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The fourth and penultimate stop of the Super League series landed in Toulouse, France, for the very first time, while the XTERRA World Championship left Hawaii for its first time, touching down in Trentino, Italy.
Taylor-Brown and Wilde unstoppable in Toulouse
Georgia Taylor-Brown and Taylor Spivey are set for an epic showdown at the Super League finale in Neom, Saudi Arabia in three weeks. They’re tied atop the season standings after Taylor-Brown made easy work of a very fast field in the south of France. Super League has had some pretty spectacular venues, but this might have been their most impressive. Taylor-Brown didn’t take time for sightseeing along the terra cotta brick-lined canals though, as she ran her way back into contention to repeat as Super League champ.
This race was the “triple mix” format, which might be my favorite because it’s weird but not too weird. The three races are ordered swim-bike-run, run-bike-swim, and bike-swim-run, with the final race using the pursuit start based on gaps from the first two. The distances were 300-meter swim, 4K bike (I think), and 1K run, with 2K on the final run. So it leaned heavy toward the stronger runners, but the race(s) can be won or lost in the many transitions.
Taylor-Brown—who I should mention races for the Scorpions—took the win on the first stage, while Spivey (a Rhino) was 21 seconds back. That’s a lot in Super League. Spivey managed to claw back eight of those seconds in race number two, but the 14-second gap was way too much to make up with the 2K run in the final race. Spivey did manage to pass Brit Sophie Coldwell to take second, which was crucial to stay even with Taylor-Brown in the series standings. Coldwell will have to battle it out for third place in the series with countrywoman Beth Potter at the finale in Saudi Arabia.
Hayden Wilde will not have any battles for the series crown, as he has a commanding, 17-point lead with one race to go. That’s an insurmountable amount in Super League. It helps that Alex Yee has only raced once. Wilde is the fearless leader of the Sharks, of which I’m the fearful leader of the fan club. Our Sharks now have a 18-point lead over the Scorpions in the team standings, and I’m 90% sure we can’t be caught.
Wilde is so committed to our team that he threw an inflatable shark across the finish to remind all the other mascots that they’re weak losers. In three weeks’ time, we’ll be popping bottles of sparkling grape juice in Saudi Arabia. (Yes, that Saudi Arabia.)
Dorian Coninx continued his strong season by running his way into second in front of a supportive French crowd. Aussie Matt Hauser climbed up to fourth at the finish after a tough start, which means the series isn’t entirely wrapped up for Wilde. A Hauser win and Wilde DNF would give the Aussie the title and would likely cost my Sharks the team title. I’m not worried. Heads down. Fins up.
A pair of French champions at XTERRA Worlds in Italy
In case you missed it, the XTERRA World Championship has left its traditional 25-year home in Maui and is going on a world tour for its world championships. The first stop was the Dolomites of Northern Italy, on a course that was all things XTERRA should be: muddy, cold, wet and miserable.
Arthur Serrieres is a name you might not know and probably can’t pronounce, but he’s the new off-road world champ and he low-key has been one of the winningest triathletes on earth over the past three years. He only races on dirt and he only wins. With a thriving off-road race circuit in Europe, he’s one of the few athletes who can make a decent living specializing only in off-road tri. He took home a 20,000 Euro check for his win in Trentino. That’s not bad for a few hours of working in the mud.
At the finish, Serrieres dedicated the win to his mother, who is battling cancer and wasn’t able to make it to the race. He hasn’t raced much outside Europe, but he was the strong favorite heading into this event after winning the European championship on the very same course last year. He was third off the bike, but took the lead barely a minute into the run and went on to win by more than two minutes.
Arthur Forissier, also from France, finished second, ahead of three-time world champion Ruben Razafa of Spain. It was a big day for French Arthurs. Serrieres is just the second Frenchman to win the XTERRA world title, joining Nico Lebrun, who won in 2005 despite falling and breaking his wrist on the run. Serrieres acknowledged Lebrun at the finish as part of what drew him to the off-road side of the sport.
Frenchwoman Solenne Billouin was a surprise winner in the women’s race, topping favorite Sandra Mairhofer of Italy by nearly two minutes after more than three hours of racing. Billouin took the lead a few miles into the bike and then was on her own for the rest of the day, admitting that she surprised even herself a bit at the finish. She alluded to perhaps spending more time on her “athlete life,” so this is clearly a part-time job. It’s good pay for three hours of a part-time gig if you can get it.
This year’s XTERRA elite tour had 15 stops in some pretty incredible places, and there are still two more races to go in Sardegna, Italy, and Tahiti. Previous stops include Greece, Portugal, Whistler, and both the Czech and Dominican Republics. It’s a true world tour, and XTERRA’s continued commitment to professional racing and live media makes professional off-road racing possible for the very talented few.