XTERRA World Cup Stop #1: Let The Games Begin

The time for talk is over. On April 15 the most anticipated series this year will make its debut in Kenting, Taiwan. Both reigning XTERRA champions will be on the start line, along with the deepest elite field to ever race in Asia. The course is a brutal one, the stakes have never been higher, and who will take the top spot on the leaderboard is almost anybody’s guess.

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The evolution of mud, sweat and tears

If there’s one racing series you follow this year it should be the XTERRA World Cup. For years the XTERRA World Tour has been the series of choice for those who prefer the dirt, mud, and sheer grit of off-road racing over the plethora of polished and predictable on-road races. But what’s been lacking for true fans of the sport is a concentrated competition that pits all the fastest and strongest in the game against one another across not just one but multiple of the world's toughest terrains, and a way for fans to follow the action.

Arthur Serrieres / 2022 XTERRA World Champion

This year that all changes. Take the roughest and toughest open water swimmers, mountain bikers and trail runners the world over, put them in a single 7-stop series with live stream access to the action, full-distance and short track races, an exciting point-scoring system, and a bigger-than-ever $340,000+ prize purse, and what you get is the XTERRA World Cup. For a sport that only began in 1996, this is a huge step forward. And for fans following the world’s fastest in anything, this is a reason to pay attention. 

The first stop of the series will be a brutal contest as the world’s best take on the heat and humidity on the rocky mountain trails of Kenting, Taiwan. This will be the first of 12 races, 7 full-distance and 5 short track, where racers will compete for series points in the hopes of ending the series at the top of the pile. From there the series touches down in the USA, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, back to the USA, and then to Italy for the final showdown beneath the sawtooth peaks of the Brenta Dolomites. Every stop comes with a hefty prize purse, but it’s the crucial points at stake in every race that will determine who ends the series as the first-ever XTERRA World Cup Champion.

It’s been years in the making, but the wait is finally over. On April 15 at 6am on the shoreline of Little Bay Beach, the games begin. 


Stop #1: XTERRA’s toughest vs Taiwan’s terrain

The debut race of the series goes down on the island of Taiwan where the start list alone is already making waves. The level of strength and talent in the opening race is set to far exceed any other cross-tri race ever seen in the history of Taiwan or even Asia. Both reigning XTERRA Champions will be making the trip, along with the complete top 5 ranked male and female racers in the world, and a whole host of big names from the top 20 and beyond. 

But what makes this opening race so juicy is that not one of the top 5 ranked athletes, male or female, have ever raced in Taiwan. Not a single one of the top contenders will be racing on home turf or even in familiar conditions. And when it comes to XTERRA, the biggest competitor is Nature itself, and in the case of Taiwan, that competitor is going to be rough. 

Joe Miller (PHL) / XTERRA Taiwan / 2019

Taiwan is a tiny island, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in height and heat. One tenth of the island is over 2,500m above sea level and a total of 258 peaks are over 3,000 metres high. So those without the strength to climb will suffer, and those with the guts to capitalise on the endless gravity of the downs will come out ahead. But if you’re thinking it’s all pure speed on the way down, think again. The forest trails of the southern mountains are littered with technical rocky sections so it’ll take both courage and skill in equal measure to get through at full speed and create gaps in the bike and run sections.

Couple that with the sometimes brutal heat and humidity that April can bring to the tropical island just north of the equator. This will be a stark contrast to the winter conditions that the majority of the pros have been training in during the off season. So who will have the gas in the tank to go the full distance at full speed remains to be known, but it’s that unpredictability that makes this opening race just so good.


All the biggest names to watch in Taiwan

Arthur Serrieres, FRA

Ranking: 1, Strength: Run

Serrieres starts the race as the reigning XTERRA World Champion, two-time World Triathlon Cross Tri Champ, 3x XTERRA European Champion, and the favourite to win. It’s often been said that without at least a 3 minute lead going into the run, he will hunt you down.

Ruben Ruzafa, ESP 

Ranking: 2, Strength: Bike

Ruzafa has won 35 XTERRA majors including three XTERRA World Titles, and four ITU Cross Triathlon World Titles. The first man off the bike in the last nine straight XTERRA World Championships, the 29K bike course will play to his strengths as he tries to create the biggest gap possible going into the run.

Arthur Forissier, FRA

Ranking: 3, Strength: Bike

The older of the Forissier brothers claimed the 2022 XTERRA Worlds Runner-Up, the 2019 ITU Cross Tri World Championship, and seven XTERRA major titles so far. He was one of only 2 men to beat Serrieres last season, and will be hoping to repeat that feat again in Taiwan.

Felix Forissier, FRA

Ranking: 4, Strength: Run

The 2022 XTERRA France Champion has finished in the top 6 in eight of the nine full distance XTERRA races he’s competed in since 2019. He also has a win over Serrieres and will no doubt be looking to be the first Frenchman over the line.

Sebastien Carabin, BEL 

Ranking: 5, Strength: Bike

Carabin posted the fastest bike split at XTERRA Worlds and won both XTERRA long distance races in 2022. Another force on two wheels, expect a clinic from this man as he looks to show every inch of his strength and power on the 29K bike loop. 

Sandra Mairhofer, ITA

Ranking: 1, Strength: Bike

The reigning World Triathlon Cross Tri Champion has won five of her last seven XTERRA majors since 2021. Also known as the Queen of Smiles and a living example of how dynamite comes in small packages, expect to see pure fire from the current top ranked female in the series. 

