Asa Shaw and Helena Erbanova won the XTERRA Germany Championship in Zittau on Saturday. It’s the third straight win on the XTERRA European Tour for Erbanova. It’s the second Euro Tour win for Shaw, who is now even with Nico Lebrun heading into the finale at XTERRA Switzerland in September.
What a surprising day, conjuring up some famous American cliches like “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings; don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched. And don’t say who finished where; until they get to the finish line.
I was no more than half a K away from the finish as I wrote down how the race was ending, but had some big surprises when I looked at the official results.. more on this as we go with the story.
3am on race morning it was raining hard. At 8:30am race morning it started sprinkling again. We all thought it was going to be a cold, muddy, wet race. But the weather Gods came through and with a bit of wind and the sun coming out by 10am we had almost perfect conditions. Lots of complaints about no wetsuits early on, but the water was 22 degrees C and the rules are the rules. Because the air temp had risen by 10 degrees since we arrived, there were no big problems with the swim.
No surprise on the swim with Aussie Ben Allen, Scot Rory Downie and the Shaw brothers leading quickly. There was a twist in the women’s swim with ITU racer Kathrin Muller leading by over a minute on Jacqui Slack. At the top of the highest climb the first surprise was not that Alex Haas had the lead, but some guy, #268 was second about 10m behind. I looked on my elite start list and he was not listed. Who was this guy? 3rd was Asa Shaw followed closely by Sebastian Kienle, Olivier Marceau, Karl Shaw with Nico Lebrun and Yeray Luxem side by side. We did not see Richard Ussher only to find out he had a crash on the first downhill and was out. “I was right behind Nico starting the downhill. He went around a corner and was gone! I went a little wide and hit a small stump and down I went”. Ussher got a bad cut, down to the bone, from his chain, but as a tough Kiwi, he had it taped up and one leg rode his bike down the hill to get medical help.
So who is 268? Turns out it was Marvin Gruget. Just 20 years old but already an XTERRA World Champ in the 15-19 age group. And his position was no mistake. He was up front as a 20-24 age grouper.
The next surprise was that Kathrin Muller still had the lead by 1:30 over Helena Erbanova. South Africa’s Carla van Huyssteen was just 30 seconds farther back and Jacqui Slack right with her. Maud Golsteyn and Carina Wasle were farther back but riding well.
As the riders negotiated the super technical rock garden downhill young Gruget had the lead all by himself. Asa Shaw and German favorite Alexander Haas were together again as they did in Czech – it is clear these two guys have very equal riding skills. Now up to fourth was Lebrun and not far behind young Frenchman Francois Carloni and then Czech Jan Kubicek, Yeray Luxem and Karl Shaw. Kubicek was riding really well and Karl was showing his mtb skills were rising steeply.
For the women suddenly it was Carla first, Jacqui and then Erbanova in 3rd followed by Maud and Muller and Carina. Very unexpected.
Now the story goes full circle. I am in the forest above the lake about half a K from the finish. Asa Shaw is smiling big and running easy. Nico comes by over 2 minutes later asking how far behind he is. About 20 seconds later comes Gruget solid in 3rd and Haas in 4th. Then coming on fast is Karl Shaw running really hard, no smiles here – with Jan Kubicek about 5 feet behind, a great sprint to the finish. But what I never found out until later is Shaw and Kubicek, who were putting in the two fastest runs of the day, passed both Haas and then Gruget about 300m from the finish! Amazing. 5th and 6th suddenly were 3rd and 4th. These 4 guys finished within 37 seconds of each other. Like I said “It ain’t over till it’s over”.
Carloni nearly made the pass on Haas and was chased to the line by Yeray Luxem and Sebastien Kienle. Those three were within 15 seconds of each other. Fast and furious at the finish line.
Back where I was, Helena looked tired but was leading by half a minute over Carla, who was only slightly ahead of Jacqui Slack and then came Kathrin Muller and Maud Golsteyn. But again, what happened where I was, had little to do with the final results. I said it was a bit of a surprise to see Carla and Jacqui ahead of Erbanova at the last downhill. Both of those women are race winners and very fast, but Erbanova is simply a step ahead this season. What happened to get them up front was not a happy item.
After the race Nico told me he had gotten off course taking Yeray and Sebastian with him. An arrow had come loose (probably during the storm the night before) and was pointing straight when the course went right. Nico realized it quickly and turned around and got back on course. But by the time Carla and Jacqui got there the arrow had fallen off and they went straight ahead. They did get back on course but the route they took was not the race trail and put them at the front. We all hate it when these things happen, but it resulted in those women being DQ’d moving Muller to second, Maud to 3rd, Carina Wasle to 4th and Czech Hana Kolarova to 5th.
A lot of surprises at the end of a great day of racing. The Erdinger beer man was pouring them two at a time about 40′ from the finish, heaps of recovery food and two great announcers doing everything in German, Czech and English. Later that evening a hot salsa/latino band took the awards stage and the place was still rocking well after midnight.
The final European race is not until Sept 8 so everyone has a bit of time to recover from these back-to-back events. For the men it could not be tighter. When we toss out 1 event both Asa Shaw and Nico Lebrun have two wins and a second. For the women, poor Jacqui gets a 0 and now Maud and Carina are well within striking distance and only one point apart to challenge for second.
Switzerland is a very different course from what we have seen this season. Far more flat with a very fast run. Karl Shaw is now getting on par with his brother Asa and will Team Shaw gang up on Lebrun? Swiss will be a favorable course for our Brit Jacqui but Maud is from the Netherlands where the highest mountain is about 20′ high and she can power on the flats. It will be interesting for sure.
XTERRA GERMANY CHAMPIONSHIP – 2012 ELITE RESULTS
1 Asa Shaw FRA 02:28:54
2 Nicolas Lebrun FRA 02:31:45
3 Karl Shaw FRA 02:32:14
4 Jan Kubicek CZE 02:32:18
5 Alexander Haas GER 02:32:51
1 Helena Erbenová CZE 02:51:43
2 Kathrin Müller GER 02:54:37
3 Maud Golsteyn NED 02:54:41
4 Carina Wasle AUT 03:01:50
5 Hana Kolarova CZE 03:07:28