Arthur Forissier from France and Nicole Walters of Great Britain captured the sixth annual XTERRA Greece elite titles on a beautiful day in Athens on Sunday, April 29, 2018.
Arthur Forissier from France and Nicole Walters of Great Britain captured the sixth annual XTERRA Greece elite titles on a beautiful day in Athens on Sunday, April 29, 2018. It’s the third career XTERRA World Tour win for Forissier, and the first for Walters.
XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun was on hand to take in all the action and brings us this report…
After five years under the direction of Konstantinos Koumargialis, who is now serving as the marketing director for XTERRA Europe, XTERRA Greece entered a new era with Constantinos Mitropapas and his company Trimore now in charge. The event is in the same place and on the same course as last year and for their first edition, this new team did a fantastic job.
Vouliagmeni Bay is the perfect place for a triathlon with a calm sea, sandy beach, sun, and a big grassy area for the race village and finish line. As we are in the suburbs of Athens, which is a famous place to spend time at during the weekend, you can imagine it was quite crowded. While stressful for the organizers, it was a great opportunity to showcase our sport and the brand to many people.
Today’s race was the third in as many weeks in the Mediterranean, and Roger Serrano and Brigitta Poor won both of the first two in Malta and Cyprus. Even though we like them a lot, it was nice to see some surprises during the race and new faces on the top step of the podium.
For Walters, this is her first big XTERRA win. We knew she was improving a lot and focusing on XTERRA racing this year. She was on the podium in Cyprus last week, and today she got the result she wanted. As usual, she came out of the water first, saying “I felt very strong on the swim today, and it’s always good to start the race like that.”
Walters put nearly two minutes on Ine Couckuyt from Belgium and the reigning XTERRA European Champion, Brigitta Poor from Hungary. Carina Walse was 2’20” back in 4th, Sandra Mairhofer was 20″ back of Carina in 5th, and four-time XTERRA Greece champ Helena Karaskova lost 3’20”.
The bike here in Greece is two 15km loops. It can be tricky and slippery on the gravel roads, but it’s a very fast course where power is more important than technical skills. That was not to displease Walters, who comes from road triathlon, and was a silver medalist in the Rio Paralympics as a guide for Melissa Reid.
“When I started the bike, I didn’t feel amazing but tried to push as hard as I could on the fast and non-technical parts,” said Walters. “I was still afraid after my flat in Malta and didn’t want to experience that again, and I was expecting to see Brigitta somewhere, but I never did.”
After the first loop, Walters was still leading, and for me, even though I knew this race would suit her well, I was expecting to see Brigitta Poor in the front at this point.
“I had nothing in my legs today,” said Poor, who used lots of energy to beat Barbara Riveros in Cyprus last week. Her bike time was 20-seconds better than Walters but not fast enough to get back into the mix.
The fastest bike split of the day went to Helena Karaskova, who came on strong after the swim to fight for a podium spot.
Walters started the run course with about one-minute lead on Poor, and thought it would be close, but what she didn’t know is Poor was tired, and lost another 30-seconds in the first 1.5km of the run. At this point Poor was simply doing her best to finish the day and secure some good points to keep her lead in the Tour standings.
Ultimately, it was finally Walters day. “Even at the end on the last meter of the run I had a hard time believing I could take the tape, and get the win,” said Walters, who moved into the second spot in the tour standings with the win, just 23 points behind Poor.
Karaskova passed Poor on the run to finish in second and said “I’m very happy with this. I was third in Malta, second here, so it’s coming back. I had even started to think about retirement, but I still plan to play a good role in the front, so I’m very happy.”
Karaskova moves up to 5th in the standings after her runner-up showing today. The fastest run split went to Wasle, who was third.
“After my long trip to Danao for the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in the Philippines (which she won) I’m happy with this 3rd place. I’m also glad that Nicole won, she deserves it after her flat in Malta.”
It’s been a very strong first part of the season for Wasle with two big wins at XTERRA South Africa and Danao, and two podium finishes on the XTERRA Euro Tour that have her sitting in 4th position in the standings. Morgane Riou 5th despite some back pain that she managed, also got some points and is now in 6th place on the tour, but still waiting for a perfect day. Maud Golsteyn took 6th position today and is 7th in the tour. Sandra Mairhofer did well with a 7th place result in her first race as an elite. Couckuyt was 8th in the race and is 8th in the tour, 9th was Elisabeth Gruber (not the same American elite named Liz Gruber) who also start racing elite with us today. Cecilia Jessen didn’t race at the level she wanted, but her 10th position put her in 3rd on the Euro tour after three races, and Jessie Roberts placed 11th today.
