XTERRA Portugal Preview: An Off-Road Decade of Endurance

April 18, 2024

GOLEGÃ, PORTUGAL /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Revered as Portugal’s Capital of the Horse, the town of Golegã is set to host XTERRA Portugal for one of the most challenging off-road triathlons in Europe. The Full Distance race will take place on April 21, 2024 in the Jardim Equuspolis, a distinguished garden known for its connection to the region’s esteemed Lusitano horses. This event not only celebrates the unique culture of Golegã but also challenges athletes with a diverse course through eucalyptus and cork forests, featuring a mix of flat terrains, bridges, singletrack, significant climbs and descents.

As a fixture on the XTERRA EMEA Tour for a decade, XTERRA Portugal marks a significant milestone this year, ringing in ten years of rigorous off-road triathlon racing in Golegã. Scheduled at the onset of the European summer, this event serves as a season-opener for some of the sport’s elite competitors, offering them a chance to shake off the off-season rust.

In addition to being a high-stakes competition for returning champions, XTERRA Portugal also offers 28 qualifying slots to the 2024 XTERRA World Championship and a €7,500 prize purse for elite athletes. This combination of cultural heritage and challenging competition makes XTERRA Portugal a standout event in the international off-road triathlon calendar.

Course Details

Swim Segment:

The Full Distance race kicks off with a challenging 1.5K swim in the narrow waterways of Lagoa da Alverca surrounding Golegã. Midway through the swim, athletes encounter an Australian exit, where they briefly emerge to cross over a floating pontoon that cleverly doubles as a bridge for the run segment later in the race.

Bike Segment:

The 35K bike course promises a true challenge, winding through Golegã’s cork tree forests. Steep uphills and rapid downhills over loose, pebbly soil will challenge traction. Athletes will also navigate through tight singletrack sections interspersed with faster, flat roads, maintaining a diverse and fully focused ride throughout.

Run Segment:

The race concludes with a 10K trail run, organized as a two-loop, figure-eight course that skirts the edges of Golegã. The terrain, mostly flat and fast, includes a number of bumps that demand careful footing at high speeds. A standout feature is a river crossing that involves jumping from a road bridge and climbing out on the opposite side with the help of a rope, adding a demanding element to the final stretch of the race.

Elite Focus: Champions Return – Challengers Ramp Up

No athlete has dominated this course more than Ruben ‘The Boss’ Ruzafa (ESP), who claimed victory here five consecutive times. However, in 2023, local champion Francois Vie (PRT) took the reins and will have to defend his XTERRA Portugal title as Vie and fellow local elite Beatriz Ferreira (PRT) earned the top spots last year. This year, Vie will return to defend his title against Ruzafa. Meanwhile, Ferreira who ranks 19th in the world, will not compete as she focuses on her recovery while planning to participate in other events on the 2024 XTERRA World Tour.

Elite Men’s Race

World Ranking – Name, NAT

4 – Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, ESP

Ruben Ruzafa Cueto, three-time XTERRA World Champion, secured third overall in the 2023 XTERRA World Cup, along with second-place finishes in both the Taiwan and USA stops and a third in Belgium. Looking ahead to XTERRA Portugal and XTERRA Nouvelle Aquitaine, Ruzafa shared, “I have raced in some duathlons to prepare. My performance will be unexpected for me because I began to train well late in January. I want to give my best and to be on the podium, of course.”

Reflecting on past challenges, he noted, “The most challenging part is the run; years ago I fought with Felix Forissier and he won in the last meters, so yes, the run part is the most challenging for me.” Despite this, Ruzafa remains confident in his biking skills, stating, “I think the bike is my strongest section, but we will see how the other competitors perform.”

Ruzafa is driven by the competition and the unique environment of the XTERRA events. “The challenge every year is to get my best performance, and competing with the best in the discipline motivates me a lot. I live the XTERRA spirit and love racing in nature.”

14 – François Vie, PRT

François Vie has shown remarkable progress in his XTERRA career, highlighted by a first-place finish at XTERRA Portugal in 2023, improving from his third-place result in the same event the previous year. His consistent performance is further evidenced by a fourth-place finish at XTERRA Sardegna and a second-place finish at XTERRA Nouvelle Aquitaine in 2023. Vie’s trajectory in XTERRA underscores his growth and determination in the off-road triathlon scene.

132 – Karl Mell, EST

Karl Mell enters the professional world of XTERRA with anticipation and a touch of nerves for his debut season as an elite. “I think I’m ready, the first race of the season is always a mystery, especially when racing for the first time as a pro. The training has been going well and I can’t wait to race soon,” Mell explained. Despite his enthusiasm, a daunting image shared by Ruben Ruzafa has left an impression on him: “I haven’t seen the course, but seeing a picture from Ruben, knees deep in water and carrying the bike on his shoulders scared me quite a bit.”

