World Cup Stop #3: The Citadel Clincher

Stop #3 of the World Cup heads to one of the most iconic locations on the XTERRA circuit, where the most formidable lineup of off-road athletes in the series so far will go to battle for regional honours and World Cup points as the series nears the halfway mark.

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The Fight for Points and Crowns

Every stop of the XTERRA World Cup so far has been more intense, competitive, and crucial than the last, and Belgium seems ready to up the ante once again. This will be arguably the toughest stop of the series yet as the double-feature event not only sees the long-awaited return to the Citadel of Namur, a venue famed for its mix of urban history and natural grit, but will also serve as the battleground for the 2023 XTERRA European Championship and has drawn the deepest elite field yet to race this series. 

This is a sport that is currently dominated by the region, making the XTERRA European Champion one of the most coveted titles there is. All five of the top ranked men and women hail from European countries and every single one of them will be on the start line come June 10, ready to fight for that title. And every single one of them has what it takes to get it. 

Solenne Billouin (FRA) / 2022 XTERRA World Champion

But the XTERRA World Cup is won on points, not crowns, and that is why the battles at the Citadel go far beyond championship crowns and will be fought tooth and nail to the very end. Multiple positions on the World Cup leaderboard are currently separated by less than 5 points, meaning that giving up a position in either race in Belgium could mean dropping a rung in the overall standings. 

The top 25 athletes in both races will all walk away with at least some points, with the winner of the full-distance race claiming 110 to their name and the winner of the Short Track race taking 20. And as the series nears the half-way mark, points now mean more than ever.


A Race of Opportunity and Redemption

Belgium is the third of only 7 stops in the series. It’s also the second of 3 continental championships of which athletes must race 2 to be eligible for the series bonus. It isn’t entirely crunch time just yet, but this race holds the potential to make a huge impact on the series.

Those with wins under their belt will see the additional points that come with a regional championship race as an opportunity to solidify a lead that may prove tough to chase down, while those who are yet to make a mark will see it as the chance to get back in the series. 

Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) / 2022 XTERRA European Champion

Arthur Serrières is on a winning streak again, and that should be a worry for every other athlete in the male division. Famously hard to catch, a win in Belgium for the Frenchman could be the start of an avalanche of podiums and points. The same goes for Alizée Paties who has a substantial lead after back-to-back full-distance wins in Taiwan and Oak Mountain. If she makes it three in Belgium, she’ll be looking at the chance of getting a near perfect score in the best 4 full-distance races that contribute to every athlete’s overall score at the end of the Word Cup.

"Keeping my golden cap is the goal. The season is long and I hope to [keep riding this] good wave." - Alizée Paties

However, the two French athletes will be up against the toughest and fastest in the game, and many with a score to settle. Reigning XTERRA European Champion, Sandra Mairhofer, did not have a good start to the series and the current Cross Triathlon World Champion will surely be looking to rectify that this time out. XTERRA World Champion, Solenne Billouin, will no doubt feel the same after racing up front with Alizée Paties in both full-distance races so far, but went out due to a mechanical at Oak Mountain. 

Redemption will also be the name of the game for the male Cross Triathlon World Champion, Felix Forissier and the lightning-fast Maxim Chané, who missed what could have been a perfect start to the series after bursting a tyre on the same rock in Taiwan. 

Felix Forissier (FRA) / 2022 XTERRA France Champion

And then there are those who have earned a top spot on the leaderboard before and will not let it go without a proper fight. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen is the current leader with one 2nd place and two 3rd place finishes to his name. The in-form Arthur Forissier has a win to his name and ‘the Boss’ Ruben Ruzafa has a 2nd place finish to his. A good result for them will put them immediately back in the runnings.


Urban History, Rivers, and Mud

But as with all XTERRA racing, the biggest opponent is nature and the course itself, and this is what makes this venue so iconic. It’s the only race on the circuit that is in such close proximity to a city, with the all-seeing Citadel Fortress setting the tone for a historic race that mixes touches of urban terrain with the natural trails that lie just outside the city of Namur. 

The full-distance race starts with the first and only river swim in the World Cup, where athletes will need to fight against the current for half of the 1500m swim. It’s the only time of the year that swimming in the Meuse is allowed, and those on the starting line will surely be looking to make it count. 

Lukáš Kočař (CZE) / 2022 XTERRA Czech Short Track Champion

The 2-loop 35K bike course in Belgium can be a classic northern Europe mudfest, suiting riders capable of developing great power and finding traction in tricky conditions. The course mixes both urban and natural terrain, navigating through the Citadel of Namur and into the technical sections of the woods where skill and bravery will make the difference. All eyes will be on the home-country hero and top rider Sébastien Carabin, but adding to what will likely be a frantic pace on the bike will be Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavý, Ruben Ruzafa, Lukáš Kočař, and Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen for the men, along with Alizée Paties, Solenne Billouin, Loanne Duvoisin, and Sandra Mairhofer for the women.

"I think it will be one of the most disputed races of the year. All of us want to do well and we will give our best to go as fast as we can. It will be a beautiful battle." - Ruben Ruzafa

The bike course ends with the famed ‘Descent’ down the stairs in front of a raucous crowd to set up the 10K trail run through natural forest and urban architecture, ending in one of the loudest and most enthusiastically-supported finish lines on the XTERRA World Tour. It’s anybody’s call as to the order of the finishers, but expect a dramatic reshuffle on the series leaderboard.


Round 2 for the Short Track Specialists

Belgium is a double-feature stop in the World Cup, meaning fans get to watch another round of XTERRA Short Track and athletes performance in the full-distance race may affect whether or not they qualify for the Short Track race on June 11. Only 25 men and 25 women will be awarded a place on the start line, with World Cup Rankings after the full-distance race determining who races and who doesn’t. Up to 5 wild cards can also be thrown in to add a little more fuel to fire of XTERRA’s fastest format.

The race begins in the Meuse river and heads straight into a sickeningly steep climb directly to the Citadel to join the main loop. From there the 25 athletes will head onto a 3-lap course that twists and turns around the historic Citadel and its expansive grounds. 

Loanne Duvoisin (CHE) / 2022 XTERRA Short Track Champion

In Round 1 it was 2022 XTERRA Short Track Champion Loanne Duvoisin and Arthur Serrières that were the fastest to the finish, but they have yet to be tested by the likes of Sandra Mairhofer, the Forissier Brothers, and Maxim Chane who are all built for speed.

The Short Track race will be livestreamed around the world for free, with broadcast starting at 10:30 in the morning local time. The womens’ race will be up first at 10:40 and the men's at 12:10.


How to Follow and Watch Live

Follow the story of the race

Check in regularly on the World Cup Stop #3 page to get everything from start lists, athlete bios and insights, race week updates and the official results. Also be sure to follow XTERRA on Instagram for additional content and live updates during the full-distance race. 

Watch Live

All the fast-paced action from the XTERRA Short Track race in Belgium on June 11 will be livestreamed directly on Visit the Watch Live page and hit the notification button to get a reminder when it’s show time.












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