2024 XTERRA World Cup Stop #4 Preview: The Citadel of Speed

June 6, 2024

NAMUR, BELGIUM /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – The historic Citadel of Namur provides the backdrop for the Stop #4 of the 2024 XTERRA World Cup on June 8, 2024. Due to the effects of increased water levels in the Meuse River, the traditional swim segment has been replaced with an initial high-speed trail run to transform this triathlon into a uniquely laid out duathlon course.

Set within the walls of the millennia-old fortress, XTERRA Belgium is renowned not just for its rigorous course but also for its festival atmosphere. Mountain bikes will scale the cobblestone paths up to the iconic Citadel. Competitors will then tackle the surrounding dense forest trails, making this one of the most scenic and demanding courses on the 7-Stop XTERRA World Cup schedule.

The title of Belgian Cross Triathlon Champion is in contention for local athletes and a share of the €15,000 prize purse is on the line for the Elite category. Additionally, 58 qualifying slots for the 2024 XTERRA World Championship in Trentino, Italy, are up for grabs, drawing athletes from across the globe to push their limits across this emblematic course in one of Europe’s most storied landscapes.

Adapted Course Layout:

1. Initial Run (5K): Local officials determining the unfit conditions of the Meuse River have allowed for the traditional swim segment to be replaced by a fast-paced 5K trail run to kick off the race. This segment is a modified version of one of the loops from the later 10K run, but athletes will now traverse a wider, flat section, omitting the steep, technical ascent and descent they will encounter in the concluding stage of the race.

2. Bike (35K): Athletes transition from running to biking with an immediate climb up the cobblestone streets that wind through the Citadel’s historic grounds. The 35K MTB course consists of two loops, each characterized by steep climbs and rapid descents. The trails extend outside the city limits into the forest, where technical skills are crucial. With dry weather expected, course conditions could be significantly faster, concluding with a drop down the Citadel steps into the transition area.

3. Final Run (10K): Completing the duathlon, the 10K run pushes athletes through steep inclines and varied terrain. Starting with an immediate ascent, the course winds through historical and natural landscapes. As competitors approach the finish line, they will hear the crowd, propelling them toward the final stretch into the heart of Namur.

Elite Course Insights

  • Solenne Billouin (FRA): “The Belgium course is more about pure power than MTB skills and the hard run will make it an interesting race to the end.”
  • Alizée Paties (FRA): “XTERRA Belgium is an iconic race with the craziest atmosphere where the tracks are fast, but the mud can change everything.”
  • Aneta Grabmüller (CZE): “The bike is apparently not very technical but very physical. I saw on the recap from last year that there are very steep hills.”
  • Marta Menditto (ITA): “Last year, I found XTERRA Belgium difficult because of the long flat section on the bike. I hope to be better at it and have a good run in the end.”
  • Carina Wasle (AUT): “The run is my favorite. It’s never flat, but still a very fast run course and the atmosphere is just incredible.”
  • Anna Zehnder (CHE): “The bike course is one where you have to push very hard. As always, I am hyped for the run because I enjoy it so much.”
  • Arthur Serrières (FRA): “The bike is really punchy. The run is super hard and scenic.”
  • Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DNK): “Namur is a lot faster and a bit more urban in a cool way. I really like how the XTERRA courses can change.”
  • Maxim Chané (FRA): “The bike looks fast with short climbs, but at the end, you reach a lot of elevation.”
  • Michele Bonacina: “I think this bike course is very hard with a lot to manage because there are many steep hills. I like the run course, it’s all up and down.”
  • Xavier Dafflon (CHE): “The run is so unique in the Citadel of Namur, challenging, and you need to keep your energy as you are going up and down. The uneven stairs are prone to cramps.”
  • Sébastien Carabin (BEL): “The MTB course is quite interesting, with some speed but also many ups and downs, which make this track physically demanding. Cobbles in the old Citadel make these passages fun and epic. I am well motivated to deliver a good performance at my home race.”

