A thunderstorm rolled into Spindleruv Mlyn and never let up but neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet could stop Franky Batelier and Renata Bucher from winning Saturday’s XTERRA Czech Championship.
“I have only one word to say about today (Saturday),” said Batelier, winner of three of four XTERRA European Tour races this season and 7-of-8 dating back to last year. “MUD!”
While Mother Nature let her presence be known it was perhaps the swim-to-bike transition that made all the difference in today’s race. Batelier clocked a 12:51 swim split, second only to Mikko Vastaranta of Finland, and zipped in and out of transition in 31 seconds. Eventual runner-up Felix Schumann was just 11 seconds back out of the water but took 30 seconds longer than Batelier to get out on the bike, and in the end finished second by just 36 seconds.
“It wasn’t so much the transition but the downhill on the bike where Batelier won this race,” said Schumann (pictured on the bike). “He was so fast, so fearless on the very steep, slippery downhill that I could only watch in amazement.”
“The XTERRA bike course mirrored the UCI World Cup downhill course for about 80% of the last mile,” explained XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas. “Fortunately the mountain operations crew allowed us to take out the radical 5′ high jumps and ramps near the end but still, the steepness and rocky corners are very different from what XTERRA riders are used to.”
Relative newcomer to XTERRA Ian Leitch of Great Britain took advantage of the technical sections to turn in the fastest bike split of the day in 1:33:32, and was able to not only erase a two minute deficit on the swim, but caught and passed 2005 XTERRA World Champ Nico Lebrun on the bike and held on off one of the world’s best trail runners in the final leg to finish an impressive third overall.
Lebrun, who won back-to-back races at XTERRA France and the XTERRA Mountain Championship in Colorado last month, said he just didn’t have it on the bike today. Karel Zadak was the fastest Czech racer and 5th overall.
In the women’s race another terrific duel ensued between 4-time XTERRA European Tour Champ Renata Bucher and rising French star Marion Lorblanchet (who defeated Bucher at XTERRA France last month).
“Lorblanchet led for quite a while on the bike before Bucher got her on the steep, rocky climb during lap 2 when Marion fell and got her chain off the sprocket,” said XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.
Indeed, the bike is where Bucher was at her best, posting a women’s best 1:48:27 (second-best was Emma Ruth Smith at 1:54:36). The blazing fast bike split was enough to erase a three-minute deficit coming out of the water, and her consistently quick run split put her at the finish line in 2:47:18, more than four minutes ahead of Lorblanchet.
Emma Ruth Smith from Great Britain posted her best result as an XTERRA Pro in third, with Myriam Guillot having the best run to place fourth in front of Austria’s Carina Wasle.
Top 5 Pro Men
1. Franky Batelier (FRA) 2:20:57
2. Felix Schumann (GER) 2:21:33
3. Ian Leitch (GBR) 2:22:27
4. Nico Lebrun (FRA) 2:22:37
5. Karel Zadak (CZE) 2:23:39
Top 5 Pro Women
1. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:47:18
2. Marion Lorblanchet (FRA) 2:51:24
3. Emma Ruth Smith (GBR) 2:54:40
4. Myriam Guillot (FRA) 2:58:42
5. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:06:28