XTERRA European Tour News

There’s a New Sheriff In Town

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The first XTERRA in Carinthia is now history and there is a new name at the top of the pro women’s list. Anna Baylis-Scheiderbauer is the name, but you may recognize her as the Aussie pro cyclist Anna Baylis who represented Oz at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and at the duathlon world champs. What some do not know is her first sport was triathlon and she was a wiz as a junior. Well, you will certainly hear her name again before this season is done.

For the men it was not good news as Nico Lebrun is showing superb form and played cat and mouse with the rest of the field winning easily by nearly 5 minutes.

The biggest story must be Robert Latschen and the Klopeinersee team he has put together. Superb organization, a beautifully designed course all in a setting that simply begs for you to visit. Klopeinersee is in the very south of Austria. Klagenfurt is just 30 minutes away and it is an easy drive from Salzburg, Graz or Vienna. A complete holiday village, Klopeinersee is the 3rd biggest tourist town in the whole nation. And it deserves the popularity. Hotels range from deluxe to pensions, dozens of restaurants to choose from and quiet parts of town to counter several great night spots. Combine this with the warmest lake in Europe and the Alps dominating the horizon and it simply is terrific.

But back to the race. A very strong entry from a dozen countries took a water start in the see (German for lake) in the middle of town. German athlete Felix Schumann chased Denmark champ Ronnie Dietz and Franck Borgia (France) on a 500m (1/2 kilometer) uphill run to transition. Sybille Matter gained a solid 5 minutes on her two main competitors Baylis and Austrian Carina Wasle. Championship leader Eszter Erdelyi had a strong swim behind Matter, but was not feeling well and withdrew after the first bike lap. Newcomer Baylis and Wasle, who was on her home course, were flying on the bike and Baylis came into T2 ahead, having made up 7 minutes. Poor Carina still is not back to fitness after working and not training for 10 weeks and she gave her all on the bike. Sybille and Carina were close on the run after the first lap, but the Swiss had too much left and finished in a comfortable second place.

What does this portend for the final two races of the season? We know Eszter is very fast and a 2 time winner. We know Sybille is always a danger and once the petite Wasle gets her power back she is a proven winner. Now we have a 4th woman in Baylis and we are still waiting for Brit Julie Dibens who will be back in XTERRA in Wales. If all 5 women show up in Great Britain it will be one great race.

Lebrun may be the smartest athlete in XTERRA. Nico knows his body and what is available to him on any given day. He also knows his competition and knows how and when to show his strength. Nico put out enough to catch Borgia and Schumann on the first lap making up the 2 minutes he gave on the swim. In the process, he caught and passed Austrian Martin Zois. Martin lives in Carinthia and decided he was feeling strong enough to get on Nico’s wheel and stay with him. After the race a very disappointed Zois said it was a big mistake and totally drained him. The same was also said from young Schumann, fresh from winning the German federation championship and from Frenchman Borgia. Starting the first big climb on the 2nd lap, Nico decided it was time to go. Borgia and Schumann responded with Borgia dropping back early knowing he was outclassed on this day. Schumann, who is fast but young, forced it to stay with Lebrun and paid the price. “I was destroyed and could not stay with him… after that I had nothing left”. Schumann finished 6th but learned an important lesson from the master. The great story had to be Czech Jan Kubicek. Kubicek has shown signs of potential over the past few seasons, but hard luck has always seemed to follow him. Flat tires, broken bits and pieces have stopped good races for him. But today was his day for a career best 2nd place. A decent swim and a double 4th fastest bike and run put him past Borgia (4th) , Sam Gardner (GB-5th) who posted the fastest bike of the day and Ronnie Dietz who podiumed with a fine 3rd and now leads the Euro points.

The season has two races left in Germany and Wales with tight battles all over the board. But without doubt the star of this weekend has to be Carinthia and Klopeinersee and the new Austrian XTERRA team. Now we have another “must do” on the Euro schedule. Oh, and did I mention the very very tasty and very cold Austrian bier? Or the two great live performance concerts? Well now I did.