Serrieres, Mairhofer win XTERRA European Championship

Press Release / 25.08.2022
Arthur Serrieres from France and Sandra Mairhofer
Arthur Serrieres from France and Sandra Mairhofer / © XTERRA

Arthur Serrieres from France and Sandra Mairhofer from Italy captured the XTERRA European Championship in conjunction with the 18th annual XTERRA Czech off-road triathlon with winning times of 2:30:16 and 2:57:39, respectively, on Saturday, August 13, 2022, in Prachatice.

For Serrieres, today’s win marks a second successful XTERRA EU title defense after winning the 2019 race in Czech and the 2021 title in Zittau, Germany. It’s his 19th career XTERRA World Tour victory, fifth this season, fourth straight in Czech, unprecedented third XTERRA European Championship race win in-a-row, and second victory in a week after taking home the XTERRA Nouvelle-Aquitaine title last Saturday.

For Mairhofer, it’s her second straight XTERRA EU Championship, and fourth XTERRA World Tour win.

In the men’s elite race Sam Osborne (NZL) posted the fastest swim time, 21:09, to lead a train of racers featuring Michele Bonacina (ITA), Franco Pesavento (ITA), and Keller Norland (USA) into the swim-to-bike transition.

Lukas Kocar (CZE) was seven seconds off the lead in fifth place, Serrieres was in ninth position 15-seconds back, Felix Forissier (FRA) was 1:14 behind in 15th, and Ruben Ruzafa 1:23 back in 20th.

“I had a really good swim today, so I could manage my efforts on the bike, and wait for the run to win,” said Serrieres.

Once on bike, the home country hero (Kocar) charged his way to the front and started pulling away from most of the field. 

About halfway through the bike Kocar had 60 seconds on a pack of four that included Serrieres, Osborne, Bonacina, and Pesavento.

Behind that group Ruzafa and Felix Forissier were reeling in riders one-by-one.

“I had a bad swim today, but rode strong and made it to the front just before the end of the bike - with the small group we could ride the technical sections quickly," said Forissier.

"Once we hit the run, I felt amazing and could push really hard all the way. I made a little gap to Ruben and thought that was it, but he came back and pushed me all the way to the end,” added Forissier.
 
Ruzafa, who was just 24-years-old when he won his first of three XTERRA World Championships back in 2008, proved he’s still the best mountain biker in XTERRA with the fastest split of the day (1:25:02).

“I felt great in the swim, above my normal level,” said Ruzafa. “I knew that the front of the race would ride the mountain bikes super fast so I pushed really hard and I rode up into 4th position by the big climb. And then I really surprised myself with the run. I don’t know if Felix was tired, but I think he was surprised that I was running so fast and I was determined to show that ‘Old Man Ruben’ is not done yet, and that I will fight everyone for a win at any race.”

Felix Forissier had the second-best bike (1:25:30) and by the bike-to-run transition he and Ruzafa had caught up to Serrieres and the three of them came into T2 together about 90-seconds behind Kocar.

As he has proven time-and-time again over the last two seasons, Serrieres is a speed demon on the run, and as expected he posted the fastest 10K time (40:52) to pull away from Ruzafa and Felix Forissier, and then blitzed past Kocar to take the tape with 1:38 to spare.

“It is my third XTERRA European title and it is so nice to do it again here in Czech,” said Serrieres. “My first big breakthrough victory was also here in Prachatice so it's special to come back and win where it all started. For me, it's proof that my altitude camp I did to prepare for this worked well so I will repeat it to be even stronger before the next big target at the World Champs in Trentino.”

Felix Forissier held off a hard-charging Ruzafa on the run to finish second, Ruzafa came in third just four-seconds later, and Kocar held on for fourth. Pesavento was impressive all day and finished four seconds ahead of Maxim Chane (FRA) in fifth position.

Mairhofer Comes Back to Win

In the women’s elite race Maria Calleja (ESP) and Amanda Felder (USA) had the fastest swims (24:45) with Loanne Duvoisin (SUI) about 30 seconds back in third.

Top contenders Alizee Paties (FRA), Solenne Billouin (FRA), and Marta Menditto (ITA) were one-minute off the swim leaders and Mairhofer was almost two minutes behind in ninth position coming out of the water.

Mairhofer made all that time back and more on the bike with the days’ best split (1:38:28) to take a one-minute lead into the run. Paties was the closest challenger at T2, about one-minute back, then Duvoisin and Billouin together, three minutes behind.

Once on the run, the 2022 World Triathlon Cross Champion was up front all by herself through the finish chute with Paties finishing nearly two minutes later in second and Duvoisin in third place.

“I know that I am one of the best but I’m not unbeatable, so I had to have a perfect race today,” said Mairhofer. “I have worked hard on my swimming, but fortunately I can rely on my biking and running. Today I had to go really hard to catch the front group on the bike, but training has gone really well and I knew that I have really good legs that can make the difference on the really hard course here in Czech.”

Paties, who was in the lead until about halfway through the bike, was thrilled with her runner-up performance.

“I didn’t expect to come second, so I am pleased with my performance,” she said. “I had a good swim near the front and by 10km on the bike I was in the front and controlling the race. Once Sandra came past at 20km(ish) I tried to follow but I decided to stick to my pace and concentrate on my own race as I know how fast she can go! I never gave up on the run, believing I could catch Sandra, and also to stay ahead of the chase group of strong women behind.”

For Duvoisin, who posted the best run split of the day (50:53) to pull away from Billouin (who placed fourth), the result is impressive considering she has been balancing training with her intense physiotherapy studies in Lausanne at the same time.

“All year I’ve been balancing my studies with my training, so I am not in the shape I need to be in order to win, but that will come,” said the 2021 World Triathlon Cross Champion. “I swam in the lead group until the last lap of the swim where I dropped back a bit, then onto the bike I followed the wheel of Alizee before Sandra caught us and the group exploded! Once onto the run it was so tough with some really tired legs, but I just hoped everyone was hurting as much as I was. I’m looking forward to the short track tomorrow. I’ve practiced a lot on the course and am looking to make up for my crash last year with a good performance!”

Marta Menditto, who had a big win at XTERRA France last month, rounded out the top five.

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