XTERRA Czech World Cup Weekend Wrap
August 13, 2023
Felix Forissier (FRA) and Solenne Billouin (FRA) won the XTERRA Czech Republic full-distance off-road triathlon elite titles in Prachatice on Saturday, August 12, 2023, and Billouin and Arthur Serrières (FRA) captured the XTERRA Czech Short Track titles on a beautiful blue sky day at Ktišský Lake on Sunday, August 13, 2023.
/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Felix Forissier (FRA) and Solenne Billouin (FRA) won the XTERRA Czech Republic full-distance off-road triathlon elite titles in Prachatice on Saturday, August 12, 2023, and Billouin and Arthur Serrières (FRA) captured the XTERRA Czech Short Track titles on a beautiful blue sky day at Ktišský Lake on Sunday, August 13, 2023.
The full-distance win was the fourth career XTERRA World Tour victory for Forissier and his second straight on the XTERRA World Cup following his win at the XTERRA European Championship in June. For Billouin, the reigning XTERRA World Champion, the win was her first of the season and fifth in her career.
In the men’s race Jens Roth (GER) pulled away early with the fastest swim split (18:33) of the day. Michele Bonacina (ITA) was 30 seconds back, followed closely by Keller Norland (USA), Jules Dumas (FRA), and Matteo Sfregola (ITA), but none of those men would ultimately crack the top 10.
Among the contenders, Maxim Chané (FRA) and home country favorite Lukáš Kočař (CZE) came out of the water together in 19:40, followed by reigning XTERRA World Champion Arthur Serrières (FRA) and Felix Forissier in 19:44, then Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) in 19:55, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) two minutes back in 21:42, and Sébastien Carabin (BEL) in 21:59.
Once on the bike a big pack went to the front early with Felix Forissier leading Kočař, Sullivan Middaugh (USA), and Chané at the one-kilometer mark. The big story early was news that Arthur Forissier, Felix’s older brother, had a big crash on a long fast downhill in the first 10K of the bike requiring medical help for a suspected broken collarbone.
“On behalf of all the athletes we want to send a message of ‘get well soon’ to Arthur who crashed and finished his race in the hospital,” said Serrières. “Everyone knows he was the favorite for the XTERRA World Cup this year, and it would be a shame to see his season end like this, so hopefully he will be back soon.”
At about the 10K mark on the bike Felix Forissier was leading with Kočař and Chané right behind but at the next big uphill he kicked it into another gear and started riding away with it.
“I had planned before the race to push really hard for this gap, but I found myself riding with Lukáš and Max at 10km, and started to wonder how I would drop these guys, but on the top of the next climb I turned around and couldn’t see anyone,” said Forissier. “My legs were feeling good, they were making the difference!”
Forissier posted the fastest bike split of the day with a 1:46:39 split that was more than two minutes faster than Chané, more than three minutes quicker than Kočař, Francois Vie (POR), and Serrières, and four minutes faster than the mountain bike specialists, Ruzafa and Nielsen.
By the time he reached the bike-to-run transition Forissier had a one-minute lead on Chané, with Vie and Kočař together two minutes back, and the speediest runner on tour, Serrières, in fifth place and two minutes, 10 seconds behind.
Serrières did indeed cut into Forissier’s lead, but not enough, as Felix took the tape in 2:36:21 in front of a huge crowd lined along the cobblestone streets in the medieval town square.
“I’m really happy with this great race,” said Forissier. “This year I’ve been able to make a difference on the bike. I can take a gap on the bike and hold on during the run even after pushing so hard on two wheels. I did it in Belgium, and now I’ve done it again here in Czech.”
When asked if he’ll be gunning for a weekend sweep by winning the Short Track race tomorrow, Forissier said, “It’s difficult to think about getting ready for the short track tomorrow, it’s not something you think about when being chased by Serrières! But I will give everything I have left for a perfect weekend.”
Serrières ran past Vie, Kočař, and Chané to finish second.
