XTERRA Belgium on Saturday

World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas is in Namur for XTERRA Belgium this Saturday and has some big news on the eve of the inaugural event…

“The normal flow of the Meuse River at our swim point is 50 cubic meters of water per second. Today it was running at 350 and is expected to go up to near 400 cubic meters of water flowing per second on Saturday! The organizers, technical director Nico Lebrun and I met with the River Meuse navigation office, and we all worked hard to figure how to save the swim but conditions are simply too dangerous.  The readout used to assist the huge barges that go up and down the river from the North Sea to France showed currents were at a 30-year high.  If anyone remembers Hood River when the dam was opened by mistake; that is how fast the river is running.

We are working on a 3.4 to 4K run to start the event.  Everything will now start and finish at the very impressive XTERRA Village at the Citadel de Namur.

Who are the favorites?  No Ruzafa or Serrano but because this is the first XTERRA Belgium we have both Kris Coddens and Yeray Luxem very motivated to put their name on the winner’s trophy.  There are several other Belgian pros who will also be motivated to show well at their home event.  Standing in the way will be Francois Carloni, Sam Osborne, Brice Daubord and Arthur Forissier as the most apparent.  Nicolas Fernandez is making his first appearance of the year and there is a full field of 24 elite men to mix things up.  With a different format we could see a very unusual winners podium.

The women here are the usual protagonists with Helena Erbenova chasing Brigitta Poor.  Myriam Guillot-Boisset is not here, but Brits Diane Lee and Jessie Roberts return along with Elisabetta Curridori.  Maud Golsteyn will hope for better luck than in Portugal and steady Louise Fox is sure to gain valuable points.

Having no swim can make for strange races.  Carloni is a decent swimmer but the run is his worst segment.  Luxem and Coddens can both run very well and a run/bike/run may suit them best.  For the women, Brigitta is the best swimmer and this will hurt her early speed.

With everyone knowing the swim is cancelled this far in advance you can bet the competitors are scrambling to figure out a new strategy.

All that aside, XTERRA Belgium is still the biggest first-time XTERRA ever.  Registration closed at 1,000 entries combined between the Championship and Decouvert (discovery) races.

The city of Namur is our host.  Located in the middle of Belgium, this medieval city of over 100,000 sits at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers and is the east/west and north/south center of the Ardennes.  Because of its location, Namur was a central part of both WWI and WWII including the Battle of the Bulge.  Napoleon came and went, the Habsburgs came and went and now peace rules this grand Belgian city.

A major part of our race is the “Citadel”.  This fortress was originally built in the 900’s and was last rebuilt in the late 1600’s.  This fabulous and historical setting is where our T2 and Finish compound will be located.  The bike and run are both two loops for Championship and one for Decouvert.  The setup and work are simply incredible for a first time event.  Organizers Denis Detinne and Florian Badeaux head the team and both are experienced XTERRA racers and know what it takes to make it perfect.

The run is very hard with nearly 1,200m of elevation for the champ race.  Some short and steep climbs, some with stairs and right now - a lot of it is muddy from the rains.  The bike is also hilly with 1,500m of elevation and also quite muddy as of today.  The weather forecast is for sun and pleasant days leading up to the race, but rain is forecast for Saturday.  It is central Europe and rain can happen at any minute.  The Decovert race starts at 10am and Championship at 1pm.  The awards are scheduled for 8:30pm and after party is scheduled to go until 2am!!  If you know Denis and Florian, you know this is the truth.

We’ll bring you more info tomorrow…