Sloth Nielsen, Riou Win XTERRA Malta

Press Release / 24.10.2021
Hot riding conditions in Malta
Hot riding conditions in Malta / © XTERRA

Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen and Morgane Riou captured the seventh annual XTERRA Malta off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful morning at Majjistral Nature Reserve on Saturday, October 23, 2021.
 
It’s the eighth XTERRA World Tour win and the second straight for Riou in Malta, and the first-ever XTERRA major for Sloth Nielsen.
 
The event combined a 1.5K swim in the warm waters of Golden Bay with a three-loop, 30K mountain bike and a 10.5K trail run around the picturesque cliffs and rocky paths overlooking Ghajn Tuffieha.

The XTERRA Europe team was on-site for all the action to bring us this report…
 
Elite and age-group XTERRA Malta athletes gave it everything they had for the final race of the XTERRA European Tour this weekend, with Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) taking his first elite XTERRA win in the men’s elite category and Morgane Riou (FRA) taking the tape in the women’s elite category.
 
With the elite women and men starting together, it was female athlete Aneta Grabmullerova (CZE) that was first out of the water, closely followed by Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DNK). For Sloth Nielsen, this was the first time he had led the men’s race from the outset, acting as the perfect confidence boost and chance to control the race from the front.
 
Gaetan Vivien followed just seconds behind and looked ready to battle it out on the bike course. However, a cracked rim early on saw him drop from 2nd to 5th as he battled to fix his mechanical. In the meantime, Geert Lauryssen (BEL) was just one-minute and 20 seconds behind Sloth Nielsen (pictured) on the first lap, with Sebastien Carabin (BEL) two minutes back.
 
While they were unable to close the gap on Sloth Nielsen, it was the amazing bike performance of Carabin (pictured below) that saw him move up to second, with Lauryssen in third and Joep Staps (NLD) on the hunt in 4th. Despite his best efforts across a difficult run course, the Dutch athlete was unable to close the gap, with the top three remaining the same all the way to the finish line.

For Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, his first win had been a long time coming and he was over the moon to take the win here. He said, “It was a bit strange to go into the race as the favorite to win but I kept calm as best as I could. I had a really good swim, and it was quite strange to get out of the water as the leading man as this was a first for me.”
 
“I knew Sebastien was coming really fast on the bike as he is a really good mountain biker, so I tried not to look back too much and just focus on keeping a good pace and keep my tires safe as well. He pulled back on me, so I knew I had to speed up on the run and I took the win, so I am happy.

“This is my first XTERRA Europe win and I am happy to do it here, the XTERRA Malta guys did a really good job, and the volunteers were great and cheering so it was a really fun day.”
 
Second placed, Carabin said, “I swam quite well for my level and then I started to do my comeback on the bike as usual. Everything was good on the bike and then for the run, I was happy to find this level again as I did not run so much with my injury. I am happy!”
 
Vivien, who despite flatting said he really enjoyed the bike course, added, “The swim was good, and I could just see the guys in front just ahead. I really enjoyed the bike course, so I had a lot of fun. I wasn’t able to go with Carabin, but I came into transition in third and I was on my own on the run, so I am happy with my race.”

Rioui Wins in Hot Conditions

In the women’s race, Grabmullerova also fell mercy to a flat tire on the rocky bike course which saw her strong swim lead dissipate. With the Czech athlete unfortunately having to retire from the race, it was Solenne Billouin (FRA) that took the lead, and Morgane Riou just 50 seconds back.

At the 22km mark, Billouin (pictured) was still leading the charge on the bike, with Riou 40 seconds back and a strong Carina Wasle (AUT) just seconds behind. It was all change on the run however and with limited running due to injury, Billouin was passed by Riou and Wasle on the first lap.
 
For Wasle however, the Maltan heat started to really affect her. The Austrian athlete eventually took the smart decision to stop in order to look after herself and remain safe. This meant Billouin moved back up into second and was looking more comfortable as she settled into the run.

At the finish line, women’s elite winner, Riou (pictured) said, “I am happy to win again here in Malta, but it was a hard race psychologically as I had a bike issue yesterday and had to borrow a back wheel. It was quite difficult at the beginning, but I just tried to keep control and keep the pace. I arrive with Solenne for the run, and I knew I could run well but it is hard to run fast on this course. I am very happy to win.”

Second placed, Billouin said, “I am really happy to finish second. The run was really hard because I have not done any run training for seven weeks. On the second loop I was feeling better, so I kept focused. I wanted to finish the season with a good place, so I am glad to have done that today.”
 
Maud Golsteyn put together a solid performance to take the final spot on the podium. She said, “It was really hard, but I just loved the bike, it is such a nice course. The run was so hard, and it was really hard with all the rocks. I am happy to just finish the race and so the third place is amazing.”

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