Solenne Billouin, FRA

Ranking: 2, Strength: Bike

The 2022 XTERRA World Champion has finished in the top 5 at 10 of her last 14 races and won four of them. She’s spent much of the off season competing in cyclocross which will have no doubt added even more fuel to her incredible power on two wheels. 

Loanne Duvoisin, CHE

Ranking: 3, Strength: Run

The 2022 XTERRA Short Track Series Champion also won the 2021 World Triathlon Cross Tri Championship and was the u23 Champ in 2019. Much of last season was devoted to her studies, making her a strong contender for the win now that she is racing at full force.

Alizee Paties, FRA

Ranking: 4, Strength: Bike

Alizee has won three XTERRA Championship races and notched 10 top five finishes in full distance races since 2019. One of the best technical riders on the circuit, she’ll be looking to capitalise on the technical climbs and rocky descents of the 29K bike loop.

Marta Menditto, ITA 

Ranking: 5, Strength: Bike

The reigning World Triathlon Cross Tri u23 Champion also won XTERRA Belgium and XTERRA France in 2022. Now, coming off a fresh win in the heat at XTERRA Oman, she’ll be well conditioned and race-ready for what lies ahead on the course in Taiwan.


What to know ahead of the opening race

For many of the biggest names, this will be their opening XTERRA race of the season. For sure all eyes will be on the current champs Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin to set the pace, but this is not the World Championship where winners are decided in a single race, this is the XTERRA World Cup where nothing less than podium finishes on multiple continents are needed to claim the series win. And given the factors involved, this could be anybody’s race. 

Climate and the time needed to adjust will be the biggest factor. Many athletes will only have 4-5 days to acclimatise to the suffocating heat and humidity while others have given themselves a lot more time to work with. Arthur Serrieres will start the race with only 3 days of acclimation while the only 2 people to beat him last season, the Forissier brothers, will have had a full 10 days to adjust. Also keep an eye out for the #7 ranked Maxim Chane who has just earned his first XTERRA win of 2023 under the relentless sun of Oman.

Maxim Chane / XTERRA Oman / 2023

In the woman’s race it’s just as unpredictable as the top ranked Solenne Billouin, Sandra Mairhofer, and Loanna Duvoisin, who consistently played cat and mouse last season, are all arriving with ample acclimation time. They’ll surely be put to the test by the tenacious Marta Menditto who will also be coming off the back of a win under the sun of Oman’s Musandam. But make no mistake, heat and humidity will play a big part in how this race plays out.

Then there’s the course. This is 100% a mountain biker’s course and in all likelihood this race will be won on the brutal 29K single-loop bike course that runs from Little Bay Beach to the race village inside Kenting National Park. Between those two points is 2,387 feet of challenging climbs that come in all forms, from long grassy hills to unexpected short, technical, vertical bursts. And getting to the top of each peak will be key as there’s ample opportunity for downhill specialists to gain ground on the way down, but passing on the single track sections on the side of a steep mountain won't be easy.

Ruban Ruzafa / XTERRA Short Track Series / 2022

Ruben Ruzafa has an undisputed reputation on the bike and was the first off the bike in the 2022 XTERRA World Champs. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen is also scarily quick on the bike, having ridden for the Denmark u23 team before transitioning into off-road tri.

All five of the top ranked women are a force to be reckoned with on the bike, which will make for an epic race. The explosive power to weight ratio of Marta Menditto could give her the edge on the climbs but she'll be up against the technical genius that is her training partner Alizee Paties. Solenne Billouin will push super hard on flatter rough terrain and can also climb well as she showed in Molveno, while the #1 ranked Sandra Mairhofer, who moonlights in UCI MTB marathon when she isn't racing XTERRA, is consistent everywhere and a bad day by her standards is still good enough to compete.

Solenne Billouin and Sandra Mairhofer / XTERRA World Championship / 2022

And finally, the question on everybody’s mind, will the French wave continue? It was two French athletes who claimed the World Championship crown in Trentino, Italy and it could be two French athletes who take the top spot of the XTERRA World Cup leaderboard after Taiwan. But the likes of Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DNK), Lukas Kocar (CZE), Loanna Duvoisin (CHE) and Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) will be hell-bent on stopping the French train in its tracks. So too, will the sports’ top American, Suzie Snyder, and Asia-Pacific region stars Maeve Kennedy from Australia and Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand. All told, there are more than 30 elites from 15 countries looking to stake their claim on the top spot in Taiwan. 

For now everything is speculation, but on April 15, everything will be decided in the waters and out on the trails of Kenting, Taiwan.


How to watch stop #1 of the XTERRA World Cup

Watch live on xterraplanet.com

Tune in to xterraplanet.com for live stream coverage of the opening race which will also include action from the Asia-Pacific Championship. Coverage of the elite race will begin at 05:50 Taipei Standard Time (GMT +8) with commentary from Doug Hall and Aléchia Van Wyk. 

Watch live in Kenting

For those in Taiwan for the triple-feature weekend of XTERRA racing, shuttle buses will be available from Kenting to the race venue so fans can catch the start of the race at Little Bay beach at 6:00 before heading to the race venue for the second transition and the big finish.

How to follow the XTERRA World Cup

The home of the XTERRA World cup is xterraplanet.com/worldcup, where you’ll find the race results, highlights, athlete insights, and more. Check in regularly to stay up to date as the series heats up between now and September. Also be sure to follow on Instagram and Facebook for additional series content. 












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Spread throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific, the XTERRA content team is a passionate group of racers, writers, photographers, and videographers working to capture the endless adventure of the XTERRA Planet.

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