“I wasn’t in my best shape today after coming down from altitude training camp, but I fought all day while battling some issues with nutrition and hydration so I’m really proud of this position,” said Serrières. “Felix was another level today, and even in my best shape I don’t know how I would beat him, he doesn’t seem to have a weakness right now. I made up some time on the run today but without that spark, I just couldn’t close the gap.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow and the World Cup overall, Serrières said, “I’ve no idea how I’ll race tomorrow. I’ll expect nothing from the body and be surprised if I feel good. After some bad races in Taiwan and Belgium, I need to pivot and look towards the World Championship over salvaging a position in the World Cup.”
The local hero Kočař won the battle for third place, landing him on the podium in the full-distance race here in the Czech Republic for the first time.
“Finally a podium in the main race here in Czech, it’s so nice to finally deliver a good result in the full-distance event in front of the home crowd” he said. “Three weeks ago I didn’t think I would be racing here after some difficulties this past month, but I put together two or three good weeks of training and I couldn’t let the home crowd down. I tried to race smart, or at least smarter than before. I didn’t have the training to go full gas like normal but I think that actually worked in my favor because I was still able to run fast despite feeling terrible throughout.”
Kočař is without a doubt more excited about tomorrow’s Short Track race than anyone else in the field.
“I can’t wait,” he exclaimed. “I’m really looking forward to the short track tomorrow, I am the defending champion, and I am the guy to beat at this distance and everyone knows it so I’ll go full gas in front of the huge crowds.”
XTERRA World Cup leader Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen ran his way into fourth place at the finish line, followed by Chané, Carabin, and Ruzafa.
Top 10 Elite Men
Place – WC Position – World Rank – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – 3 – 4 – Felix Forissier, FRA (2:36:21)
2 – 2 – 1 – Arthur Serrières, FRA (2:37:47)
3 – 8 – 9 – Lukáš Kočař, CZE (2:38:00)
4 – 1 – 7 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (2:38:14)
5 – 9 – 10 – Maxim Chane, FRA (2:38:46)
6 – 4 – 5 – Sébastien Carabin, BEL (2:39:17)
7 – 5 – 3 – Ruben Ruzafa, ESP (2:40:06)
8 – 27 – 14 – Francois Vie, POR (2:41:28)
9 – 12 – 18 – Sullivan Middaugh, USA (2:43:14)
10 – 15 – 26 – Théo Dupras, FRA (2:45:41)
In the women’s elite race Emma Ducreux (FRA) set the pace in the swim with the fastest split of the day in 20:46, followed by Marta Menditto (ITA) in 21:32, and local favorite Aneta Grabmüller and Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) together 20 seconds back.
Among the contenders, XTERRA World Cup leader Alizée Paties (FRA) was 7th out of the water in 22:23, Billouin was 10th in 22:41, and Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) 12th in 23:54.
Once on the bike, Mairhofer took to the front early followed by Billouin, Grabmüller, and Paties, but just like in the men’s race, a big crash shook up the day.
Mairhofer, arguably the best women’s mountain biker on the XTERRA World Cup circuit, apparently hit a hole at high speed and went down hard, opening up a cut on her face that “made it looked like she had just come out of the Octagon rather than a triathlon,” said one official.
Mairhofer stayed in the race, and ultimately finished fourth to collect some valuable points, but Billouin took the lead on the bike after the crash and never looked back.
“I was catching Sandra on the bike and had closed the gap to around 200m before she unfortunately crashed,” said Billouin. “It looked bad so I hope she is okay, but it felt good to be riding up to the wheel of someone as strong as her.”
Billouin had close to a three minute lead on Paties at the bike-to-run transition and added to that lead on the run to cross the finish line uncontested with a winning time of 3:02:02.
“I’m so proud of that performance, I took some time to reset after Belgium and did three weeks of the best training I have done since the World Championships last year,” said Billouin. “Being able to show it on the race course was really nice after an up-and-down start to the season. I knew I would go well today on the bike, and then once I started running on this hard course, I wanted to run a really fast first lap just to make the gap back to Alizee solid before getting a time check to know that I could run the second lap with more control, perhaps saving something for the next few races!”
When asked about her thoughts heading into tomorrow’s Short Track, Billouin said, “I’m looking forward to it. I always enjoy this format and now with this win in the pocket I have nothing to lose. There is always a good close battle with the high quality of the women’s field right now, and I love going bar to bar and toe to toe over this format.”
Paties was strong all day to finish in second place and retain her top spot in the World Cup standings.
“I’m not at my best level after some big training the past few weeks but I think I can be happy with this performance,” she said. “I swam okay, but then it took nearly the whole bike for my legs to wake up. I started to run fast to try to catch Solenne but there was nothing I could do. I plan on going full gas tomorrow in the Short Track so hopefully I can take a big lead in the World Cup heading into the last few races of the season.”
Duvoisin, who won the XTERRA European Championship in June, finished all by herself in third place.
“I don’t know what happened in the swim, I lost some time but I don’t know why, so all I could do is push push push on the bike and try to ride my way through the field,” she said. “Then on the run I gave everything that I could. Perhaps I need some racing to find my level so I hope to go better tomorrow in the Short Track and again next week in Germany.”
Mairhofer courageously carried on after her crash to finish in fourth position but will not race in the Short Track tomorrow, nor will fifth place finisher, Czech XTERRA legend Helena Karásková Erbenová.
Top 10 Elite Women
Place – WC Position – World Rank – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – 4 – 2 – Solenne Billouin, FRA (3:02:02)
2 – 1 – 3 – Alizée Paties, FRA (3:05:35)
3 – 2 – 4 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (3:06:58)
4 – 5 – 1 – Sandra Mairhofer, ITA (3:12:07)
5 – 8 – 10 – Helena Karásková Erbenová, CZE (3:14:45)
6 – 21 – NR – Jana Dubcová, CZE (3:15:17)
7 – 11 – 40 – Stepanka Bisová, CZE (3:17:11)
8 – 9 – 14 – Carina Wasle, AUT (3:19:14)
9 – 27 – 36 – Kerri-Ann Upham, GBR (3:21:37)
10 – 33 – NR – Aneta Grabmüller, CZE (3:25:12)
All-time XTERRA Czech Elite Champions
Year – Men / Women
2002 – Olivier Marceau / Candy Angle
2003 – Nicolas Lebrun / Jamie Whitmore
2004 – Nicolas Lebrun / Jamie Whitmore
2005 – Olivier Marceau / Renata Bucher
2006 – Nicolas Lebrun / Renata Bucher
2008 – Nicolas Lebrun / Carina Wasle
2009 – Franky Batelier / Carina Wasle
2010 – Franky Batelier / Renata Bucher
2011 – Ronny Dietz / Marion Lorblanchet
2012 – Nicolas Lebrun / Helena Erbenova
2013 – Felix Schumann / Helena Erbenova
2014 – Ruben Ruzafa / Kathrin Mueller
2015 – Ben Allen / Helena Erbenova
2018 – Ruben Ruzafa / Helena Erbenova
2019 – Arthur Serrières / Morgane Riou
2020 – Arthur Serrières / Laura Philipp
2021 – Arthur Serrières / Loanne Duvoisin
2022 – Arthur Serrières / Sandra Mairhofer
2023 – Felix Forissier / Solenne Billouin
Solenne Billouin, Arthur Serrières win XTERRA Czech Short Track
Billouin won it in 38 minutes, 35 seconds, Serrières in 32:42, and both were awarded prize money and 20 points for their efforts. For Billouin, the reigning XTERRA World Champion, it’s her first-ever Short Track win and marked a clean sweep for the weekend after winning the full-distance race yesterday, and for Serrières, it’s his fourth career Short Track win and second this season.
The action-packed event was the seventh of 12 points-scoring races and the third of five XTERRA Short Track races in the XTERRA World Cup. It combined a two-lap 400-meter swim, with a four-loop 7.6-kilometer mountain bike, and a two-lap 4K trail run.
In the women’s race, Emma Ducreux (FRA) was first out of the water in five minutes, 30 seconds, with Aneta Grabmüller (CZE), Alizée Paties (FRA), Beatriz Ferreira (POR), Billouin, and Marta Menditto (ITA) close together about 20 seconds back.
Billouin reeled in Ducreux on the first climb of the bike to take the lead and never looked back, gradually extending the gap so she had plenty of time to give high-fives to a huge crowd of spectators lining the finish line before taking the tape for the second time in as many days.
