Nico Lebrun and Helena Erbanova captured the 11th edition of the XTERRA Czech Championship in the new host venue of Prachatice on Saturday.
It’s the second win in a row for Erbanova and the second in three races on the XTERRA European Tour for Lebrun; and the two lead the five-race circuit with two events to go, including XTERRA Germany next weekend.
Another great race in Europe, this time at the new Czech location in the medieval town of Prachatice. After a few days of on and off rain, race day came in almost perfect. Good cloud cover and mild temperatures in the low 70’s (about 23C).
The water temp was right at the wetsuit cutoff point for pros but officials made the smart decision to let everyone wear their “neoprene” as they are called here. Young Rory Downie from Scotland pushed Aussie Ben Allen all the way on the two lap swim with the Shaw brothers, Karl and Asa, just a few seconds back. For the women, usual swim winner Jacqui Slack got “pummeled” on the swim start to the point where she considered stopping – yet still managed the third fastest swim.
Out of T1 and about 2K into the bike, the old master Olivier Marceau led the field. Ben Allen was second but was being pressed hard by young German Alexander Haas and France’s winner, Asa Shaw. These two were no more than 20′ apart and stayed that way the entire hour and 39 minute bike course passing and re-passing. There was also a great battle farther back as Nico Lebrun was hammering the first relatively flat and fast first few K’s getting past Belgium Yeray Luxum and then Karl Shaw.
For the women, Jacqui had a solid lead on the field. The surprise was Holland’s Maud Golsteyn up in second followed by Carina Wasle, Czech Lenka Cibulkova with the race favorite, Helena Erbanova coming up fast in 5th. Maud has raced XTERRA for a few years and is clearly now at the sharp end of the women’s race.
The bike course goes about 12K from the swim lake to the center of town and then climbs its way back for a bigger 20+K loop. The main square of the town was totally decked out with T2, the finish arch, a huge awards tent complete with a 4 spout free beer stand and both bike and run lanes. The course features a couple very very steep climbs that were near impossible to ride in the wet conditions left over from Friday. Those steep climbs translated into some blistering fast downhills and as the lead men sped down the last long descent it was Asa Shaw leading his shadow Alex Haas by inches and the Professor Lebrun now only 20 seconds back. Olivier had faded to 4th but continued to lead Ben Allen, Karl Shaw and Yeray Luxem. From what we known for years, it looked like Nico had placed himself perfectly to capture the race on the run.
By this point on the bike, Erbanova had taken command of the race but was helped by problems for Maud Golsteyn. Maud took a heck of a fall but was able to get up and continue with about half her gears missing. Jacqui got things back in order but had been passed by Maud just before she fell. That’s right; Maud Golsteyn was leading !! Once past the fallen Dutch woman, Helena took a solid lead and Jacqui was back in second, Maud in third and Carina Wasle riding very well in 4th.
When we saw the women next, Maud was back in second and Carina was closing on Jacqui. Then the fun started. Erbanova ran a smart pace knowing she had a big lead off the bike and out on the run. Maud was solid in second but had some cramps happening and was worried. Jacqui was off the pace and quickly passed by the diminutive Austrian Wasle, who was on a tear. Carina can’t weigh 100 pounds and is all muscle and made for climbing.
Back on the men, true to what we thought, Lebrun took the lead quickly on the first run lap. Haas was surprising Shaw by staying with him pace for pace; these two had literally been together from just a K or two into the bike. Olivier was having problems but would not give in and finished a decidedly un-Marceau like 10th. Shaw finally was able to put some distance into Haas to take second. Farther back, Yeray Luxem (pronounced like the Star Wars Jedi) was running hard and passed Slovack Petr Mosny (who had a great bike segment) and was looking for Ben Allen. Ben’s hamstring was acting up and when Luxem saw this he hit the gas hard and passed the Aussie for 4th. Allen hung on for 5th and actually got some time back finishing less than 20 seconds behind. Mosny had a great 6th overall followed by Czech Jan Kubicek.
Coming home from the steep hills Erbanova cruised in with a 7 minute lead but just about 1K from the finish Maud’s cramps were worsening and Wasle, who was speeding to the fastest women’s run, passed her to take second. Jacqui came 4th and Lenka 5th.
The beer was flowing in the recovery tent along with fresh, sweet watermelon and pastries when the sky suddenly got dark. Everyone looked up and hoped the rain would either miss Prachatice or just last a few minutes. Well the rain only lasted a few minutes but after the first few drops ice cube and sometimes golf ball sized hail started pelting the town. Those runners out on the course all ended up with bruises and bumps from being hit before getting to shelter. Hundreds of cars got small dents and mirrors broken and it came down so hard and fast some pretty heavy flooding hit the town. And just as suddenly as this unexpected and quite amazing natural phenomenon happened – it went away. About 20 minutes after the first ice hit, the sun was out and the band in recovery started back up again and stranded athletes began running into the finish line.
Quite an ending to a great day of competition. Entries were way up from the past year, the town was full of XTERRA people riding and chatting and enjoying the outdoor cafes of the big square. A super weekend and to cap it off – the after party at club 111 featured some; aww I’m not going to tell stories. You’ll just have to get here next year and see for yourself.
|2012 XTERRA CZECH TOP 5|
|1||Nico Lebrun, FRA|
|2||Asa Shaw, GBR|
|3||Alexander Haas, GER|
|4||Yeray Luxem, BEL|
|5||Ben Allen, AUS|
|1||Helena Erbenova, CZE|
|2||Carina Wasle, AUT|
|3||Maud Golsteyn, NED|
|4||Jacqui Slack, GBR|
|5||Lenka Cibulkova, CZE|
Preliminary look at top 3 in XTERRA European Tour standings after three events.
|2012 XTERRA EURO TOUR STANDINGS – TOP 3|
|1||Nico Lebrun, FRA||100||82||100||282|
|2||Alexander Haas, GER||82||90||82||254|
|3||Ben Allen, AUS||90||49||69||208|
|1||Helena Erbenova, CZE||90||100||100||290|
|2||Jacqui Slack, GBR||100||82||75||257|
|3||Carina Wasle, AUT||69||75||90||234|
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA Czech Championship is one of 16 major World Tour championship events. The XTERRA Mexico Championship was also held today, with Francisco Serrano and Renata Bucher emerging victorious. Next up, XTERRA Germany in a week, then Japan, Canada, the USA Championship to conclude the America Tour, the Switzerland Championship that culminates the Euro Tour … and Maui!