In the men’s chase the top three finishers were all doing their first race of the season. It seems you needed to be fresh to win in Greece today.
It started as usual with Serrano and Maxim Chané in the lead, but this time the chase group was not far away and with some very strong bikers. Serrano and Chane started the bike together like last week, with 1’40″on Forissier, Marcello Ugazio, Serrieres and François Carloni. At this point some favorites like Kris Coddens was 3′ back and Xavier Dafflon 5’20” back and you might think it would be over for those two, but they are strong bikers and runners that have won races starting the bike way bike like this.
After one loop Serrano and Chane were still leading but only by a few seconds on the chase pack, who had dropped Serrieres.
“I was pretty sick early this week, and even though I started to feel better, I was not 100% recovered so I didn’t want to burn myself, and wanted to manage my pace”
In this pack Ugazio was pushing hard, attacking all the time. “I’m not as good as the others on the technical parts so I wanted to gain some time on the easiest parts,” he said.
Carloni, well known for his mountain bike quality, was amazed to see how good these young were riding. “I was all out to keep up with them, they were so fast and powerful,” exclaimed Carloni.
Lucky for him, he has lots of skill and was able to play his role on the group. Starting the second loop, seeing these guys coming back, Serrano attacked.
“I did the first loop saving some energy with Chane, waiting for the second loop to attack,” said Serrano.
The new situation on the second loop was Serrano pushing ahead, a chase pack of four with Ugazio, Forissier, Carloni and now Chané. Serrieres was in 6th, Coddens 7th and Dafflon in 8th pushing hard and on his way for the fastest bike split of the day.
Entering the bike-to-run transition Serrano was first but not with the lead he wanted. As the leader he had to make is way thru some crowds, sometime this is the problem to lead and be in a famous place. Carloni was surprised to see him that close exiting transition.
“Even though I was upset about having to work my way through the crow, in the end I don’t think I would have been on the podium today. Those guys were fresh, and I was not 100% today,” said Serrano. The chase pack entered T2 together with about 15″ to Serrano.
Forissier had the best transition, and we can say that with Ugazio only nine seconds behind him that Forissier won today because of his great transitions. He was 30-seconds faster combining the two transitions. Of course, it’s not that simple, but for sure it counts.
“I passed Roger very quick on the run, but then was passed myself by Marcello. Knowing him and what he did last year at ITU Cross Tri worlds in Canada, I was not confident. But then I saw him walking when it became steeper and I was able to run and that is where I made the difference. Even though he came back at the end and scared me the whole way, my legs were good and managed to stay in front of him.”
The young Italian Ugazio held on for second-place, saying “I’m very happy with this podium. I tried my best, maybe I put too much energy on the bike and my first loop on the run was not that good, but I came back strong at the end. Just not as strong as Arthur.”
Many things happened during the run to shape the results. Serrano was not able to keep the podium as Serrieres, managing his race like he said, put the fastest run split and took 3rd place. Serrano was 4th and consolidated his lead on the Euro tour. Carloni had a good run just like he did in Malta to finish in 5th and is now 4th in the tour standings.
The first three finishers just started their season today, so are respectively 7, 10 and 12 in the point series. Coddens finished 6th, with this strong field and early in the season, it’s not that bad, even for sure an athlete like him start to win or be on the podium. Same scenario for Dafflon who crossed the line 7th, our best biker, who was still in the hospital just two weeks ago. Even he didn’t know, after Italy last year, that he can win a race. It’s still early in the season with 14 races to go and he will come stronger soon.
Young German Peter Lehmann was 8th on the day and is 8th in the tour. Austrian Dominik Wychera was 9th and 10th wen to the local hero, Greek Gregoris Souvatzoglou. Chane had no more energy today and finished 14th Elite, but those points were enough to put him in second position in the Euro tour, passing Victor Del corral who will not follow the points series. Doug Hall dropped down to 5th in the tour today. I think all his energy went to his wife Nicole for the win. Clement Briere, who did each of the first three races, is in 6th position on the tour after his 12th place finish today.
