XTERRA Portugal Championship on Saturday

The second of 12 stops on the 2015 XTERRA European Tour is taking racers into the heart of Portugal, a small village in the middle of the country named Golega.

The 2nd annual XTERRA Portugal Championship race on Saturday has a strong elite contingent, with 37 pros including the reigning XTERRA World Champion Ruben Ruzafa for the men and the reigning XTERRA European Tour Champion in the women’s field.

Other big names include Francois Carloni (FRA), Yeray Luxem (BEL), Asa Shaw (GBR), Octavio Vicente, Malta champion Nico Fernandez (FRA), Roger Serrano (ESP), Tahiti Champion Brice Daubord (FRA), Tomas Kubek (CZE), Bor Woestenborghs (NED), Fabien Combaluzier (FRA), Lars van der Eerden (NED), Jan Pyott (SUI), Llewllyn Holmes (GBR), Albert Soley (ESP), Henry Sleight (GBR), and Tim Van Daele (BEL).

Other notable elite women include Helena Erbenova (CZE), Maud Golsteyn (NED), Louise Fox (GBR), Carina Wasle (AUT), Malta winner Brigitta Poor (HUN), Jessica Roberts (GBR), and Sofia Brites.

More than 800 participants will take part in the short and long course tris over the weekend, which includes a huge kids race.

Nico Lebrun, XTERRA’s European Tour technical director, is on-site in Golega to bring us this pre-race report…

“Golega is about 60 miles from Lisboa, the nation’s capital. While only around 4,000 people live here, it’s famous for its horses. They call it the capital of horses, and all signs on the street have horses.

It’s mostly flat around, and they grow a lot of veggies, like corn, onions, oranges, almonds…

The organizer Jaime Rosa and his family are passionate, and do an amazing job as everybody who has raced here can tell you. Jaime painted hundreds of little stones to sign the bike race, work that he started doing over the winter! They created lots of new trails, cut grass, branches, and the whole town is supporting them.

Paul Charbonnier at XTERRA France started the idea of a great wooden ramp for spectators to enjoy on the bike course and Jaime thought it was a nice ideas so he made one too!

Another special touch is the bike racks, which are all made with wooden sticks. It’s wonderful and “green” and takes lots of work to fix all of that, especially for 500 kids racing in the Sunday triathlon. It’s work he does for the future XTERRA athletes, Rosa said.

The host hotel at Lusitano is a beautifull place! When I arrived I put my running shoes on and took to the run course for a loop. The run is flat, yes, but not always fast. There are some tricky spots where you have to almost crawl on the ground to go under trees, and you will have to put your feet in the river, maybe on muddy part due to the plant watering. The best part will be at the 5km mark when you will be in single track with orange trees on both sides. Just grab one, some are dry but I found a perfect one. This is truly the freshest XTERRA aid station ever.

Now I will tell you about the bike course. It starts in the village, on a very nice little cobble street, then through the Church Piazza. It’s completely flat for maybe 5km and they put signs every KM with the distance in miles too! Like in most of XTERRA you have the standard Blue for Bike signs, and in the forest Jaime and his team painted hundreds of little stones in Yellow this year. They also created lots of single track to make the race 95% rideable! They have done so much work from last year, digging and cutting trees, painting stones and putting signs. They must have worked hundreds of hours. I’m proud to be part of this XTERRA Family, where people like Jaime and his team are so passionate, and put so much energy to offer athletes a perfect MTB loop. 38km with 750m of climbing, you will suffer, and hope you are ready, because you will have to fight with your bike up and down. You will get some flat parts to recover, and again… the average athlete will have to push maybe 10 times, but not long 30″ to 2′ like I did this morning! I really need to train more again, Alexandra is right, I’m soft! And finally there is some really fun single down, maybe a little bit scary for people who are not full-on mountain bikers, but walking is okay too. At 25km the climbing ends and heads into some flat grass where you’ll need a lot of energy. It will be hot on Sunday, so hydration will be important. It’s a dry place, so drink lots of water. And at the very end of the bike through town riders jump on the ramp for fun and then it’s done and on to the run.

As for the elite race, on the women’s side we will start the euro tour battle, Brigita Poor who won Malta, will have to fight harder this time because the ITU cross world champ Kathrin Mueller is back. Helena is here too, and with already a lot of race and some big ones in adventure racing in China, she was really disappointed with her performance in Malaysia and I think she wants to show that she is not only doing canoe, orienteering, but still a competitive XTERRA athlete. Carina is really strong this year, and consistent. Also Louise Fox, and from the Organicoach side Morgane Riou who just claimed the tittle of Cross triathlon French champion. She wants to see her level in front of the best Euro XTERRA Girls.

On the men’s side, the king is here, Ruben Ruzafa, who has never failed to win since Ogden 2013! Is he already at 100%? Can Nicolas Fernandez, who won Malta with a big gap on the bike, beat him? That will be interesting. Carloni who was second here last year will be confident, he likes the race and has great memories and energy. Yeray Luxem was also strong here last year then had a flat. He liked the place and the people here too, and for sure he wants to fight hard. Roger Serrano was second in Malta, and this young guy wants to win, and he has the potential. Also Asa Shaw, after a really hard season last year, just won a race in Corsica, so we’ll see.

I will be there, yelling at all those guys, telling them “lucky you I retire ;)”

It’s good to dream a little bit…