After an exciting and star-studded opener to the 2018 XTERRA European season in Malta last week, XTERRA heads to the stunning island of Cyprus this Sunday, April 22, for the second of three tour stops in the Mediterranean this month.
Nico Lebrun, our European Director is in Cyprus and he bring us his first impression and race preview from the 2nd edition of this event from the beautiful island.
“We are back on the beautiful island of Cyprus for the second year in a row. XTERRA Europe kicked off in Malta last week and we are soaking up the Mediterranean sun and its sandy beaches. Here at the most eastern point of Europe we have been preparing the transition area located in Akamas park in the searing 35°c heat.
“I have been driving on the left hand side for two weeks now and I am just about getting used to it. Our XTERRA Cyprus hotel partner is the Almyra hotel in Paphos and I almost get the feeling of being back in Maui. Its absolutely beautiful and will be hard to leave” said Lebrun.
To reach our race location you leave Paphos and take a 35 minute drive out to Akamas Park. You are welcomed by the site of Lara’s restaurant, it feels like you have arrived at worlds end. The beautiful eatery serves ice cold light beer and with halloumi cheese salad, the perfect lunch while you soak up the sun and enjoy the views over the calm sea.
Lets focus on the top athletes racing XTERRA Cyprus on Sunday.
Brigitta Poor emerged victorious in Malta and will be confident going into Sunday’s race. This is all good and well but she might not sleep as well a usual on Saturday as the tiny, flying Chilean athlete will be on the start line as well. Thats right! Barbara Riveros is in town looking to test herself against the European competition. You might be wondering why Riveros is racing in Cyprus, perhaps we will see more of her on the European tour? The short answer is no as Barbara’s coach Bret Sutton has his training camp base here on Cyprus which just happens to coincide with our event. XTERRA Cyprus organizers Tony and Nicoletta, through their company Mokapot are setting up triathlon and Cycling camps on the island. With ideal weather all year round, Brett Sutton brings a lot of his athletes to Cyprus on a regular basis.
The Bike and Run courses are fast and flat but in the Cyprian heat its will be a challenge none the less. Brigitta can use the opportunity to face Riveros head on as she has never beaten her and go all out with no risk of losing her top position on the European rankings. If Bret Sutton is telling us the truth Barbara will be coming into the rave with tired arms and loads of miles in her legs. She also had to source a bike on the island and have shoes being flown in from London.
Nicole Walters from the UK will also be gunning for the podium. She suffered from a flat tyre in Malta and missed her chance to start the season on a high. Nicole always appears calm during a race but I am sure she will be on fire and determined to have her winter training pay off.
Cecilian Jessen finished 8th in Malta but was 3rd in Cyprus last year. She knows this course well and will hope to improve on her 3rd place this time round. New to XTERRA we also have Ania Tomica from Poland as well as Ksenia Chernykh from Russia who has a solid career in MTB orienteering as well as some good results in Winter triathlon.
I hope the men deliver another exciting race as they did in 2017. Roger Serrano, Maxim Chané and Victor Del Corral will be back. We might see Maxim take off again trying to put some time into Roger at the start of the bike but perhaps he will have learnt from the Spaniard and perhaps start more conservatively by riding in a group with Victor. You might think that as Maxim’s coach I might have some insight into his plans but to be honest this kid is still wild at heart and no one knows what to expect! In Malta, I felt a sense of pride when showed what he is capable of and we expect great things from him in the future. I must confess, I am still a big fan of Roger’s, despite a big crash her remained calm and collected and still managed to pull off the win. He will certainly be the man to beat this weekend. One man who might disagree with that is Victor Del Corral who finished only a few second behind Roger in Malta proving that he is not back racing XTERRA as part of an island holiday. His 2nd place in Malta will give him the confidence that he can win and with the long technical bike course, his power on the bike might help him achieve that goal.
These three athletes won’t be having it their own way by any means. Tiago Maia from Portugal suffered a mechanical in Malta. He is a very fast swimmer and will no doubt be one of the first men on the bike, a good race here will help him forget about the disaster in Malta. Anthony Pannier as a good all rounder and hope to be mixing it up with the leaders alongside Doug Hall who finished 8th in Malta. Doug has a strong winter training season behind him and I am sure he will be hunting for a place on the podium. In Malta, Clement Briere from France and Hannes Wolpert from Germany were 13th and 14th respectively and will definitely want to move into the top ten. A few others to watch out for are the young Jan Honza Kubicek, Emil Stoynev from Bulgaria and Sebastian Neef.
The newcomer in the elite field is Grigoris Souvatzoglou from Greece. He was 2nd overall amateur in Maui and finished in-front of many elites. He is a great swimmer and a strong cyclist, so i am curious to see what he is able to do here.
We all hope that the weather remains calm over the weekend allowing us to start the race with a sea swim. Last years high winds and choppy waters resulted in the race change to a duathlon as there was a real threat to the safety of the athletes. Is was such a shame as this truly is a spectacular venue. The swim consists of two loops with a short beach run in between and the athletes will be negotiating a few stairs heading into transition.
The bike course starts off along the coastline on a flat gravel track with a rocky descend. After 3kms athletes will start the long climb along a fire road to the top where they will pass the aid station. From here they will drop down into a valley along a few technical section, followed by another short climb where they might need to avoid the odd grazing goat or sheep. A fast fire road will lead them into the rock garden, the most technical part of the course. They will finish the bike with a short steep climb where they might have to dismount and push, but the run in to transition will be a fast downhill sprint. Then they get to do it all over again!
The run is fast two loop course, they will find few 2/3 graded hills but they should not upset any of the athletes. There are a few technical rocky areas where they will need to be careful when it comes to foot placement and they complete the run along the beach.
This is our most remove race in Europe, enjoy the experience, its definitely one you will remember for a long time!