so I was able to go on the trail with a little more confidence, even if I had no idea of the gaps with the pursuers. I tried to push hard on the flat, physical parts, and be a bit more careful on the technical descents.
On arrival, it was a great relief to have been able to impose myself in these conditions (I prefer heat and drought) and thus confirm the good results achieved in ITU in recent years.
My last title in XTERRA dates from 2016 in Maui, and I am very happy to have been able to run a World Championship in Europe. A lot of things have indeed changed since 2016, of course my age (and some pain that goes with it), but also the integration of the HEXATRI team which contributes to the development and recognition of the discipline.
It was my second time to Molveno (2021 for the XTERRA was my first), and I can say it is a splendid place for the practice of outdoor sports with a magnificent lake (admittedly a little chilly) and these real mountain bike circuits.
The funny parts from our stay in Molveno happened the day before the race. With the heavy rains and low temperatures, the whole team was thinking about the best solutions, and this gave rise to original scenes where some were cutting garbage bags, and others invented double-thickness jackets with safety pins. Some even polished their bikes with oil, hoping that the mud wouldn't stick!
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