Billouin, Sloth Nielsen Win Final XTERRA World Cup Short Track In Trentino, Italy
September 21, 2023
/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Solenne Billouin (FRA) and Jens Emil Sloth Nielson (DNK) secured the win at the XTERRA Short Track Off-Road Triathlon beneath the Dolomites in Molveno on Thursday, September 21, 2023.
The intense pace and lightning fast format finalised the conclusion of five XTERRA Short Track races in the 12-race XTERRA World Cup. The course, starting in Lake Molveno, was intricately designed around its shores, featuring a 0.4K swim, 8K bike, and a 3K trail run that ended with a fully fledged sprint to the finish line with its fair share of surprises and dramatic twists.
In the women’s race, Billouin took the win in 37 minutes and 43 seconds, while Sloth Nielson needed just 33 minutes and 34 seconds to secure the win in the men’s race. For Billouin, it was her second Short Track win of the series, and for Sloth Nielsen, it was his first win of the season. The result leaves both Billouin and Sloth Nielsen locked in 3rd place on the World Cup leaderboard heading into the final race of the series when the XTERRA World Championship plays out on Saturday.
In the women’s event, Emma Ducreux (FRA) was first out of the chilly water in 5:25, with Maeve Kennedy (AUS) trailing by 1.22 seconds followed by local hero Sandra Mairhofer who finished the swim in 5:42.
During the bike segment, weather conditions changed slightly to deliver the first glimpse of sunshine during the race. This is where Billouin also shined, ahead in all four laps on the bike. Her total bike time of 25:49 gave her a 34 second lead on Diede Diedricks (NED) who was off her bike in 26:23 with Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) finishing the bike in 26:42 to lock in the top 3 positions for the duration of the race.
Billiouin’s stoic responses and beaming confidence was felt after the race, “We made this plan with my coach knowing that the short track race could activate my body for Saturday. I wanted to just go hard. I was quite fast after the swim when I can really push on the bike. I also knew that I can trust my run and that’s what I showed today.”
Asked if she ever felt like she would get caught, “I know Diede [Diedricks] is a really fast runner, so even if I had a really big gap, she’s super strong, but I also know that I’m strong.”
Knowing that she has one more race to go, Billouin’s plan for Saturday’s finale is straightforward. “It’s all about recovery now and not being cold and eating a lot of food. Being World Champ last year gave me a lot of energy. I just want to thank everyone that follows me and supports me. It’s not like I’m stressed about Saturday, but I enjoyed this year so much and I just want to have a strong race.”
Diedricks kept the gap between 43-45 seconds to Billouin through both laps of the trail run which felt more like a sprint and she truly felt it. “I was surprised, it went really hard from start to finish. I had a good bike segment on a good bike course and I could still run, but my legs were hurting near the end.”
When asked if excited for Saturday’s race, Diedricks replied, “I’m more of a long distance athlete so my endurance is high.” With a confidence boost to match, her ability to rise up the World Cup rankings is undeniable.
Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) was solid in third place for the bike and run segments, with Alizée Paties (FRA) finishing fourth and Marta Menditto (ITA) in fifth.
TOP 5 ELITE WOMEN
Pl – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – Solenne Billouin, FRA (37:43)
2 – Diede Diedricks, NED (38:24)
3 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (38:54)
4 – Alizée Paties, FRA (39:19)
5 – Marta Menditto, ITA (39:33)
In the men’s race, Jens Roth (GER) and Keller Norland (USA) emerged from the water first, completing the swim in under five minutes. They were closely followed by Jules Dumas (FRA) and Arthur Serrières (FRA).
During the bike, Theo Dupras (FRA) and Serrières initially led the pack. Subsequently, at bike split 2 and all of lap 2, Ruben Cueto Ruzafa (ESP) took the lead. By the fourth lap, Sullivan Middaugh (USA) and “The Overtaker” Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) were dictating the tempo.
The drama unfolded during the run segment, with high expectations surrounding Nielson’s ‘come-from-behind’ approach. Serrières, displaying dominance towards the finish line, took an unexpected turn. Nielson’s gap ahead of Serrières decreased from 1.2 seconds after lap 1 to just 0.2 seconds in lap 2. All eyes were focused on the final turn, with Serrières edging out a slight advantage. However, they both went straight ahead towards the lap 2 arrow instead of the finish arrow. This is where Serrières lost his narrow lead, and Nielson captured his first Short Track win.
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen had a day he will never forget.”It’s awesome. That was a hard, tough battle. Me and Arthur have been in this situation quite a lot of times and finally I took the longest straw and got the win. I’m thrilled.”
The action was heated at the end with Nielsen remarking, “We were head to head on the last few turns and started to use our arms, fighting each other a bit, but it was cool. We wanted to go into the last turn into first place. Arthur went ahead, but he led us the wrong way. We both slipped a bit. He lost 5 meters to me and fought for it. It was a great battle. I had a lot of bad luck this year so I’m happy to win it.”
When asked about if he can repeat the effort and result on Saturday, Neilsen was quick to reply, “All my family is here so I’m thrilled to do it in front of them. So why shouldn’t I do it again on Saturday?”
Serrières had a lot to say about the conclusion to the race, but held his poise since he knew that he had maxed out his Short Track points and could not add any more to his overall World Cup total. “It’s more about confidence about Saturday and activate the body because when we are cold like this in the race, when you are front, you try to stay out front”
Things didn’t work out that way with a dramatic wrong turn and the final corner, with Serrières explaining, “We ran together and I attacked Emil [Sloth Nielsen] on the climb. At the end we had a nice battle together and we pushed extra hard. I pushed a bit more and took a little gap. At the last corner, I didn’t see the arrow. I went straight and Emil ended up in front of me. Emil is a nice guy and deserves to have a win this season because he was always strong and always in the front.”
When asked about racing twice this week and his expectations for Saturday, Serrières is ready to go, “It’s a race with nervousness, packed with a lot of intensity. It’s really nice, thanks to the organisation in Molveno. I’m hoping to have a nice sensation on Saturday, nice feelings, good recovery, we will see. It’s my main goal of the year. I’m prepared for that.”
Sullivan Middaugh’s 3rd place finish rounded the top 3 for the day. He stated, “I had a really awesome swim and was in the mix with the big pack right off the bat, started moving my way up until the run where I fell back a few spots, but still a strong finish. I feel very good and feel like I’m in very good shape.”
TOP 5 ELITE MEN
Pl – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (33:34)
2 – Arthur Serrières, FRA (33:43)
3 – Sullivan Middaugh USA (33:47)
4 – Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, ESP (33:55)
5 – Lukáš Kočař, CZE (34:24)
For the XTERRA World Cup title, elites will combine their top four scores from the initial six full-distance races, their three highest Short Track scores, and any points earned (or not earned) at the XTERRA World Championship.
Find comprehensive coverage at xterraplanet.com/world-cup
The World Cup points difference between the top 4 men and top 3 women is neck and neck, setting the stage for absolute fireworks at this Saturday’s Full Distance 2023 XTERRA World Championship race. The anticipation is evident, and the stakes for the final points up for grabs could not be more significant.
Every contender is aware of the importance of the upcoming race. A single error can determine the outcome. Both athletes and fans are preparing for the event on Saturday.
The 2023 XTERRA season culminates with the Full Distance Race on Saturday, September 23 starting at 10am local time (GMT +2hrs: Paris 10am, Tokyo 5pm, New York 4am). Tune in to Watch Live on the XTERRA website or follow real-time updates on XTERRA IG.