Mell’s journey to XTERRA has been marked by a notable 8th place finish at XTERRA Costa Brava in 2023 in the 20-24 age group, with career highlights that include a 3rd place at the 2022 Estonian Sprint Triathlon National Championships. His step up to professional status will be a significant test of his abilities this weekend.

133 – Afonso Garcia, PRT

Afonso Garcia continues to make strides in the off-road triathlon world, following a notable performance in 2023. He secured a commendable 5th place at XTERRA Portugal and demonstrated his competitive edge on the European stage with a 2nd place finish at the 2023 European Triathlon Cross Championships in Riva del Garda-Trentino. Additionally, Garcia clinched 3rd place at the 2023 Portugal Cross Triathlon National Championships, showcasing his ability to take the podium on his home turf.

Elite Women’s Race

World Ranking – Name, NAT

22 – Emma Ducreux, FRA

Emma Ducreux, the 2023 XTERRA Greece Vouliagmeni winner and second-place finisher at XTERRA Portugal, is gearing up for another competitive season. “I am ready to start my XTERRA season in Portugal; this race is part of my preparation cycle leading up to next week’s World Cup in Greece. I am here to fine-tune my racing techniques and, most importantly, test my new Leon Cycle mountain bike in real conditions,” Ducreux stated, outlining her strategic approach to the upcoming races.

She acknowledged the challenges of transitioning back to longer distances: “The most challenging aspect for me is the bike leg. At the beginning of the year, my preparation was leaning towards short distances. It is a good challenge now to come back to longer distances with the mountain bike, especially with all the elevation of this course.” Despite this, she remains confident, especially in her swimming skills, “I am quite well-rounded athletically, and I particularly enjoy starting the race with a strong swim to position myself well at the forefront.”

Ducreux is not shy about her ambitions: “I’m not going to hide it, I like winning, that’s what motivates me every day in training. I work hard for it, and when I’m racing I remember what we set up with the coach to push and go for the performance. It’s the entire journey leading up to the competition that fuels my motivation.”

Emma also relishes the community aspect of XTERRA events, particularly the familial atmosphere at XTERRA Portugal. “I am thrilled to be [hosted by] Beatriz Ferreira, last year’s champion. Beatriz is not only a talented athlete but also a close friend with whom I enjoy sharing moments,” she shared. Ducreux is also looking forward to competing against local favorite Pauline Vie, adding, “Pauline Vie is running at home, and she likely knows the course inside out. However, I’m eager to challenge her on her own terrain!”

62 – Pauline Vie, PRT

Pauline Vie, a seasoned competitor from Portugal, has shown consistent performances in XTERRA events, with placements such as 5th at XTERRA Sardegna, 7th at XTERRA Portugal in 2023 (4th in 2022 and 3rd in 2021), and 3rd at XTERRA Malta. Vie identifies swimming as her biggest challenge in these races. “Swimming, without hesitation,” she admits when asked about the most demanding part of the course.

For Vie, the XTERRA Portugal race holds a special place in her heart, not just competitively but emotionally. “Portugal was my adopted country for 15 years. I am very attached to this country which has seen me grow as an athlete and a person. XTERRA Portugal was my first XTERRA experience,” she reflects. More than the competition, it’s the community that makes it meaningful for her, “Apart from the demanding course that I love, it is also an opportunity for me to find my second family, that of cross triathlon.”

Pauline emphasizes the camaraderie and sportsmanship that define the XTERRA community, “It is always an honor to compete with excellent triathletes. In XTERRA, whatever our level, there is a lot of discussion and fair play between us. We always get something positive out of it. This is what makes the difference and the richness of XTERRA.” Her approach to competition is centered not just on performance but on enjoyment and community, “I just want to have fun, to savor the chance I have to do a demanding competition but surrounded by people I have known since I started triathlon and who have become friends for the most part.”

Nature’s Playground & Podium Aspirations

Friends, families and familiar faces will bring the community together once again this weekend for XTERRA Portugal, but that doesn’t mean the competition won’t heat things up. The event also doubles as the National Youth Cross Triathlon Championship, with opportunities for those in the Junior, Youth A, and Youth B categories to earn their slot to the first-ever XTERRA Youth World Championship this year. As the athletes prepare for an intense contest across all levels, XTERRA Portugal promises to be a vibrant mix of spirited rivalry and camaraderie, embodying the true spirit of off-road adventure.


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.

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