Arthur Forissier and Alizee Paties from France captured the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race, the first of seven stops on the XTERRA World Cup, at Kenting National Park in Taiwan on Saturday, April 15, 2023.
It’s the eighth career XTERRA World Tour win for Forissier and the fifth for Paties.
In the women’s race, local elite Chang Chi Wen was first out of the calm warm waters of the South China Sea at Little Bay Beach followed by a big chase pack featuring Maeve Kennedy (AUS), Sandra Mairhofer (ITA), Suzie Snyder (USA), Paties, Solenne Billouin (FRA), and Loanne Duvoisin (SUI).
In the first kilometer of the bike Paties and Billouin, the reigning XTERRA World Champion, started pulling away from the rest of the field and those two had a close battle the rest of the way.
“I was feeling really good on the bike, managed my pace, and focused on the technical steep climbs, it was perfect,” said Billouin, who posted the fastest bike split of the day in 1:47:17.
For Paties, the strategy was to stay hydrated. Even though the race started at 6am, it was hot and humid early and both the bike and run courses feature grueling, steep climbs.
“This is a really tough course, and even harder in the hot weather,” said Paties.“I used my Camelback on the bike and drank a lot of water, a full two liters.”
Billouin was first into the bike-to-run transition by about 15 seconds, with Paties right behind and the two ran out on the 10K trail run together. About 4K into the run near the top of the climb Paties made her move and never looked back, taking the tape in 3:06:30, more than two minutes ahead of Billouin.
“Tried to manage my run, but it was quite difficult in the heat, you have to put your foot in the right place so you don’t twist an ankle, and on the uphill I pushed so I could be in front and do the downhill fast,” said Paties, who had the fastest run in 52:01.
“It’s a very special win for me, because I just quit my job two months ago so I could focus on racing,” said Paties, who focused her off-season training working on her run strength. “I’m proud of myself, and proved what I did this winter worked, even though it wasn’t easy.”
For Billouin, the runner-up performance was a welcome result for the season opener.
“I fell on the run a lot, and I tried to go with Alizee when she took off at the top of the climb but I was dehydrated and just wanted to save my position at that point. She was really strong on the run, and I’m happy to start the season with a second place, it gives me confidence, and now I can go back to training and be stronger for the long season.”
Loanne Duvoisin was strong all day, and just about one-minute behind Paties and Billouin on the bike by the top of the last climb. She had the second-best run split and finished just 22-seconds behind Billouin in third place.
“It was a really good race,” she said. “The first part of the bike I was strong and not too far away from the leaders, but I made some mistakes in the technical parts and I was smashed on the run. It was hard to keep a rhythm going on those steep climbs, and on the downhill it’s also really steep, and I turned my ankle so I couldn’t push, but I’m happy with my performance this early in the year.”
Mairhofer finished fourth and Kennedy came in fifth, earning the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champion elite title by virtue of being the top pro finisher from the APAC region.
Top 10 Results
Place – Name, NAT (Swim, Bike, Run – Finish)
1 – Alizée Paties, FRA (23:05, 1:47:43, 52:01 – 3:06:30)
2 – Solenne Billouin, FRA (23:05, 1:47:17, 54:28 – 3:08:42)
3 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (23:06, 1:48:50, 52:37 – 3:09:04)
4 – Sandra Mairhofer, ITA (23:03, 1:52:31, 55:27 – 3:15:35)
In the men’s race, Michele “The Shark” Bonacina (ITA) was first out of the water in 19:55, with Felix Forissier (FRA), Lukas Kocar (CZE), Arthur Serrieres (FRA), Maxim Chane (FRA), and Arthur Forissier right behind. Kieran McPherson (NZL), Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), and Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) were more than one-minute back, but would make their presence felt later in the race.
“It was a great swim for me today, I was able to stay with the lead pack, which was the first time for me,” said Arthur Forissier.
Bonacina and Felix Forissier were first onto the bike course but in no time the lead pack was six deep with Kocar, Chane, Serrieres, and Arthur Forissier joining the fray.
The dynamic changed when Ruzafa bridged the gap at about the 10K mark, passed everyone, and put the hammer down.
“When Ruben arrived we all had to go two times faster because he’s the king,” said Arthur Forissier. “It was the hardest moment of the race because the sun was rising, the track was hard, and Ruben was flying.”
While Ruzafa got the lead, he wasn’t able to completely pull away because Felix Forissier and Chane were riding strong and looking to take over … until they both flatted – at the same spot, from the same rock, about 22-kilometers into the bike course.
By the time Ruzafa arrived at the bike-to-run transition he had about 25 seconds on Arthur Forissier, with Sloth Nielsen two minutes back and Serrieres three minutes back in fourth.
Arthur Forissier posted the fastest run split of the day (42:18), caught Ruzafa just before the top of the climb about 5K into the run, and never looked back. He took the tape in 2:36:39, about one-minute ahead of Ruzafa in second.
“Feels really good to win this one, it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the World Cup,” he said. “I’m happy because it’s a long trip, and I put a lot of energy into arriving in good condition, and all those efforts paid off.”
Sloth Nielsen finished in third place, Kieran McPherson had the second-best run of the day to pass Bonacina, Carabin, and Serrieres and move into fourth. McPherson also won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champion elite title by virtue of being the first men’s finisher from the APAC region.
“I think I might have surprised some people, considering the top 8 ranked guys in the World were on the start line, but my team and I worked really hard for this so it wasn’t surprising to us,” said McPherson.
Sebastien Carabin (BEL), who had the best bike split of the day (1:28:38), finished fifth with Bonacina in sixth, and Serrieres, the reigning XTERRA World Champion and pre-race favorite, in seventh.
“I can just blame myself for coming here at the last moment,” said Serrieres, who arrived in Taiwan two days before the race as part of his early-season plan to stay on European time. “I had a great winter, I worked really hard, but this was my worst race ever.”
Top 10 Results
Place – Name, NAT (Swim, Bike, Run – Finish)
1 – Arthur Forissier, FRA (20:08, 1:30:47, 42:18 – 2:36:39)