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The 2023 XTERRA World Championship will return to Italy on September 23rd for another showdown beneath the Brenta Dolomites. With the launch of the XTERRA World Cup earlier this year, the landscape of off-road triathlon has changed for the better. The new series meant pros went shoulder to shoulder more times than ever before, and the level of racing has risen significantly. The series has now come down to the wire for the men and women of off-road triathlon, who will fight for the title and the €100,000 prize purse.
The 2023 XTERRA World Championship Course
Swim – 1.5K
The swim course is “M” shaped with a start on the left side of the beach facing the lake. After a first buoy, athletes will swim back to the beach for the “Australian exit” and jump back in the water from the pontoon for the second loop. Water temperatures should be between 60 – 66 degrees F according to data from previous years, and the water itself is expected to be flat but it could be choppy in the event of windy conditions.
Bike Course – 32K
The bike course is two laps of 16K each. After a 3K flat loop around the lake on a narrow single track. The course rises for the next seven kilometers with a mix of large gravel trail and some more rocky, steeper parts, to hit the highest point of the course at the 10K mark. From there it’s all downhill until the end of the loop. The first part is quite easy with good grip and the second part is more technical with roots and rocks that can be slippery in rainy conditions, before riding through Molveno Village and getting into the wooden ramp section and spectators cheering athletes on.
Run Course – 10K
The run course starts on the shore of the lake, then follows up with a nice flowy gravel trail with gentle ups and downs for the first 1.5K. Then runners will enter the technical part of the course with single tracks featuring roots, technical ups, technical downs with some steep, and slippery parts. After a short-but-steep downhill, the end of the course will be very fast on a large fire road back to the finish.
How to watch the 2023 XTERRA World Championship Livestream
Let’s take a look at the contenders for this weekend’s racing.Section divider
2023 XTERRA World Championship: Women’s Contenders
Alizée Paties is by no means a newcomer to XTERRA, but 2023 will be remembered as her breakout year. Since winning the opening race in Taiwan she has remained unchallenged at the top of the leaderboard.
The Frenchwoman’s technical skills on the bike and speed on her feet have seen her stand on the podium eight times in nine races in the World Cup series so far, and the only time she didn’t make the podium was a short track event in Germany where she clocked a DNF after breaking her handlebars. It’s also worth noting she has made two clean sweeps – winning both the Full Distance and the Short Track events on the same weekend.
A win for Paties would be the perfect end to a career-defining season as she would also be the first double champ in history (World Champion and World Cup Champion), but she also has it all to lose as she is not out of reach in the World Cup standings and faces the stiffest competition yet in the World Championship.
The defending World Champion shocked the world last year when she was the first to run through the crowds and across the line to claim the title, but this year she proved that her 2022 win was no fluke. She may have only had a few XTERRA wins to her name at the time, but the race was just the beginning of a strong upwards trajectory for the French athlete who is now a podium regular.
Billouin holds immense power on the bike and run, and that is exactly what is needed on a course with some large climbs and the potential to get muddy if it rains. That power has driven her to six podium finishes from eight starts in the XTERRA World Cup, including a clean sweep of both the Full Distance and the Short Track events at stop number four in Czech.
Now sitting in third place in the XTERRA World Cup, the reigning World Champion is in a position to swim, bike, and run herself into becoming a two-time World Champion and the first ever Champ-Champ. The numerous battles between Billouin and Paties will undoubtedly make the highlights reel of the 2023 World Cup, and we’ll surely see the two go to war once again in Molveno.
Sandra Mairhofer was the favourite to win last year, and many will have her pegged as the favorite again this year. The multi-sport queen has won the hearts and respect of the Italians with podium finishes inside and outside of XTERRA this season, and will undoubtedly have Italy behind her when she steps up to the water of Lake Molveno.
The two-time XTERRA European Champion and 2022 World Triathlon Cross Champion has honed her skills on the bike to become arguably the biggest threat on two wheels within the women’s field, and she backs that up with speed in the water and on the run that is capable of matching any of the other top contenders.
Mairhofer got off to a slow start in the XTERRA World Cup but was largely on track to challenge for the top position in the second half of the series before a crash in Czech derailed her campaign. Since then the Italian has turned her focus to recovery and the World Championship race, where she will no doubt be up front in the leading pack.
The current XTERRA European Champion has beaten the best when it matters most, and the consistency she has shown this season will give her the confidence to do it again. Stop number three of the World Cup was seen by many as a dress rehearsal for XTERRA Worlds, given the depth of the Elite start list, yet it was the Swiss athlete who rose to the occasion to claim the title.
