XTERRA Tahiti: Ruzafa and Billouin Conquer in Grand Finale

October 23, 2023

/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – The 2023 XTERRA World Tour concluded in the breathtaking surroundings of Moorea, Tahiti. Champions Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) and Solenne Billouin (FRA) triumphed in the XTERRA Tahiti Full Distance Triathlon.

Amidst the captivating beauty of Moorea’s lagoon waters and dense jungle trails, over 300 athletes from around the world navigated a challenging course. The day commenced with a 1.5K swim in the tropical lagoon, followed by a demanding 34K MTB ride with a climb of 1,000 meters, and concluded with a 10K trail run through the island’s verdant jungle, adding another 340 meters of ascent.

Action In the Water

Before the race’s commencement, athletes made their way from the transition/finish area to the swim start, setting the stage for the competition. Adding to the ambiance, a traditional Polynesian show entertained the participants and spectators alike. The presence of wind added to the difficulty, creating waves that tested the competitors. With only a few minutes allocated for their warm-up, the athletes took their positions, ready to face the challenging swim.

In the men’s race, Jean-Marc Rimaud (FYP), a local elite from French Polynesia, known for setting numerous best swim times in various European XTERRA events, emerged first from the water. Hot on his heels was a group of favorites, including current XTERRA World Cup Champion Arthur Serrières (FRA), as well as Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), and Thomas Lubin (FYP). Not far behind was Arthur Forissier (FRA), marking his comeback after a collarbone injury at XTERRA Czech earlier in the summer. Jens Emil Sloth Nielson (DNK) was notably absent from this leading pack, but would make up for lost time on the bike.

MTB Drama Unfolds: Ruzafa Attacks, Serrières Crashes

Following the swim, the MTB segment presented a fresh set of challenges with its three-loop structure. After the first loop, Ruzafa (ESP) and Serrières (FRA) were neck and neck, with Ruzafa setting a brisk pace. Rimaud (FYP) held onto his third position, while Forissier (FRA) and Lubin (FYP) were closely contesting the fourth and fifth spots. Sloth Nielson (DNK), known for his aggressive style, was on a mission, rapidly advancing to third position.

As the second loop commenced, Ruzafa launched an attack, intensifying the race’s dynamics. However, the course had its own challenges. Serrières, in pursuit of Ruzafa on an increasingly narrow portion of the track, collided with an age-grouper who was on his first loop, injuring his leg.

Despite the setback and the looming risk of another crash, Serrières, showing immense resilience and respect for the event, continued on to finish 10th. His determination to complete the race, even at a slower pace, was exemplified by his sportsmanship and reverence for the event organizers’ efforts. It was a moment that underscored the spirit of XTERRA Tahiti, where athletes push beyond their limits, not just for victory, but for the love of the sport and the community.

The Final Push

As the athletes transitioned from the grueling bike segment to the final trail run, the leaderboard began to take shape. Ruzafa continued to assert his dominance, steadily increasing his lead over the competition. Sloth Nielsen secured his position in second, with Forissier holding onto third. The local competitors weren’t far behind, showcasing the depth of triathlon talent in Tahiti. Thomas Lubin (PYF), Teva Poulain (PYF), and Jean-Marc Rimaud (PYF) were all in close contention, not far off from Forissier.

Top 10 Men Finishers:

1st – Ruben Ruzafa, ESP – 2:40:39

2nd – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DNK – 2:46:13

3rd – Arthur Forissier, FRA – 2:51:05

4th – Thomas Lubin, PYF – 2:55:15

5th – Teva Poulain, PYF – 2:55:55

6th – Jean Marc Rimuad, PYF – 3:03:46

7th – Ludovic Chastang, PYF – 3:16:55

8th – Pierre Marion, PYF – 3:20:30

9th – Yoann Hotellier, PYF – 3:21:53

10th – Arthur Serrières, FRA – 3:23:22

Reflecting on his victory and the unique ambiance of the event, Ruzafa shared, “Tahiti is truly a special destination with such strong energy. Finishing the season with a win here is amazing.” He further praised the event organizers, stating, “This organization is the best I’ve experienced in terms of taking care of athletes from start to finish.”

Billouin Dominates: Battle for Women’s Top 10 Excites

On the women’s side, Solenne Billouin (FRA) took the lead right from the swim and maintained her position throughout, showcasing her dominance with a final race time of 3:11:24. Navigating the challenging bike terrains, she shared, “These 3 bike loops were great, even if it was hot and humid, the organization was perfect with many aid stations, 3 per loop on the bike, so 9 total.”

The rain added an element of difficulty, but as Billouin transitioned to the trail run, the challenging nature of the course was evident. “The run was really technical in the downhill, lots of stairs where you need to stay focused,” she remarked. Beyond the race, Billouin’s experience in Tahiti was enriched by the local culture, expressing, “So exceptional to be invited here… we try to enjoy it 100% but also exchange with locals who are all so nice with us as we learned about their Tahitian culture.”

2nd and 3rd on the podium were local French Polynesian athletes. Clémence Dède (PYF) finished well ahead of the remaining pack with a time of 3:46:55. Dède was first in her age group category (30-34) last year at this race and earned the same honors this time around as well. In 3rd was Oceane Maindron (PYF), concluding her race with a time of 4:13:40.

The tightest battle to round out the top 10 women were three local competitors giving spectators a run for the ages with 8th-10th being separated by a mere 6 seconds.

Top 10 Women Finishers:

1st – Solenne Billouin, FRA – 3:11:24

2nd – Clémence Dède, PYF – 3:46:55

3rd – Oceane Maindron, PYF – 4:13:40

4th – Marine Busin, FRA – 4:17:42

5th – Eugénie Maillard, PYF – 4:21:37

6th – Ra i Maeva Raapoto, PYF – 4:27:46

7th – Valérie Connan, PYF – 4:31:51

8th – Tekau Hapairai, PYF – 4:42:36

9th – Christel Le Cleach Monnier, PYF – 4:42:38

10th – Lucie Rabreaud, PYF – 4:42:42

XTERRA Tahiti was more than just a race; it was a culminating event filled with a fusion of nature’s beauty and athletic determination. As the sun set on this year’s 2023 XTERRA World Tour, athletes and fans departed, cherishing moments destined to resonate for a lifetime. With anticipation in the air, many are already setting their sights on an even more exhilarating 2024 XTERRA season.