We will now have a three week break on the XTERRA Euro Tour until we head to XTERRA Lake Garda in Italy on May 27.
All-time XTERRA Greece Elite Champions
Year – Men / Women
2013 – Ben Allen / Helena Erbenova
2014 – Francois Carloni / Kathrin Mueller
2015 – Kris Coddens / Helena Erbenova
2016 – Roger Serrano / Helena Erbenova
2017 – Ruben Ruzafa / Helena Erbenova
2018 – Arthur Forissier / Nicole Walters
– – –
Jett, Pitts win XTERRA Fort Yargo
On the XTERRA America Tour the lone race of the weekend was XTERRA Fort Yargo in Winder, Georgia.
This year’s race was a close match-up between the young gun Kevin Jett and the indomitable Marcus Barton. Jett – who last year won his 25-29 age group at XTERRA Auburn, XTERRA Whitewater, XTERRA Gator Terra, XTERRA Fort Yargo, and XTERRA Myrtle Beach – was the day’s victor, but Barton, 48, was less than a minute behind him.
Jett had the fastest swim split of the day and exited the water over a minute ahead of Barton, who had someone swimming on top of him for the first hundred yards.
“Kevin was already in transition when I came out of the water,” said Barton. “As I left transition, they told me there were three ahead of me. I caught two riders very quickly within the first couple of miles and tried my best to close the gap on Kevin. I knew Yaro, AJ and Caleb wouldn’t be far behind me, so I was also working it to stay ahead of them. The bike went fast and as I came around the final couple of turns, someone yelled that he was just ahead of me. I saw Kevin leaving T2 as I came in and I tried my best not to waste any time so I could try and grab his heels. Throughout the run, I’d see him on the straightaways and even through some of the switchbacks. As we crossed lake at the footbridge in the final mile or so, I could see that it would be difficult to catch him, but I didn’t let up. Kevin put in a great race! It was so much fun.”
Jett was modest about his victory.
“I think I was lucky,” he said. “Some of the guys were still recovering from XTERRA Myrtle Beach last weekend and the swim was longer than expected.”
Still, some would argue that Jett had his own reasons to be tired.
“My wife and six-month old son came to the race with me,” said Jett. “We made the three and a half hour drive the morning of the race, so we were a little late. All that is to say that I did not notice Marcus before the race, but when I was leaving T2, I heard someone say ‘Go get him Marcus’ and I knew it was going to be a tough run.”
Jett’s final time was 1:33:13 with Barton just behind in 1:33:49 for the half-mile swim, 10-mile ride, and five-mile run. Yaro Middaugh was a solid third in 96.29. To get an idea of how competitive these XTERRA Southeast athletes are, the first seven came in within six minutes of each other. Jett had the fastest swim split, Dustin White, who finished fifth, had the fastest split on the bike by two minutes, and Marcus Barton had the fastest split on the run, with Caleb Baity just a fraction of a second slower.
Baity, who won XTERRA Myrtle Beach last weekend, had excellent swim and run legs at XTERRA Fort Yargo but suffered a mechanical on the bike.
“I caught a branch in my wheel which broke a spoke and bent my derailleur,” said Baity. “I had to do lots of stopping to untangle or put my chain back on the front ring after that. Once I was able to make it back I tried to put down a fast run split but I had lost so much time by then it wasn’t a huge help.”
Baity had a positive attitude as always and didn’t let the day’s events get him down.
“In the end it was still an absolute blast to be out here racing against friends,” he said.
Yaro Middaugh, who finished third, admitted that the swim was tiring, but good preparation for XTERRA Oak Mountain.
“Both AJ and Marcus got out of the water just a little in front of me and Kevin was out in front by about two minutes. I trailed them the entire bike, but never actually saw them. AJ and I went out on the run together. There was actually a group of three or four of us that were together at the beginning of the run which always makes it fun. It’s always a good time seeing everybody and racing in these rather tight races. We all cheer for each other and look forward to the camaraderie and competition.”
Another performance to be noted was fourth-place finisher, AJ Petrillo, who hasn’t been training much this year since welcoming a new addition to his family, like Jett.
“I was very happy with my race considering my fitness level and that I have only been training for five weeks after taking four and a half months completely off. I tried to stay on Yaro’s feet during the run, but he pulled away after a mile and a half or so. He is a strong runner and awesome guy!”
