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Lebrun and Slack win XTERRA Italy

Lebrun breaks Ben Allen's win streak, Slack dominates from start to finish.

Nico Lebrun and Jacqui Slack won the XTERRA Italy Championship in Sardegna on Sunday.  With the win Lebrun snaps Ben Allen’s streak of XTERRA World Tour Championship wins at four, but the Aussie still has a great race to finish second.

Alexander Haas, the overall amateur XTERRA World Champ, turned pro for 2012 and proved he belongs by placing third overall.  South Africa’s Stuart Marais in fourth and reigning XTERRA European Tour Champ Olivier Marceau in fifth.

In the women’s race Slack led from wire-to-wire to upset an incredibly strong women’s field and take her second straight win on the XTERRA World Tour series. Last month Slack won the XTERRA New Zealand Championship.  Czech Helena Erbanova, third in Maui last October, finished second more than two minutes back, with reigning Euro Tour Champ Marion Lorblanchet in third, Maud Golsteyn in fourth and the resilient Carina Wasle in fifth despite racing with a broken hand.

XTERRA South Africa Champion Carla Van Huyssteen crashed on the bike early but toughed it out, finished eighth, then went for stitches.

Dave Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour, was on-site and brings us this report

You would think that after 16 years of racing, seeing everything one could see, and knowing the athletes that I could predict the outcome of an XTERRA with a degree of accuracy.  What a great sport we have where things as unpredictable as what happened in Italy keep it fresh.

A grand, sold-out bunch of athletes were ready to start on a bright, sunny Sunday morning at 10am.  A solid elite field stood about 50-meters into the shallow surf of the Golfo Orosei with 300+ of their closest admirers on shore.

I smiled when, as predicted, Australian Ben Allen and Brit Jacqui Slack led their respective genders at mile one on the bike.  At this point the bike course crosses a tidal inlet/river.  In years past it was a tricky drop from land down to water’s edge where a 150′ floating dock was created to cross the water to meet a steep, root laden step back up to land.  This year, the drop was wide and gentle, the dock was carpeted and grippy and the ramp back up had been cleaned.  I think I could have ridden it this year.

So it was business as usual I thought.  Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet was second with Hana Kolarova third; for the men Leonardo Ballerini was second with Olivier Marceau and Gianpietro DeFavori chasing like a road time-trial team.

Nico Lebrun was more than two minutes back and actually well behind the women’s leaders and Czech Helena Erbanova was also locked into the age groupers more than two minutes back of Slack.  A bigger than ever crowd cheered all the age groupers crossing the bridge and this year, not one person rode off it into the river.  The surprises were about to happen.

Just past the bridge on the second lap, sure enough it was Allen in front but wait, just seconds behind him was rider #21, then Marceau and the red flash of Lebrun close to Marceau.  Number 21 was Alexander Haas, a neo pro from Germany, who was the consistent first age group male in 2011.  Very quick on the bike, but Haas best finish was about 8th.  What was he doing passing Marceau and challenging 4-time winner this season, Ben Allen?  Why was Lebrun, who always starts the season slowly, so far up front?  More was about to happen when Slack came by still holding a two minute lead over Bubu but now Erbanova was third, Carla van Huyssteen 4th and Carina Wasle 5th.  Why would this be a surprise?  Slack was always among the first from the swim but usually faded quickly on the mountain bike.  Clearly her winter season in Australia doing “heaps of work” on the mountain bike paid off for her and Ben Allen.  Wasle broke her hand just one week ago in Alabama at the ITU championship and was so far back out of the water I thought there was no way for her to get a result.

Back just 200m from the entrance to T2 it was not Ben Allen still leading, it was young Alexander Haas.  Nico was close and later laughed “I am riding really fast and I see this man in front in a black suit.  I cannot pass him!! We are passing everybody in front and I say Who Is This Person?”  Reminds us of Butch Cassidy when the South American Posse kept following them “Who Are These Guys”?

Lebrun admitted after he figured out who it was, but Haas, being new, did not have his name on his butt and it took a while for the ex-world champion to realize who it was.  Farther back Stuart Marais, with a great second place behind Conrad Stoltz in South Africa, was storming through the field as was an unexpected #18 all in white.  A young French pro Francisco Carloni, another past age group XTERRA World Champ, was also hounding Marceau.  We have some very fast young males in the European field and Haas and Carloni will need to be considered.

