The 2023 Xterra Czech Republic triathlon produced high drama and exciting racing across the elite fields.
In the men's race, pre-race favourite Arthur Forissier saw his day end early after crashing on a technical downhill section in the first 10km of the bike. The crash appeared severe enough to potentially end his season with a suspected broken collarbone. His brother Felix Forissier stepped up in his absence to score an impressive wire-to-wire victory, his second consecutive Xterra World Cup win.
Felix Forissier made his move on the hilly bike course, pushing the pace on a long climb to open a gap over the chasers. He poured it on to build a lead of over 2 minutes heading into T2, posting the fastest bike split of the day. Behind him, defending Xterra world champion Arthur Serrières mounted a valiant chase, clocking the fastest run split to claw back time. But Serrières ran out of real estate, crossing the line 1:26 behind Forissier. Home country fans were thrilled to see Czech star Lukáš Kočař land on the podium in third.
In the women's race, pre-race favorite Sandra Mairhofer looked poised to dominate after taking the early lead on the bike. But disaster struck for Mairhofer when she hit a hole at high speed and crashed heavily, leaving her bloodied. The tough Italian continued on to admirably finish fourth, but the door was open for France's Solenne Billouin to take control.
Billouin built a sizeable 3-minute advantage overpoints leader Alizée Paties heading into the run. She steadily expanded her lead from there, cruising to the win by nearly 3 minutes over Paties. Switzerland's Loanne Duvoisin overcame a slow swim to charge through the field and secure third place.
Beyond the winners, mechanical issues and crashes made for a difficult day for local favorites Helena Karásková Erbenová and Aneta Grabmüller. Both persevered to score top-10 finishes much to the delight of home fans.
The exciting Prachatice race was the sixth of 12 stops on the Xterra World Cup calendar. The tour continues Sunday with the Czech Short Track race before heading to Germany next weekend, where Forissier and Billouin will look to keep their winning momentum going. Meanwhile rivals like Serrières, Paties, and Mairhofer will be keen to rebound from a challenging day in the Czech Republic.