Bigger, Louder, and Faster as XTERRA France 2022 Heads to Xonrupt
by Doug Hall on 07/08/2022
What makes XTERRA France so epic?
Big names and big expectations
More for the fans
How to follow the action in Xonrupt?
WHAT MAKES XTERRA FRANCE SO EPIC?
Epic is a word you’ll hear a lot at any XTERRA event, but when it comes to XTERRA France there is a lot to back it up. From the electrifying crowd atmosphere to the iconic bike park, epic is a word well served.
XTERRA France takes place in the tiny commune of Xonrupt-Longemer, where the population will be more than doubled by the arrival of participants alone. The village lies deep in the heart of the Ballons des Vosges Nature Park which is essentially 2,700 sqm of dream-worthy terrain for any outdoor enthusiast.
In winter the region offers incredible skiing and in summer becomes a mecca for trail runners and mountain bikers. Combine this with the crystal clear, warm waters of the lake and it's easy to see why XTERRA France has made this place its home since 2010.
XTERRA France has a reputation for being one of the most physically demanding courses on the circuit. A single lap swim helps to spread athletes out but you can’t get away from the washing machine effect caused by a mass start between the two boating jetties in the shallows of Lake Longemer.
Through transition and onto the bike, it's straight into some serious climbing up into the hills above the town. Once athletes crest the top, they’ll turn right for the first time in 12 years onto a brand new bike loop for 2022. Over the 2-lap 40km ride, athletes get a full spread of the variety of trails that the Vosges have to offer. From open meadows with incredible views, then deep into the trees on technical and fiddly singletrack weaving its way around the forest landscape.
The weather can play its part in France. If seasonal summer rains occur then it can add a whole other challenge to the course as things get muddy. With the correct tyres and techniques the course is still ridable through careful line choice, but expect the bike to take significantly longer.
After 1,200m of climbing, athletes will snake their way down through the cheering fans and back into the bike park with the most difficult challenge of the day behind them. All that's left is a 10km run!
After leaving the 2nd transition area, a gradual climb traverses the hillside followed by a steep plummet back to the side of the lake, taking in some flatter single track before starting lap 2 or crossing the infamous wooden finish line crowded with spectators that certifies athletes as XTERRA France finishers. And they will have earned it!
The World Championship Slots
Anyone who makes it to the finish can stand tall, but for the fastest athletes, there is an additional prize to aim for. 51 qualification places for the 2022 XTERRA World Championship in Molveno are up for grabs. And with the biggest race on the XTERRA calendar coming to Europe for the first time in 25 years, it presents a big opportunity for European racers to qualify for a championship race on home turf.
The Prize Money
Whilst the age group athletes compete for World Championship slots, the Elites will fight for some cold hard cash. 63 Elite athletes from all over the world will compete for a share of the €15,000 prize purse. As with all XTERRA racing, this prize pot is split equally between the male and female categories with the winner of each netting a cool €2,072.
In addition to the main race, the XTERRA Short Track event (more on that later) offers up an additional €5,000 - offering that chance for a profitable perfect weekend.
And at the centre of it all is the infamous XTERRA bike park. In the heart of the race village all you need to do is look up and you’ll see it. Every year the organisers spend almost a week constructing a series of ramps, bridges and elevated obstacles, lifting the race track almost 5 meters into the air so the action is on full display no matter where you are. And the atmosphere it creates is like no other.
Saturday’s action takes place purely in the XTERRA bike park where you can expect a wall of noise greeting the current and next generation of XTERRA superstars.
With the full-distance triathlon still headlining the weekend, this year will offer more event categories than ever before, bringing with them a bigger crowd as more adventure enthusiasts who are hungry for a taste of off-road action will get their first taste of the XTERRA experience.
The first of the new event categories starts on Saturday afternoon with the XTERRA Kids events. With two distances depending on their age, over 100 future XTERRA superstars will swim, bike and run through a purpose-built course right in the heart of the event arena. If you’re a fan of the sport, then you can’t afford to miss this - there is something about the next generation stepping up, pinning a number on and enjoying the thrill of racing. The huge crowds that’ll be watching will attest to that.