Elite Men’s and Women’s Start List Available Here.

‍Key Elites in the Women’s Race

‍‍(Name, Country, World Cup Points)

‍Solenne Billouin, FRA, 365 pts.

Solenne Billouin (FRA), the current women’s leader, faced a challenging moment with a flat tire, mirroring last year’s misfortune in the Full Distance race at Oak Mountain for Stop #3. Despite this setback, the reigning two-time XTERRA World Champion managed to secure second place behind the outstanding performance of Sandra Mairhofer (ITA). This adds to her impressive record in the 2024 XTERRA World Cup, where she has already claimed victories in Taiwan, Greece, and the Short Track in Oak Mountain, USA.

Billouin, who has consistently finished in the top five in 27 of her last 29 races and claimed 12 victories, is on a mission for her first World Cup title and a third consecutive World Championship. Reflecting on her conditioning, she said, “I’ve been sick for some days with a slight fever. I will be happy to race hard, but hopefully, I will feel better by Saturday. The mid-season break will help me build my fitness for Quebec, which is a bigger focus for me.”

Alizée Paties, FRA, 308 pts.

Alizée Paties (FRA) is currently second in the series rankings with 308 points. She secured third place in both the Full Distance and Short Track races at Stop #3. Paties, the 2023 XTERRA World Cup Champion, also finished second in Taiwan and fourth in Greece. With top-five finishes in 29 of her last 30 races and a third-place finish in Belgium in 2023, Paties is poised to remain on the podium and contend for the number #1 spot, especially if Billouin’s health is not at 100%.

Aneta Grabmüller, CZE, 295 pts.

With accumulated podium success such as second in Oak Mountain’s Full Distance course and second in Greece, Aneta Grabmüller (CZE) sees even more potential in her ascent to the top of the series standings. “I will be hoping to have someone to work with on the bike. I learned my lesson in Oak Mountain and will make sure my bike is ready so I can try to hang on to whoever will be able to catch me. With each good race, I am gaining confidence, and I am ready to fight for another podium finish. I believe my best is yet to come.”

Marta Menditto, ITA, 273 pts.

Marta Menditto has consistently delivered top-tier performances, including a recent 3rd place in Taiwan, 5th in Greece and 4th in Oak Mountain’s Full Distance race. She also recently secured 1st place at the XTERRA Lake Garda on May 25th and remains a major podium threat in Belgium. “I don’t think things will change much with a duathlon. The women in front are all prepared to have a strong run. But a duathlon is more muscular than a triathlon, so maybe someone will have problems on the last run part of the race.”

Sandra Mairhofer, ITA, 238 pts.

Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) is expected to perform strongly despite having raced one less event than many of her competitors. Known for her exceptional biking skills, Mairhofer has consistently been a top contender with 22 top-five finishes in her last 24 races. This year, she secured third place in Stop #2 in Greece and won the Full Distance race at Oak Mountain, along with a fourth-place finish in the Short Track race. Reflecting on her experience securing second place at XTERRA Belgium in 2023 despite a tire issue, Mairhofer noted, “It made it hard to push on the climbs, and I had to go slower on the downhills, but I was still riding good.” She aims to add another podium finish this year to keep climbing the series rankings.

Anna Zehnder, CHE, 231 pts.

Anna Zehnder from Switzerland continues her rise through the competition with notable performances including a 5th place finish in the Short Track at Oak Mountain, 8th in the Full Distance race at the same event, 7th in Greece, and 5th in Taiwan.”I feel good, both mentally and physically. I had a solid little training block between Oak Mountain and Belgium. Mentally, I am more ready than ever to give everything in Namur. Last year, I had to skip Belgium due to an ankle fracture. On the mountain bike, I know that there is a lot of power in the legs of Billouin, Mairhofer, Paties, and Menditto. The same ladies are fantastic runners as well. In Oak Mountain, I had the second fastest run splits in the Full Distance and Short Track so I am confident with my running at the moment.”