In the women’s race Margo Pitts took the win for the second straight week, with Sue Finney was less than two minutes back, and Jessica Lehman right on her heels in third. Emma Coakley, who finished fourth, had the fastest swim split of the day.
“What a weekend!” said women’s champ, Margo Pitts. “There were some fast women out there racing and there was a solid pack ahead of me when we got out of the water.”
Pitts admitted she was pretty tired from her victory last week at XTERRA Myrtle Beach.
“The first race of the season does that to me so I kept my training light until Thursday. I think that paid off because I felt strong on the run. I caught one woman on the bike and passed two women with two miles to go on the run, but I knew I couldn’t let up because Sue Finney and my Betty Squad teammate Jessica Lehman were right behind me.”
This was Pitts first time racing at XTERRA Fort Yargo, but she enjoyed the race so much that she plans to return next year. In the meantime, we can expect to see many of the excellent XTERRA Southeast athletes at XTERRA Oak Mountain on May 19th. Marcus Barton, Caleb Baity, AJ Petrillo, and Margo Pitts will be there, as well as Kevin Jett, who will be racing XTERRA Oak Mountain for the first time.
Many athletes commented on how well the race was run and on the conditions of the course. The trails were well-maintained, tacky from some recent rain, and fast.
View complete results at http://www.goneriding.com
Learn more about XTERRA Oak Mountain at https://www.xterraplanet.com
XTERRA World Championship Qualifiers
|Date||Race||M/W Elite Winners or Location|
|24-Feb||XTERRA South Africa||Bradley Weiss/Carina Wasle|
|10-Mar||XTERRA Motatapu||Dougal Allan/Paties Alizue|
|18-Mar||XTERRA Chile #||Mauricio Mendez/Allison Baca|
|24-Mar||XTERRA Argentina #||Kieran McPherson/Fabiola Corona|
|25-Mar||XTERRA Costa Rica #||Rom Akerson/Kelli Montgomery|
|7-Apr||XTERRA New Zealand +||Sam Osborne/Jacqui Allen|
|15-Apr||XTERRA Malta *||Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor|
|22-Apr||XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs +||Bradley Weiss/Carina Wasle|
|22-Apr||XTERRA Cyprus *||Roger Serrano/Brigitta Poor|
|29-Apr||XTERRA Greece *||Arthur Forissier/Nicole Walters|
|5-May||XTERRA Uruguay #||Punta del Este|
|11-May||XTERRA Tahiti +||Moorea|
|12-May||XTERRA Brazil #||Ilha Bella, Sao Paolo|
|19-May||XTERRA Oak Mountain #||Pelham, Alabama, USA|
|27-May||XTERRA Garda *||Lake Garda, Italy|
|2-Jun||XTERRA Portugal *||Golega|
|3-Jun||XTERRA Dominican Republic #||Samana|
|9-Jun||XTERRA Belgium *||Namur|
|17-Jun||XTERRA Albay +||Legaspi, Philippines|
|23-Jun||XTERRA Switzerland *||Vallee de Joux|
|1-Jul||XTERRA France *||Xonrupt|
|8-Jul||XTERRA Victoria #||Victoria, B.C., Canada|
|15-Jul||XTERRA Czech *||Prachatice|
|21-Jul||XTERRA Beaver Creek #||Beaver Creek, CO, USA|
|22-Jul||XTERRA Abruzzo *||Scanno,Italy|
|4-Aug||XTERRA Mexico #||Tapalpa|
|5-Aug||XTERRA Romania *||Tirgu Mures, Transylvania|
|12-Aug||XTERRA Poland *||Krakow|
|18-Aug||XTERRA Quebec #||Quebec City, QC, Canada|
|18-Aug||XTERRA European Champs *||Zittau, Germany|
|26-Aug||XTERRA Finland *||Imatra|
|1-Sep||XTERRA Norway *||Norefjell|
|9-Sep||XTERRA Denmark *||Mons Klint|
|15-Sep||XTERRA Spain *||Madrid|
|15-Sep||XTERRA Pan Am / USA Champs||Ogden, Utah, USA|
|28-Oct||XTERRA World Championship||Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii|
* XTERRA European Tour / # XTERRA Pan American Tour / + XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour