Solenne Billouin, Arthur Serrières win XTERRA Czech Short Track
Solenne Billouin (FRA) and Arthur Serrières (FRA) captured the XTERRA Czech Short Track off-road triathlon titles on a beautiful blue sky day at Ktišský Lake on Sunday, August 13, 2023.
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.
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.
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 Complete Results
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 Complete Results
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