Once the kids have wrapped up, the SwimRun will put the next group to a 15.8km test of alternating trail run and swim sections through the network of trails surrounding the lake, giving those without a penchant for mountain biking a taste of adventure.
The final event of Saturday is the highly anticipated Round 1 of the XTERRA Short Track series - an Elite-only, high-speed race that sees the best of the best go head to head on a short multi-lap course that keeps the action right in front of the crowd. With the top-ranked elites obligated to race in the short track ahead of the main race, you can be sure of some fireworks as the best in the world do battle throughout the sub 40min race.
The last of the new event categories takes place just ahead of the full-distance triathlon on Sunday morning. The XTERRA Sprint Triathlon shares the same course as the full-distance triathlon, only athletes will swim a shortened course before completing just one lap of the mountain bike course and trail run.
BIG NAMES AND BIG EXPECTATIONS
At the time of writing 65 elite athletes are scheduled to race, making this the biggest elite field ever! With such depth to both the mens' and womens' fields, the racing is bound to throw up a few surprises.
With this in mind, it's probably impossible to predict the winners, but there is a very (very) good chance that at least one French athlete will win their big home race.
The Defending Champions Return
Maxim Chané from Nice will return to defend his title from 2021, but with French superstars Arthur Serrières and Arthur and Felix Forissier in the field, he’ll have his work cut out to repeat victory.
Solenne Billouin leads the charge for the French female athletes. The athlete from Angers in South-West France won her first XTERRA event in Xonrupt last year in a breakthrough performance that would lead to a fantastic rest of the season.
Top Podium Picks for the Men
An almost impossible task with the depth of talent set to arrive in Xonrupt, but some names deserve special mention for the constant threat they bring to almost any race.
Right now the most dominant athlete in the sport. Undefeated so far in 2022. Barring a disaster, it's difficult to see a scenario where Serrières does not win. Anyone wishing to beat the fast-running Frenchman will need a big lead as they exit the second transition.
7th in the world rankings but fresh off a 2nd place at the 2022 ITU Cross Triathlon Championships.
The older, more experienced brother won XTERRA France in 2019. Always a threat for the win.
‘The Boss’ has won XTERRA France on no less than 5 occasions, clearly showing that he has the experience to challenge for a podium spot.
With 18 XTERRA event wins to his name, the Kiwi is back in Europe for 2022 and will relish the technical bike course.
The young Greek athlete proved XTERRA Greece was no fluke with a podium finish in Portugal. Maybe the only athlete with the footspeed to challenge Serrières.
And Top Picks for the Women
The Italian is on an absolute charge at the moment, winning the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship before switching sports to place 4th at the UCI European Mountain Bike Marathon Championship - all in the space of the last two weeks! Her swim is her only possible weakness so the leading athletes will need to put the hammer down on the bike to stand any chance of staying away.
The 2021 XTERRA World Championship silver medalist has had a slow start to 2022 as she balanced her studies and training. Now into the summer break and all in for racing we expect to see the Swiss women back at the sharp end and on the podium.
The young Italian had a breakthrough win at XTERRA Belgium. 2022 seems to be a coming of age for Menditto and no doubt she’ll look to repeat the results in a bigger more competitive race in France.
France’s best chance at a podium finish on Sunday. Billouin is working her way to becoming a well-rounded athlete with a swim/bike/run combination that can challenge anyone on her day.
The Kiwi is racing in Europe this year and the 2021 XTERRA USA Championship winner knows how to rise to the big occasions.
MORE FOR THE FANS
There is also plenty to do off the track. In the arena itself you can watch the athletes practice on the bike park or hit the stalls to see what’s new from some of the world’s best off-road brands. Another great addition in the last few years is the Race Team Pits - if you’re lucky you’ll be able to grab an autograph or a selfie with one of the best XTERRA athletes in the world.
But if you need a bit of time away from the hustle and bustle of the race village, grab a boat or an SUP from one of the many rental shops dotted around and spend some time relaxing on the water. You’ll also find several fantastic restaurants and cafes just a quick drive away in Gérardmer.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE ACTION IN XONRUPT?
Follow XTERRA Europe for live updates during the full-distance triathlon and throughout the weekend. Or sign up here to watch the Short Track race LIVE and direct via livestream.