Ruben Ruzafa and Marta Menditto won the inaugural XTERRA Molveno ShortTrack off-road triathlon races in Trentino, Italy with winning times of 35:00 and 36:07, respectively.
The elite-only, made-for-TV event was staged on the shores of Lake Molveno in front of the breathtaking Brenta Dolomites, although due to heavy wind and rain the mountains were hidden behind rainclouds for much of the day.
The rough weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the lucky 30 racers fortunate enough to compete in one of the few (and final) XTERRA off-road triathlon races of 2020 for a share of $10,000 USD in prize money.
In the morning participants took part in a shortened qualifying race to set their time and ranking for the main event in the afternoon. Each position was rewarded with a three-second advantage at the start.
Ruzafa (pictured), a seven-time off-road tri world champion from Spain, had the fastest qualifying time in 19:13, followed closely by Lukas Kocar, Arthur Serrieres, Francois Vie, and Filippo Rinaldi.
In the main event, which combined two roughly 200-meter swim laps (400m) with four 1.75-kilometer bike loops (7K), and two 1.25K run laps (2.5K), Ruzafa was third out of the choppy swim roughly 20-seconds behind Kocar and 10-seconds behind Vie, but passed both by the second lap of the bike and never looked back.
“I knew Lukas (pictured above) would go really fast in the swim, I just wanted to keep him close and go at a good pace,” said Ruzafa. “The bike is my strength, and these wet and technical conditions were to my advantage so I just went at my pace and slowly caught Kocar.”
Ruzafa also had a speedy run, the third quickest split of the day, to win by 34-seconds over Kocar – who was also the runner-up at the XTERRA Czech ShortTrack race last month.
“I’m one of the oldest guys out here, so I’m very happy with this victory, and happy to end the year like this. I put in a lot of work since August, and now I can see it paid off and this effort will help me stay motivated for 2021. ShortTrack racing is a lot of fun, and nice for me because I come from mountain bike which is really the focus in this,” said Ruzafa.
Top 5 Men
Name, NAT – Time
Ruben Ruzafa, ESP – 35:00
Lukas Kocar, CZE – 35:34
Filippo Rinaldi, ITA – 36:12
Arthur Serrieres, FRA – 36:25
Jens Nielsen, DEN – 36:37
Sandra Mairhofer had the fastest swim but the top five – Shiva Leisner, Menditto, Solenne Billouin, and reigning ITU Cross Tri World Champ Eleonora Peroncini were all within 20-seconds of each other.
The racing was equally tight on the bike and Peroncini, Mairhofer, and Billouin (pictured, who had the fastest bike split) entered the bike-to-run transition together.
Straight out of T2 Mairhofer, the reigning Italian Cross Tri National Champion, took off into the lead but Menditto, who was 20-seconds back at transition, worked her way to the front and the two went stride for stride during the second lap in a thrilling foot-race.
Menditto, who posted the fastest run of the day, pulled away from Mairhofer (pictured above) at the very end of the race on the final downhill before the finish chute to take the win by just six seconds.
“It was a spectacular race, so close and so much back and forth, all the women were so strong,” said Menditto. “I’m really happy to take the win and to be part of this special event.”
Top 5 Women
Name, NAT – Time
Marta Menditto, ITA – 36:07
Sandra Mairhofer, ITA – 36:13
Solenne Billouin, FRA – 36:27
Eleonora Peroncini, ITA – 36:47
Shiva Leisner, DEN – 38:50