Serrières, Billouin Win 2023 XTERRA World Championship In Double Title Defense
September 23, 2023
September 23, 2023 /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Arthur Serrières (FRA) and Solenne Billouin (FRA) defended their titles at the 2023 XTERRA World Championship in Trentino, Italy to extend their reign as XTERRA World Champions for a second year running.
With the skies clearing over the cool, clear, crystal waters of Lake Molveno, over 100 elite off-road athletes dove headfirst into the 27th edition of the XTERRA World Championship. But it was Arthur Serrières and Solenne Billouin who were able to return first to capture the title for a second year running.
Serrières spent most of the race just seconds behind Felix Forissier before clinching the win in the final 5K of the run, while Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen came back from 36th position at the end of the swim to claim 3rd position.
In the women’s race, Billouin moved to the front on the first big climb on the bike, only to slowly extend her lead from there to finish almost 2 minutes ahead of Alizée Paties (FRA) in 2nd. Diede Diederiks (NLD) rounded out the podium, finishing 4 minutes and 37 seconds behind Paties to add a bronze medal to the silver she picked up in the Short Track race on Thursday.
The World Championship course covered a 1.5K lake swim that flowed into a 32K mountain bike with 1,100m+ of elevation before being capped off with an intense 10K foot race through mixed muddy trails and slick slopes to the finish.
In the men’s elite division, Michele Bonocina (ITA) spearheaded a lead group of five, exiting the 18-degree waters in a time of 20:09, practically side-by-side with Jens Roth (GER) and and barely seconds ahead of Sam Osborne (NZL) and Jules Dumas (FRA) who completed the swim in 20:12, and Norland Keller (USA) who was out of the water with a time of 20:14.
However, by the peak of the first bike climb, Felix Forissier (FRA) and Serrières had surged to the front of the race and finished the first 16K bike loop at the front of the pack with Serrières just 2.3 seconds behind Forissier.
The French duo continued to dominate on the bike, navigating the slick trails following yesterday’s rain and heading into the run with Forissier 9 seconds ahead of Serrières and nearly 30 seconds ahead of Ruben Ruzafa Cueto (ESP), who was not first of the bike for the first time in 10 World Championships.
Michele Bonacina (ITA), putting in one of his best performances in front of the home crowd, was exceptionally consistent on the bike to start the run in 4th place, just 9 seconds ahead of Jens Emil Sloth Nielson (DNK), who continued to do justice to his unofficial nickname of “The Overtaker” as he steamrolled through the middle of the pack to start the final section of the race in 5th.
Forissier kept the lead on the early part of the run and continued to increase his gap to 13 seconds after the first run split, but may have misjudged his efforts as Serrières flipped an 11 second deficit into a 22 second lead on the second lap, ultimately securing the victory and crossing the finish line with a time of 2:38:53.
Forissier soon followed at 2:39:21 and was quick to remark after the race, “On my bike I think I pushed a little bit too hard because it was too difficult for the run after. I pushed too hard on the first lap of the run, so after Serrières came back at the start of the second loop, he was just too strong for me.”
It was a week to remember for 3rd place Jens Emil Sloth Nielson who was thrilled by his overall performances in Trentino’s Short Track and Full Distance races by saying, “I love racing, especially in front of my family. A gold medal [in the Short Track] and a bronze is big for me and definitely a career high.”
Sloth Nielson and Ruzafa Cueto battled it out for 3rd on the podium with the former edging it out with just under 25 seconds between them.
A triumphant Serrières shared his feelings with a global audience on the livestream, and with his mother by his side, saying, “I feel amazing. This title was quite harder than last year because it was another game with the World Cup. I had more than a 2 minute lead [last year] and I could manage my pace. This year Felix was so strong and during the bike I pushed to stay on his wheel.”
When asked about how he overtook Forrisier, Serrières was quick to explain, “On the run Felix did a pretty fast first lap and I think he was overspeeding a bit because he was in the lead for the World Championship, but I have a bit more experience.”
The emotional weight of a long season and having his mother attend for the first time in his XTERRA career, Serrières said, “I asked my mother to come because it’s a big accomplishment. I’m looking forward to partying tonight because I think I deserve it.”
Top 10 Men Finishers:
1st – Arthur Serrières, FRA – 2:38:53
2nd – Felix Forissier, FRA – 2:39:21
3rd – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DNK – 2:41:22
4th – Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, ESP – 2:41:47
5th – Sullivan Middagh, USA – 2:43:36
6th – Lukáš Kočař, CZE – 2:44:14
7th – Michele Bonacina, ITA – 2:44:36
8th – Theo Dupras, FRA – 2:46:46
9th – Sebastian Neef, DEU – 2:47:00
10th – Jules Dumas, FRA – 2:47:05
In the women’s elite race, Samantha Kingsford (NZL) was first out of the water in a time of 22:27. She was followed closely by Maeve Kennedy (AUS) and Amanda Presgraves (USA) as the three athletes led the chase pack by 7 seconds.
