European Champion Felix Forissier and World Champion Solenne Billouin have stamped their names on the Stop #4 Full Distance race in Prachatice. It’s the second full distance win in a row for Forissier after taking maximum points in the Belgium FD race and now putting his World Cup campaign firmly back on track here in Czech. It’s also the exact start to the second half of the series Billouin would have been looking for. Despite constantly threatening, it's the first series win for the Frenchwoman who now moves into 4th position and will surely have her sights firmly set on a place in the top 3 with Germany next week.
World Champion Arthur Serrières finished in 2nd with Lukáš Kočař giving the home country a place on the podium in 3rd. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen’s 4th place finish means he keeps his spot at the top, but the battle brewing between Serrières and Forissier will be one to watch in the races to come.
Alizée Paties keeps a comfortable lead at the top of the rankings after claiming 2nd place while Loanne Duvoisin remains in second overall with her 3rd place finish. Click here for the full race report and complete results in both divisions.
But while Sloth Nielsen and Paties hold onto the golden cap - the gaps between those in the upper rungs of the rankings are growing slim and there is still a lot of racing ahead in the coming days - starting with the Short Track race tomorrow. The women’s race is up first at 10:00 local time with the men at 11:00. Both races will be livestreamed direct and for free on the XTERRA World Cup Watch Live page.
It’s a clean sweep for the reigning XTERRA World Champions with Solenne Billouin and Arthur Serrières both claiming maximum points in the Short Track race in Czech. Billouin walks away from Stop #4 with a perfect score, having also claimed the Full Distance win less than 24 hours ago, while Serrières comes as close to perfect as it gets with a Short Track win to add to his 2nd place finish yesterday.
Billouin’s intentions were clear from the moment she left the water, and once she moved into 1st position early in the bike section she never looked back and remained unchallenged. Marta Menditto and Loanne Duvoisin then became the battle to watch as the two exchanged places in key sections on the bike, but Duvoisin’s speed on the feet eventually put her ahead to take 2nd with Menditto finishing 3rd.
Ruben Ruzafa put on an unreal display on the bike in the men’s race to head into the run in 1st but ultimately couldn’t hold off a chase pack that included Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, Felix Forissier, and Arthur Serrières. Sloth Nielsen overtook no less than 18 people to get into the lead, but Serrières timed his move perfectly to cross the line first with Forissier close behind and Sloth Nielsen in 3rd. Full race details available here.
XTERRA’s Nico Lebrun couldn’t have been more right when he predicted before the weekend that the top athletes would take a lot of risks and some of the favourites could go down. Stop #4 in Czech was always going to be a make-or-break stop on the 7-stop circuit and make and break it did, with some having their World Cup campaign completely revived while for others it may be the final stop.
Solenne Billouin walks away from Prachatice as the biggest winner with a clean sweep in both races and 120 points added to her tally. The double win marks a definitive end to what must have been a frustrating first half of the series for the World Champion that saw her fail to claim a top spot on the podium as well as coming away from Stop #2 with no points at all due to mechanical issues. The World Champ now slides into 4th position, with Marta Menditto and Loanne Duvoisin only marginally ahead in points and Germany only 4 days away.
Felix Forissier and Arthur Serrières emerge as the next big winners of the weekend and this could easily become the single best battle to watch going forward in the series. Serrières keeps his place in 2nd and Forissier now moves into 3rd. Both will have their eye on dislodging Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen at the top of the pile and both have to surely be considered favourites for the World Champion title this year. But there is only room for one ‘fastest Frenchman in town’ and that will be decided in the final stops of the series.
Series leader Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen also comes away on top, finding himself on the podium once again after what has to be the fans choice of most entertaining Short Track performance so far. It’s exactly what the fast format was designed for and the Danish athlete, often referred to as ‘The Overtaker’, more than delivered when he biked and ran his way from 19th position to 1st - unfortunately unable to close it out and finishing in 3rd. It may not have all been captured on camera as Ruben Ruzafa was putting on a show up front at the same time, but for those watching from the sidelines in Prachatice - this was something special.
Sloth Nielsen holds onto the golden cap once again as he heads into Germany, but without getting to the top of the podium he now has Serrières and Forissier breathing down his neck.
And then there were those that went down. Czech saw more casualties than any other stop on the series so far and none of them were pretty. The worst was for Arthur Forissier who may have his World Cup campaign ended by a broken collar bone. The Frenchman came off his bike on a long, fast downhill, having to receive medical help and ending his race in hospital rather than beneath the arch. A tragedy for any athlete, but particularly for Forissier as one of the favourites to win the series.
Sandra Mairhofer was another. The Italian has been unstoppable in recent weeks and many had her picked to win big in Czech as her first step towards challenging series leader, Alizée Paties. All was on track as she led on the bike before hitting a hole at speed, leaving her bloody, bruised, and without a front brake for the rest of the race. Mairhofer still finished in 4th, but she was unable to race the Short Track race and will also not be on the starting line at Stop #5 in Germany next week.
Alizée Paties was the last of casualties, with a fall in the Short Track race leaving her with a broken handlebar and a very unfortunate DNF. It’s the first of 7 races in the series so far that the French athlete has not found herself on the podium, but the 6 podiums she has achieved has given her a comfortable (but not completely insurmountable) lead at the top of the leaderboard.
But if ever there was a testament to the kindness of XTERRA community, Arthur Forrisier has stepped in to offer his bike to Alizée Paties to continue her World Cup campaign in Germany this week. Felix Forissier also made use of Loanne Duvoisin's bike for the ST race after having mechanical issues moments before the race was set to start.