Duvoisin can lose time in the water, but she often more than makes up for it on the run. Multiple claims to the fastest run split would point to her being the fastest on the run in the female division, and if she can hold the wheel of those up front, it’ll be on the run course that she takes the race.
Consistent strength in the XTERRA World Cup has seen Duvoisin on the podium six times in nine starts, and she now finds herself in second place – just seven points above World Champion Solenne Billouin. Depending on how the race plays out, each of the top three – Paties, Duvoisin, and Billouin – have the opportunity to end the season as a double champ.
Marta Menditto enters the last event as another local hero and, much like Sandra Mairhofer, her current World Cup ranking can not be considered as an accurate reflection of the kind of performance the Italian is capable of delivering.
Menditto claimed the top step of the podium in her first race this season at XTERRA Oman, but despite three podium finishes in the World Cup, she has not made it to the top step. Yet consistently competitive racing sees her in fourth position in the series.
The 24-year-old is getting faster with each race and has shown that her greatest speed comes on the run. With two World Championships remaining in Italy before the pinnacle event finds its next location, Menditto will surely be motivated to find herself on the podium either this year or the next.Section divider
2023 XTERRA World Championship: Men’s Contenders
The reigning XTERRA World Champion was basically unstoppable in the 2022 season and, after a bit of a shaky start in 2023, it looks like he may be unstoppable once again.
Serrières had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season with a seventh-place finish in Taiwan and a 12th in Belgium, but he was quick to counter those mistakes by taking to the top step of the podium five times in the World Cup series – more than any other athlete – including two clean sweeps of the Short Track and Full Distance races on the same weekend.
While the gaps may be getting smaller as the competition grows stronger, he is still the undisputed fastest man on two feet. Also, Serrières’ improving swim and bike times are making it increasingly hard to create a gap ahead of the run.
The battle between Felix Forissier and Arthur Serrières will be the one to watch as the two Frenchman left World Cup fans with the ultimate cliffhanger in their final race before XTERRA Worlds. Forrisier is the stronger biker while Serrières is the stronger runner, but neither was able to drop the other on the bike or the run as the two finished the Germany Full Distance race with just seven seconds between them.
The French athlete has quietly claimed the titles of 2023 World Triathlon Cross Champion, the 2023 XTERRA European Champion, and now has his sights firmly set on the 2023 XTERRA World Title.
The 25-year-old is in second place in the XTERRA World Cup, and a win at XERRA Worlds would be enough to see him claim double-champ status. He can hold almost anyone on the bike and last time out he showed that he can keep pace with the fastest runner on the circuit.
Ruben Ruzafa has already written himself into the XTERRA history books by being the first off the bike in nine consecutive World Championship races, and there’s a high chance he’ll make it a perfect 10 this year.
The three-time XTERRA World Champion and four-time ITU Cross Tri World Champion is unarguably the best biker on the circuit and, despite being considerably older than the likes of Forissier and Serrières, he still sets the pace on the bike whenever he races.
His World Cup campaign took a turn for the worse when a broken wheel in Germany left him with a DNF and without a fourth scoring Full Distance race, but a last minute trip to Beaver Creek in the U.S. saw him race his way into fourth position and within range of becoming a double champion if he can hold the gap when he inevitably starts the run alone.
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen has established himself as a household name amongst XTERRA fans this year. Finishing fourth at last year’s XTERRA World Championship, he went on to become a podium regular in the XTERRA World Cup. He led the first half of the series through consistently good results, but without ever making it to the top step of the podium, he eventually lost that lead and now sits in fourth.
The Danish athlete ranks alongside Ruzafa as one of the best bikers in XTERRA and has shown more than once this season that he is capable of overtaking 20-plus elites to get to the front of the race. He is vocal about his weakness in the water, but you can expect him to push to the front of the race in Molveno as he looks to be the first into the run. Sloth Nielsen is getting faster on the run, and if he can head into the final 10K with enough of a gap, he could hold it to the end.
South Africa, 34
A last-minute entry, Bradley Weiss comes with a proven XTERRA track record – 0f the last three XTERRA World Championships the South African has raced, he’s won two of those and come second in the other.
Weiss is an incredibly strong biker, with his roots in cross-tri before he shifted his focus to a career in road triathlon. The two-time XTERRA World Champion and four-time IRONMAN 70.3 Champion just finished seventh in the IRONMAN World Championship after suffering a 5-minute penalty, and now looks to bring that speed to Molveno as he challenges for the XTERRA World Championship.