Both French athletes, Alizée Paties and Solenne Billouin, exited the water at 8th and 10th respectively and were able to overtake Maeve Kennedy (AUS) after the first bike split with Billouin dominating the first climb to pull 25 seconds ahead of her countrymate by the end of the first 16K loop. By the end of the second loop Billouin had extended her lead to 1 minute and 27 seconds ahead of Paties and 3 minutes and 31 seconds ahead of local Italian hero Sandra Mairhofer who went into the run in 3rd.
An elated Billouin went on to extend her lead even further and finish the race in a time of 3:06:12 and 1 minute 58 second ahead of 2nd place. She stated, “It’s crazy, this season has been so long and so intense with the World Cup. I think I won today because I wasn’t scared to be out in front. I won the race on the [MTB] climb, but I almost lost it on the downhill because Alizee was catching a lot of time on me with every look.”
When asked about her progression this season, Billouin replied, “I’m often good at the start of the season. It’s a bit harder during the summer and then I’m back at the end of the season. I had changes this season with a new coach, new bike, so I needed a bit more time to find a good line. My family and friends are here so it’s amazing to win in front of them.”
Alizée Paties finished in a time of 3:08:10 to secure 2nd place in the XTERRA World Championship. While she may have missed out on the World Championship title, her performance was still enough to secure the overall win of the first ever XTERRA World Cup.
Her comments revealed her pride at accomplishing this major win. “I’m happy I finished second and still the leader of the World Cup. I was thinking about the World Cup and I told myself, just be focused on your pace, don’t worry, you were consistent all year, just finish it.”
In 3rd place was Diede Diedericks (NLD) with a time of 3:10:49, securing her second consecutive podium finish in Trentino this week. Despite taking a spill on the first transition following the swim and encountering a few more mishaps during the bike leg, she explained, “I managed to keep up with Solenne for the steeper parts, but for the downhill and technical parts, I lost pace and fell a couple of times on the bike. I was back in 4th in the run. I needed to fight and push in the end. I’m amazed and very happy to be here.”
Top 10 Women Finishers:
1st – Solenne Billouin, FRA – 3:06:12
2nd – Alizée Paties, FRA – 3:08:10
3rd – Diede Diedericks, NLD – 3:10:49
4th – Sandra Mairhofer, ITA – 3:12:20
5th – Lesley Paterson, GBR – 3:13:44
6th – Marta Menditto, ITA – 3:13:56
7th – Loanne Duvoisin, CHE – 3:15:58
8th – Maeve Kennedy, AUS – 3:22:06
9th – Anna Zehnder, CHE – 3:23:17
10th – Helena Karásková Erbenová CZE – 3:26:43
The 2023 World Championship also served as the 12th and final race of the XTERRA World Cup – a condensed circuit of 5 Short Track and 7 Full Distance races designed to showcase XTERRA racing at the highest level.
A win for Arthur Serrières sees the Frenchman become the first ever double champion in XTERRA history as he now holds the XTERRA World Champion and the XTERRA World Cup Champion titles simultaneously. Felix Forissier ends the series in 2nd position with Jens Emil Sloth Nieslen finishing in 3rd.
Alizée Paties, who led the series from start to finish, ends her season as the 2023 XTERRA World Cup Champion, with Solenne Billouin finishing in 2nd and Loanne Duvoisin of Switzerland finishing in 3rd. To see the full standings, visit www.xterraplanet.com/world-cup.
Top 10 World Cup Men
1st – Arthur Serrières, FRA – 534
2nd – Felix Forissier, FRA – 510
3rd – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DNK – 491
4th – Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, ESP – 480
5th – Lukáš Kočař, CZE – 369
6th – Michele Bonacina, ITA – 366
7th – Kieran McPherson, NZL – 350
8th – Sébastien Carabin, BEL – 341
9th – Sullivan Middaugh, USA – 339
10th – Maxim Chané, FRA – 274
Top 10 World Cup Women
1st – Alizée Paties, FRA – 564
2nd – Solenne Billouin, FRA 542
3rd – Loanne Duvoisin, CHE – 496
4th – Marta Menditto, ITA – 428
5th – Sandra Mairhofer, ITA – 378
6th – Suzie Snyder, USA – 350
7th – Helena Karásková Erbenová, CZE 267
8th – Samantha Kingsford, NZL – 250
9th – Carina Wasle, AUT – 225
10 – Lesley Paterson,GBR – 203
Relive the race’s live coverage with a full replay of the 2023 World Championship here.