It’s only 4 days to go until Stop #5, where the flipped order of the Short Track and Full Distance race will be an interesting factor. But as the last of the European stops before the series finale in Italy, it could be considered yet another another make-or-break race for many, with more risks to come on the trails of Zittau.
The wait for World Cup racing to return is officially over. There was a packed crowd in the Prachatice town square last night as each of the pro racers made their way through the arch, and today we find out who will be the first to do it again when it counts most.
The Full Distance race starts at 12pm local time, with live tracking results available here and race updates and coverage happing on the XTERRA Europe IG. Final results and times will be posted on this page, followed by the Short Track start list as soon as it is made official.
With the countdown now being measured in hours rather than days, it looks like a lot of attention is being paid to the conditions of the run course after a few days of rain. The 2-loop run section in Czech has always been tough and it’s very possible that this is where the race could be won.
This also leaves the door open for a brutally fast bike section as athletes look to create some space ahead of the run, and there is no shortage of bikers who will be up for the challenge.
Tomorrow XTERRA World Cup racing returns, with a sunny 30°C set to dry up the trails as the crowds in Prachatice get front row seats to one of the most competitive startlists of XTERRA Czech’s 21 year history.
It’s as close as it gets to a full house here with almost everybody on the top of the start list now here in Prachatice. Those out on the sidelines would have seen Euro Champ Felix Forissier and APAC Champ Kieran McPherson testing the bike track, as well as series leader Alizée Paties and the USA’s Keller Norland.
Here’s what we’ve heard on the ground, but it doesn’t make picking a winner any easier.
World Champion Arthur Serrières has just finished a big block of training at altitude, so it’ll be interesting to see what he brings. He’s coming off the back of a 12th place finish at the Euro Champs in Belgium, and the last time he got a result he wasn’t happy with in this series he bounced back with a double win.
Felix Forissier was out on the course and looking more relaxed than ever. The more he wins the more relaxed he seems to be, which will only make him dangerous as the series goes on.
If you’ve been paying attention to Sandra Mairhofer’s achievements outside of XTERRA you’ll know that she’s on another level right now. Whether she can continue this run inside the World Cup remains to be seen, but the womens’ field will definitely be aware of the challenge they’re up against.
But if anybody is up for that challenge, it’s Alizée Paties. The Frenchwoman has also just finished a big block of training after her 2nd place finish (behind Mairhofer) at XTERRA France.
A lot will depend on how the weather leaves the trails come Saturday, as well as who is prepared to take risks out on the course. Trails are still muddy now, but sun for the next few days could leave them running fast.
You can feel a buzz starting to build here in Prachatice as both XTERRA World Champions and a bunch of other top racers have now arrived.
In true XTERRA style, Solenne Billouin has set up with the Grabmüllerova family while Arthur Serrières drove through the night from Montpellier, sharing the driving with Jules Dumas. Sometimes it's the journey to the race that can be the hardest part, but it's what awaits that makes it worth it.
Male series leader Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen is also here, and local hero and winner of last year's Short Track race, Lukáš Kočař, was seen getting some time in on the bike course. The bike section is still a little bit muddy but perfect to make it a little more technical.
It’s 4 days until XTERRA World Cup racing returns and the second half of the series could not get a better start than right here in the Czech Republic. It’s the spiritual home of XTERRA Short Track and one of the most unique Full Distance courses on offer, with athletes shuttling out to a lake swim almost 20K from the village, the only point-to-point bike section in the series, and the signature finish in the town square of Prachatice.
All 4 reigning elite male World and Regional Champions will be on the start line, with the female World Champion Solenne Billouin and the newly crowned European Champion Loanne Duvoisin ready to put the pressure on series leader Alizée Paties. A lot is on the line in this second half of the series and the battles will reflect that.
The trails are currently a bit wet and muddy in a few sections after a couple days of rain, but it’s expected to clear up over the weekend with sun and slight cloud cover expected on the race days.
After 62 days off the XTERRA World Cup returns with 3 back-to-back weekends of pro racing, starting with the second of 4 European stops at a venue where the roots of XTERRA run deeper than any other.
XTERRA Czech is the single oldest race on the XTERRA circuit - a fitting title for a race that finishes in the historic town square of the mediaeval Prachatice - and has for decades served as the unofficial testing lab of XTERRA.
The Full Distance race plays out on one of the most unique courses of the series, combining old panel roads made for tanks in the 60s, forested sections of the Golden Salt Path, slick singletrack segments and the iconic town square finish where fans will be out in full force, just as they have been for the last 21 years. But pay close attention to the Short Track race. This is where the Short Track format was conceived, tested and perfected. This will be Short Track at its purest, delivering the ultimate energy injection as the series gets back underway.
The mens’ series leader, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, has the unenviable position of defending his position at the top against every single one of the current reigning XTERRA Champions - World Champion Arthur Serrières, Euro Champion Felix Forissier, APAC Champion Kieran McPherson, and the USA Champion Sullivan Middaugh. Making it even harder will be the presence and pressure that will come from veteran powerhouses Ruben Ruzafa and Josiah Middaugh, the lightning fast Maxim Chané and the seemingly unstoppable Arthur Forissier, just to name a few.
For Alizée Paties, who currently leads the women, it won’t be any easier. Sandra Mairhofer has found her stride again, making her one of the biggest threats to the top spot of the leaderboard in this second half of the series. But neither the Italian nor the Frenchwoman were able to keep up with the rising Loanne Duviosin of Switzerland in the last Full Distance outing in Belgium.
All three will be joined on the start line in Czech by the ever-threatening XTERRA Champion Solenne Billouin and Marta Menditto in a double-feature weekend that will undoubtedly reshape the standings ahead of Stop #5 in Germany just one week later.
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