‍Key Elites in the Men’s Race

‍‍(Name, Country, World Cup Points)

Felix Forissier, FRA, 357 pts.

Known for his consistent performances across all three disciplines, Felix “The Silent Assassin” Forissier (FRA) is confident about the upcoming challenge. The 2023 XTERRA World Cup runner-up and current leader has excelled this season with a win at Stop #1 in Taiwan, second place at Stop #2 in Greece, a victory in the Oak Mountain Full Distance, and a second-place finish in the Short Track. As the younger of the two Forissier brothers, he leads the pack.

Reflecting on his XTERRA Belgium win last year, which earned him the title of 2023 XTERRA European Champion, Forissier remarked, “I think I’m in the best shape of my life. I had a quality bike, pushed a lot, and was a little scared I might have gone too hard, but I wanted to make a difference.” He is likely to reach the podium again on Saturday with a highly anticipated battle against the men’s field including his French counterpart, Arthur Serrières and older brother Arhur Forissier.

Arthur Forissier, FRA, 306 pts.

Arthur Forissier (FRA) has had a strong series so far with third place in Oak Mountain Short Track, sixth in the Full Distance, a victory at Stop #2 in Greece, and third in Taiwan. Determined to secure a podium finish, Arthur, who was also second to his brother last year in Belgium, stated, “Every race plan is different, and I have to adapt to every particularity. I think the same guys who are really strong everywhere will be strong in Namur. It’s fun to run in the Citadel.”

Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DNK, 303 pts.

Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DNK) is just 3 points away from securing the second spot in the rankings. Known for his speed on the bike and run, the duathlon format may play to his advantage since he won’t have to expend energy overtaking competitors after the swim. Sloth Nielsen finished third in Oak Mountain Full Distance, fourth in the Short Track, second in Taiwan, and fourth in Greece. “I’m very positive going into Namur,” Sloth Nielsen said. “I think I can make my way up to be in the lead. There are a lot of points to make up, and a lot can happen and change.” Determined to stay on the podium, he added, “I will definitely do my best to move up two steps. It seems like it’s me vs. the French, and I will give them the fight they want.”

Maxim Chané, FRA, 264 pts.

Maxim Chané secured 5th place finishes at Oak Mountain in both the Short Track and Full Distance races, as well as in Greece, and fourth in Taiwan. “The run is a tough one, up and down. You need energy for this run to secure a good spot. Belgium is a race with a good atmosphere. They know how to party and cheer for athletes, so it gives everyone a special push, especially to reach the top of the Citadel.” Reflecting on the competition, he added, “French athletes are always the ones to look for. Try to stay on the French train, and you’re where the race action is.”

Arthur Serrières, FRA, 247 pts.

Arthur Serrières is having a strong series even after missing Stop #1 in Taiwan. With a win at Oak Mountain Short Track, second in the Full Distance race, and a recent victory at XTERRA Lake Garda on May 25th, the 2023 World Cup Champion and two-time XTERRA World Champion, remains in top form.

Reflecting on the upcoming race in Belgium, Serrières mentioned, “Belgium is not a race that really suits me well course-wise, but the crowd and organization are awesome.” He also commented on the competition, noting, “There are a lot of fast guys. This course will be really close. Keep an eye on everybody!”

XTERRA Belgium, since its debut in 2016, has consistently attracted one of the largest crowds on the XTERRA World Tour. This is a race known for its historical location, intense competition, and vibrant festival atmosphere including an after party concert. Fans are expected to turn out in large numbers to support what promises to be one of the most contested races of the 2024 XTERRA World Cup.


XTERRA is a global lifestyle brand that champions the outdoor enthusiast in their pursuit of relentless adventure. From pioneering the sport of cross-triathlon in 1996, XTERRA has grown to become a leading brand in off-road adventure through the XTERRA World Tour, XTERRA Trail Run World Series and the XTERRA World Cup, connecting an eco-aware community of worldwide explorers that seek to protect the places where they play. For more information, visit xterraplanet.com.

High-Resolution Images Available For Use Here.