Yeray Luxem from Belgium and Morgane Riou from France captured the fourth annual XTERRA Belgium off-road triathlon elite titles on a windy but beautiful afternoon around the Citadel in Namur on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
It’s the third XTERRA World Tour win for Lexum, who won his first at XTERRA Poland in 2016 and his second at XTERRA Cyprus in 2017. It’s the fourth big win for Riou, her second in a row at XTERRA Belgium and second this season following her victory at XTERRA Italy-Lake Garda on May 26. She won her first XTERRA as an elite in the Dominican Republic in 2017.
Thousands of athletes and spectators gathered for the grueling competition that combined a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Meuse River with a 37-kilometer mountain bike through city streets and forest trails and finished with a tough 10-kilometer trail run. The event was the sixth of 14 stops on the XTERRA European Tour, attracting more than 40 elites from a dozen countries as well as the sports best amateur triathletes from around the EU.
In the men’s elite race Jonathan Chatten and Karl Shaw from the UK led the charge out of the water with Max Sasserath 10-seconds back, followed by Veit Hoenle, Doug Hall and Filippo Rinaldi. About one minute and 30-seconds behind the lead group was the defending XTERRA Belgium Champ Francois Carloni from France, along with XTERRA Greece winner Arthur Serrieres and Luxem.
As the race transitioned to the bike Carloni, Rinaldi, and Luxem set the pace up front. Those three were riding together in the lead at the 20K mark with Sasserath 20 seconds back in fourth, and then a big group that included Serrieres two minutes further behind.
Luxem, who posted the second-best bike split of the day behind only Xavier Dafflon, came into the bike-to-run transition in the lead with Rinaldi and then turned on the jets. His 42:24 run split was more than one-minute faster than Rinaldi and he took the tape in 2:44:28 in front of a raucous home crowd.
“This was my biggest goal for this year, I wanted this win,” exclaimed Luxem. “I worked hard for this day, and it was a hard battle out there with Rinaldi and Serrieres at the end, but I was stable from the start of the race. I followed my nutrition plan, everything went well. The crowd was amazing and I’m so happy for this win here at home.”
Serrieres, who won XTERRA Tahiti last week and was 3rd at XTERRA Lake Garda two weeks ago, had the fastest run of the day by far (40:54) to move up five spots from 7th place out of T2 and catch Rinaldi to grab 2nd place, 35-seconds behind Luxem.
“It was a great race for me after three races in a row,” said Serrieres, who won XTERRA Greece in April. “It was hard to stay fit and at the top level during this stretch, and today Yeray was very strong so managing to finish just 30 seconds behind him coming from the back was amazing. Now, I just need to work on my bike, rest, and be fit for XTERRA France on July 7. And watch out for Rinaldi, he’s a great athlete and after some more XTERRA races, he will be hard to beat.”
Rinaldi, who’s just in his second season of XTERRA racing, finished in third with a big smile.
“My swim was good, I am quite happy with that, and the same for the bike, but I am quite disappointed with my run,” said Rinaldi. “Although it was better than the previous race, it was not enough to keep my second place from Serrieres and from Luxem, who really opened the gap. I have to patient and work on that part and get better.”
Another Belgian elite, Sebastien Carabin, rallied to finish fourth with Sasserath in fifth, ETU Cross Triathlon Champion Tim Van Hemel sixth in his XTERRA debut, and Lauryssen seventh.
Top 15 Elite Men
Yeray Luxem, BEL
Arthur Serrieres , FRA
Filippo Rinaldi, ITA
Sébastien Carabin, BEL
Maximilian Sasserath, GER
Veit Hoelne, GER
Tim Van Hemel, BEL
Xavier Dafflon, SUI
Geert Lauryssen, BEL
Peter Lehmann, GER
Corentin Duclos, FRA
Francois Carloni, FRA
Theo Dupras, FRA
Francesco Figini, ITA
Doug Hall, GBR
In the women’s elite race Nicole Walters from Great Britain was the fastest out of the water, but from there it was all Riou, who posted the fastest bike (1:55:06) and run (47:55) splits of the day and crossed the line in 3:11:10, more than nine minutes ahead of eventual runner-up Matilde Bolzan of Italy.
“Very happy to win for a second time here in Belgium and for the second time in two weeks,” said Riou, who was four-minutes behind Walters coming out of the water and also chasing Loanne Duvoisin, Pauline Sasserath, Carina Wasle, and Anna Tomica. One by one she passed them all very early on the bike, took the lead before the first loop was over and built on it from there.
“This is a beautiful place with a great atmosphere, and I love it, and I am happy to win against some of the strongest women in our sport. I’ve improved my bike and run and feel very confident compared to the past.”
Behind Riou at the 20K mark on the bike the chase for podium spots was heating up. Walters was in second, 1:15 back, then Duvoisin, Tomica, and Wasle.
Bolzan took the lead out on to the run and held strong for second, while Camille Defer pushed hard on the run and passed Duvoisin and Walters to take third.
“I am really happy, I cannot believe I finished second here today,” said Bolzan, who is just 20 years old. “I managed to push hard on the bike and was able to maintain a good pace to keep my position on the run. I come from a mountain bike background and this helped me a lot today.”
Defer was equally as thrilled with her third-place showing, saying “I was not expecting this first podium! I’m a really slow swimmer, so I always have to fight to come back and most of the time races are too short for me to be able to really come back. Today, I felt great and strong on my bike and was able to catch many more girls, better than in Garda where I had many mechanical troubles with my bike. This year I’ve started to train seriously for XTERRA, because before I was swimming just four times a year!”
Wasle, who like Serrieres won XTERRA Tahiti last weekend and had raced in Italy the weekend before, showed some incredible resilience to finish fourth, while another 20-year-old, Duvoisin, finished fifth. Janni Spangsberg came in sixth with Walters in seventh.