After a blistering start in Taiwan, the XTERRA World Cup is headed for American soil with another all-star lineup of cross-tri talent and a double-feature weekend that will see the first of 5 adrenaline-fuelled short track races shake up the series. A max of 120 points are available across both races, and everybody from the current XTERRA champions Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin, APAC champion Kieran McPherson, series leader Alizee Paties, and U.S. threats Josiah and Sullivan Middaugh and Suzie Snyder will be out to claim their share.
The next stop of the XTERRA World Cup goes down on May 20-21 in Shelby County, Alabama, USA, where a vastly different terrain from the arid, rocky trails of stop #1 awaits a tantalising lineup of current champions, series leaders, and local threats. Stop #1 in Taiwan was 100% as advertised, with the biggest names pushing the level of the sport to the very limits on a soul-crushing course in the harshest of conditions, and by the looks of what lies ahead, stop #2 hasn’t lost even an ounce of that momentum.
Stop #2 is a double-feature weekend with the full-distance race determining who qualifies for the short track race the following day. There’s 100 points up for grabs in the full distance race and another 20 in the short track, so a podium finish in both would leave any athlete looking good on the series leaderboard. But first they’d have to get past 44.5 kilometres of lake waters, river crossings, technical climbs, and a plethora of rocks and roots in the southernmost part of the Appalachian Chain, and they’ll have to do it faster than anyone else in a starting lineup loaded with power and technical skill.
The series debuted last month in Kenting, Taiwan at the XTERRA APAC Championship, where a starting lineup of the biggest names to ever race in Asia stood shoulder to shoulder on the shore of Little Bay Beach. What happened from there was an unreal display of strength, endurance, and resilience on a hot and humid course that had been gripped by drought for months prior to the race. And while many were expecting the series opener to be won by the French, few expected it to be Arthur Forissier and Alizee Paties.
There were a lot of big take aways from stop #1 that we covered in the talking points, but this was a race that was marked by surprises, mechanicals, and clinical performances. Felix Forissier and Maxim Chane went from the front of the pack to a scramble for a top 10 position after bursting a tire on the exact same rock. Ruben Ruzafa and Solenne Billouin came within striking distance of clinching the win but ultimately broke on one of the most unforgiving run sections of the series. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen and Loanne Duvoisin both took 3rd place with the kind of consistency you’ve come to expect from the Dane and the Swiss, and the kind of consistency that could very well win a points-based series like this. XTERRA Champion Arthur Serrieres had what he called ‘his worst race ever’ while Vice Champion Sandra Mairhofer gave a smiling thumbs down as she crossed the line 9 minutes behind 1st place. But Arthur Forissier and Alizee Paties could not have timed their race any better, pacing themselves perfectly throughout and waiting until the final kilometres of the run to make their move and take the tape unchallenged.
Forissier and Paties now sit at the top of the leaderboard with the 110 points that come with a regional championship full-distance race. But with many of the same names on the start list for stop #2, revenge and redemption might be the name of the game on the pine-studded ridges of Double Oak Mountain.
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, Sebastien Carabin, Kieran McPherson and Arthur Serrieres all raced stop #1 and will go to battle once again in stop #2. It’s another course that favours strong riders so, in the absence of Ruben Ruzafa, expect Jens and Sebastien to be setting the pace as soon as they work their way to the front of the pack following the swim. We may also be seeing a very different Kieran McPherson this season after the previously 19th ranked Kiwi came in 4th in Taiwan, so it’ll be exciting to see what he has in store for OM. But if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that Arthur Serrieres will want redemption after finishing 7th in Taiwan. The run course is perfectly suited to the fastest man on the feet in the series, so we could see a signature Serrieres finish as he effortlessly claims scalp after scalp on the final 10K.
But there’s also a number of new contenders to get past this time. The legendary Middaugh duo begin their World Cup bid in Oak Mountain and this will be their time to shine. Josiah Middaugh postponed his retirement from the sport just to race this series and the Olympic-hopeful Sullivan will soon be one of the biggest threats in XTERRA, it’s just a question of when. Sam Osborne of New Zealand loves this course, having taken gold more than once, and he’ll also be out causing problems for the front of the pack all day, especially on the bike.
In stop #1 we were treated to a proper battle on the bike course between XTERRA Champion Solenne Billouin and current series leader Alizee Paties, and the chances are that we’ll see round 2 in Oak Mountain. If they exit the water together, strap in for another showdown.
We’ll also see Loanne Duvoisin, Marta Menditto, and Suzie Snyder go another round. Suzie will go into the race with the home-turf advantage, 3 wins on this course to her name and the loudest cheers from the home crowd, but an all-out win from Loanne still feels like it’s coming sooner rather than later.
Just as they were in stop #1, the battles will be physical, mental, and relentless through every inch of a nearly 50K course. And they’ll do it all in the knowledge that the battles will continue the very next day as the short track format enters the series.
XTERRA short track was one of the most exciting series of 2022, and this year the condensed, made-for-tv format will become part of the XTERRA World Cup. It’s action-packed, explosive, and 100% made for the fans as every battle, every pass, and every inch of the race is livestreamed direct from inside the course. It’s the closest you can get to the best in the game in a sport where so many parts of the course are inaccessible to spectators and cameras, and in almost every short track race finishers are separated by a matter of seconds.
There are 5 short track races spread throughout the series with Oak Mountain being the first. It’s the first short track race on American soil and the second time the leaderboard will be shaken up that same weekend. There are 20, 18, and 16 points for those who make the podium, which could be enough to climb the ladder. So while the full distance race may offer more points and also determine who qualifies for the short track race the following day, no position is safe until both races are done.
All 5 of the short track races, including the Oak Mountain ST race on May 21, will be livestreamed direct and for free on xterrplanet.com.
Everything from the race preview to the start list to race week updates and the official results will be available on the Oak Mountain World Cup page. It’s the best place to follow the build up to the race and get all the talking points of how the race unfolded. There will also be live updates and additional content available on Instagram throughout the weekend.
The adrenaline-fuelled short track race will be live streamed directly from between the tapes, with two triathlon Hall of Fame announcers, Bob Babbitt and Jamie Whitmore, bringing fans into the action. Coverage starts with the women's race at 15:00 local time and the men following at 16:00. If you haven’t dipped into the XTERRA World Cup action yet, this would be the perfect place to start. Clear your calendar and catch it all for free right here.
French commentary will also be available on the following Facebook pages: XTERRA Belgium, XTERRA France, XTERRA Nouvelle-Aquitaine, XTERRA Super Besse, XTERRA Switzerland Brévine, XTERRA Série Québec, XTERRA Tahiti, and XTERRA Balcon d'Azur.
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