“I worked hard last month and came here in good shape and wanted to show that, so I couldn’t be happier,” so Billouin, who spent two weeks training at altitude in the Pyrenees. “It makes a big difference when you train at elevation. I did a lot of hill work to be really strong and made the gap using my bike skills. The level of racing with the women makes it exciting to fight week after week and makes for really interesting racing.”
The battle for second was close with Loanne Duvoisin (SUI), the 2022 XTERRA Short Track Series Champion, passing Menditto on the fourth lap of the bike to move into second place.
“I’m really happy with second place today,” said Duvoisin. “After a good race yesterday, it was nice to have the energy to have a good fight with Marta. Solenne had some kind of superpower this weekend because she was so good no one in the race could get close to her, just like yesterday. I love racing in the Czech Republic, the fans are crazy for XTERRA and create such a fun atmosphere for us to race in and the organization has been great.”
Menditto held on for third, Ferreira had a great race to finish fourth, and Ducreux finished fifth.
“It was really fun and a great battle, I don’t normally say this, but I had a great performance and really enjoyed the swim today setting me up for a good race, but was being chased down straight away with a great battle the whole race against Loanne,” said Menditto. “I was able to ride well but I still need a little bit of work on my run. The level is going up every year, so it is great to be part of the racing at the moment, and the Short Track here in Czech is amazing. The atmosphere and the fans make it one of the best races in the world.”
Of note, XTERRA World Cup leader Alizée Paties (FRA) crashed on the bike and reportedly broke her handlebar, causing her to withdraw, while XTERRA Belgium Short Track winner Sandra Mairhofer (ITA) sat out today’s race after taking a spill in yesterday’s full-distance event where she finished fourth. Both are expected to be back in action when the World Cup continues on Friday in Zittau, Germany.
Top 10 Elite Women
Place – Name, NAT (Time) Points
1 – Solenne Billouin, FRA (38:34) 20
2 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (39:42) 18
3 – Marta Menditto, ITA (40:24) 16
4 – Beatriz Ferreira, POR (40:48)15
5 – Emma Ducreux, FRA (41:45) 14
6 – Segolene Leberon, FRA (42:21) 13
7 – Stepanka Bisová, CZE (42:38) 12
8 – Aneta Grabmüller, CZE (3:25:12) 11
9 – Katja Krenn, AUT (43:30) 10
10 – Carina Wasle, AUT (43:40) 9
In the men’s race Jens Roth (GER) was first out of the water, followed closely by Michele Bonacina (ITA), Federico Spinazze (ITA), and Keller Norland (USA). Serrières was the ninth man out of the swim-to-bike transition and started working his way to the front.
Bonacina led through the first two laps before seven-time World Champion, Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), moved past. Ruzafa was first off the bike, followed closely by yesterday’s full-distance winner Felix Forissier (FRA) who was riding Loanne Duvoisin’s bike due to a mechanical issue on his own bike. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN), Bonacina, and Serrières were next into T2.
Sloth Nielsen, who was 19th out of the water, took the lead on the first lap of the run with Forissier on his heels and Serrières in hot pursuit. About midway through the second lap Serrières pranced into the lead and crossed the finish line 11 seconds ahead of Forissier.
“I found the spark and could push with everything I had at the end,” said the reigning XTERRA World Champion. “I made it hard for myself with a bad swim and a slow second transition, but I was able to catch the guys on the run before pushing super hard in the last 500m. I don’t take wins for granted anymore with athletes like Felix, Jens Emil, Ruben, and all these guys. The level is crazy and that’s why it’s a beautiful victory.”
Serrières said he even took time to marvel at Martin Šonka’s Red Bull aerobatics air show in between the women’s and men’s races.
“The vibe here is really special, Czech was the home of the first Short Track, and it’s amazing to be part of this huge show with the kids races, the airshow, and the elite races.”
Forissier was equally thrilled to be part of the action, and to be able to perform at a high level less than 24 hours removed from a grueling full-distance race.
“I had no idea this morning if my legs would be good for Short Track, but it looks like they showed up,” said Forissier. “I can take a lot of pleasure from this race. It was cool to run with my good friend Arthur on that second lap.”