Haas was sent after his great ride and Nico and Ben Allen quickly passed him.  “I knew Nico was a great runner but my run has been great” said Allen.  “I knew Allen was a fast runner so I went out very hard to keep away” responded Lebrun.  Back after the top 3 Marceau was feeling a tendon injury received just a week before and slowed near the end of the bike and chilled going out on the run.  Marais, who put in the fastest run of the day, was moving up and passed Carloni to get up into 4th at the end of the first run lap.  Marceau began feeling a bit stronger and caught Carloni about 1K to the end.  Allen was catching Lebrun but “The Professor” knows how to race and he kept going fast enough to win by just under one minute.  Haas found some extra power on the second run lap and kept his third though most of the press at the start of the second lap were figuring the South African would catch him.  The top four were Lebrun with a beautifully crafted win, Allen second, a fabulous performance from Haas in third, Marais 4th— in his first foray into Europe, and the reigning XTERRA European Tour Champion Olivier Marceau and his young protégé from St. Rafael, 5th and 6th side by side.
Pos    Fname    Lname    Country    Total    Swim    Bike    Run
1    Nicolas    Lebrun    FRA    02:23:21    00:18:39    01:24:55    00:38:12
2    Ben    Allen    AUS    02:24:19    00:16:27    01:29:06    00:37:17
3    Alexander    Haas    GER    02:26:10    00:17:49    01:25:31    00:41:09
4    Stuart    Marais    RSA    02:26:50    00:17:45    01:29:48    00:37:02
5    Olivier    Marceau    SUI    02:29:33    00:16:27    01:31:07    00:40:06
6    Francois    Carloni    FRA    02:29:33    00:18:09    01:27:24    00:41:58
7    Gianpietro    De Faveri    ITA    02:30:01    00:16:34    01:31:56    00:39:57
8    Fabio    Guidelli    ITA    02:34:20    00:16:26    01:36:40    00:39:29
9    Tomas    Kubek    ITA    02:34:27    00:18:25    01:33:22    00:40:43
10    Antonello    Pallotta    ITA    02:35:28    00:19:32    01:34:05    00:39:41

For the women?  Jacqui Slack simply never slacked off (pun intended).  She led Erbanova out of the water by two minutes and while Erbanova was quicker on the bike and run it was by seconds, and she never challenged the Englishwoman.  Poor Carla van Huyssteen, after winning South Africa and a brilliant 3rd in the ITU championships had a bad endo.  “I was coming down a steep bit and for some reason my hand just slipped off the handlebar – after that I was flying” she reported later.  Some harsh bruising on her shoulder and back and a brace on her wrist and hand but she thinks she escaped any serious damage.  Bubu’s left foot, still not recovered, was packed in ice after she took a very gutsy 3rd place.  Fourth was Holland’s Maud Golsteyn with a solid swim/bike/run and 5th in another brave performance was Carina Wasle; hand in a cast and all.

Gianpietro DeFaveri and Sara Tavecchio won the Italian Championships and the always fantastic buffet and afterparty/awards went far into the night.  Stay tuned for an announcement on next year’s XTERRA Italy Championship date and place and be ready to make plans to experience XTERRA Sardinian style.
Pos    Fname    Lname    Country    Total    Swim    Bike    Run
1    Jacqui    Slack    GBR    02:45:46    00:17:57    01:42:46    00:42:52
2    Helena    Erbenová    CZE    02:47:55    00:20:28    01:42:35    00:42:27
3    Marion    Lorblanchet    FRA    02:51:40    00:18:08    01:47:29    00:43:54
4    Maud    Golsteyn    NED    02:53:02    00:20:19    01:48:30    00:42:08
5    Carina    Wasle    AUT    02:54:07    00:20:25    01:47:21    00:43:26
6    Renata    Bucher    SUI    02:57:16    00:22:28    01:41:27    00:51:30
7    Brigitta    Poòr    HUN    02:59:23    00:20:07    01:49:57    00:47:07
8    Carla    Van Huyssteen    RSA    03:00:35    00:18:09    01:55:24    00:44:50
9    Sara    Tavecchio    ITA    03:08:00    00:20:36    01:55:24    00:49:35
10    Silvia    Riccò    ITA    03:13:40    00:20:02    02:07:08    00:43:49

Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA Italy Championship was the sixth XTERRA World Tour Championship and first XTERRA European Tour race of the season offering pro prize money and quaifying spots to amateurs into the XTERRA World Championship.  A sold-out XTERRA France is up next on July 8 in Gerardmer.

Feb 26    XTERRA South Africa Championship, Grabouw, Western Cape
Mar 10    XTERRA Guam Championship, Piti
Mar 18    XTERRA Philippines Championship, Cebu
Mar 24    XTERRA Saipan Championship, Northern Marianas
Apr 14    XTERRA New Zealand Championship, Rotorua
May 27    XTERRA Italy Championship*, Orosei, Sardinia
July 8    XTERRA France Championship*, Xonrupt, Gerardmer
July 15    XTERRA Brazil Championship, Manaus, Amazon
Aug 4    XTERRA Czech Championship*, Prachatice, South Bohemia
Aug 4    XTERRA Mexico Championship, Tapalpa, Jalisco
Aug 11    XTERRA Germany Championship*, Zittau
Aug 25    XTERRA Japan Championship, Marunuma
Sept 2    XTERRA Canada Championship, Canmore,  A.B.
Sept 8    XTERRA Switzerland*, Prangins
Sept 16    XTERRA Venezuela, Villa Caribe
Sept 22    XTERRA USA Championship, Ogden/Snowbasin, UT
Oct 28    XTERRA World Championship, Maui