Sloth Nielsen finished 11 seconds later in third place with Ruzafa just six seconds later in fourth as the top four were separated by less than 30 seconds.
“Wow, it played out pretty exciting,” exclaimed Sloth Nielsen. “Overall it went alright, my swim was not as good as I wanted or needed it to be to make that jump to the top step of the podium, but I think everyone watching could see that I pushed some good watts on the bike. I knew it would be tough to keep up with these amazing runners, but I did everything I could.”
Top 10 Elite Men
Place – Name, NAT (Time) Points
1 – Arthur Serrières, FRA (32:41) 20
2 – Felix Forissier, FRA (32:52) 18
3 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (33:03) 16
4 – Ruben Ruzafa, ESP (33:09)15
5 – Maxim Chane, FRA (33:21) 14
6 – Lukáš Kočař, CZE (33:39) 13
7 – Michele Bonacina, ITA (33:48) 12
8 – Théo Dupras, FRA (34:09) 11
9 – Jules Dumas, FRA (34:14) 10
10 – Sullivan Middaugh, USA (34:17) 9
PATIES, SLOTH NIELSEN KEEP TOP SPOTS IN XTERRA WORLD CUP
Alizée Paties and Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen will wear the golden caps and don the leader bike plates once more when the XTERRA World Cup rolls into Germany next week.
XTERRA Germany Short Track is in five days, on Friday, August 18, followed by the XTERRA Germany full-distance race on Saturday, August 19. After that, all that remains is the XTERRA USA Championship (full-distance race only) in Colorado on August 26, then the final Short Track showdown of the season in Trentino on September 21 before the grand finale at the XTERRA World Championship on September 23.
To determine XTERRA World Cup Champions, elites will add their best four scores from the first six full-distance races with their best three Short Track scores and whatever they get (or don’t get) at the XTERRA World Championship.
XTERRA World Cup Standings
Top Five Women, after 7 of 12
Pl – Points – Name, NAT
1 – 426 – Alizée Paties, FRA
2 – 393 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI
3 – 332 – Marta Menditto, ITA
4 – 318 – Solenne Billouin, FRA
5 – 277 – Sandra Mairhofer, ITA
XTERRA World Cup Standings
Top Five Men, after 7 of 12
Pl – Points – Name, NAT
1 – 382 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN
2 – 348 – Arthur Serrières, FRA
3 – 296 – Felix Forissier, FRA
4 – 271 – Ruben Ruzafa, ESP
5 – 266 – Sébastien Carabin, BEL
Find comprehensive coverage at xterraplanet.com/world-cup
All-time XTERRA Short Track Champions
Date (Location) Men’s Winner/Women’s Winner
August 4, 2019 (Prachatice, Czech Republic) Arthur Forissier/Loanne Duvoisin
September 4, 2020 (Prachatice, Czech Republic) Arthur Serrières/Laura Philipp
October 3, 2020 (Trentino, Italy) Ruben Ruzafa/Marta Menditto
June 5, 2021 (Lake Garda, Italy) Arthur Forissier/Loanne Duvoisin
June 20, 2021 (Prachatice, Czech Republic) Arthur Forissier/Marta Menditto
August 20, 2021 (Zittau, Germany) Lukáš Kočař/Diede Diederiks
August 29, 2021 (Pujols, France) Arthur Serrières/Michelle Flipo
July 2, 2022 (Xonrupt, France) Panagiotis Bitados/Loanne Duvoisin
August 14, 2022 (Prachatice, Czech Republic) Lukáš Kočař/Sandra Mairhofer
August 19, 2022 (Zittau, Germany) Felix Forissier/Alizée Paties
October 2, 2022 (Trentino, Italy) Lukáš Kočař/Daisy Davies
2022 XTERRA Short Track Series Champions: Maxim Chane/Loanne Duvoisin
May 21, 2023 (Pelham, AL, USA) Arthur Serrières/Loanne Duvoisin
June 11, 2023 (Namur, Belgium) Arthur Forissier/Sandra Mairhofer
August 13, 2023 (Ktišský Lake, Czech) Arthur Serrières/Solenne Billouin
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