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Xterra France - Race Report<

XTERRA FRANCE 11th July

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I raced the third round of the Xterra European Tour at the weekend in Xonrupt on the French German Border. The area which is a ski resort in winter certainly lived up to its billing as a tough course.

I had looked at the course profile on the event website http://xterrafrance.free.fr/2010/ang/xonrupt.php but I hadn’t paid close attention to the figures of height gain. I knew it was going to be hilly (understatement!) but arrived feeling confident.

Friday morning dawned and it was time to get dressed and head out on the bike course for a practice lap….. the first climb took 40mins and then the lap undulated to the top of the 17km course where skills of a different kind were required for a blistering 4km decent back to the start of the lap. On closer inspection of the figures it turned out that the 2 lap 34km bike course in fact had nearly 4,500ft (1500m) of ascent. The run course was very similar in style with a long 300m climb followed by an undulating section through river beds and forest followed by a fast technical decent, this was also a two lap course. The swim was a single 1500m lap of the most beautiful alpine lake, only to be spoilt by the close proximity of some 500 other wetsuit clad athletes on race day.

I spent all day on Saturday trying to decide on race strategy, as with the toughness of the course an error in nutrition or going off too fast would spell disaster.

Sunday afternoon 2pm was race start, I had hydrated well the day before and it felt good to be finally on the start line. The temperature had cooled from the 37 degree heat of Saturday to a ‘pleasant’ 32. I had a steady swim and kept out of trouble on what everyone agreed was a long 1500m. Out of transition and on to the climb, I had decided to take the first lap steady and push on lap 2 as the field thinned out. There were some scary drops to the side of technical single track and so taking risks on lap 1 were pointless. Into the undulating section and a fast rocky decent, I was picking my way between riders when a French rider decided to swap from one side to the other with no warning, we tangled handle bars and over the bars I went. I jumped back on the bike with only minor scratches and bumps and tried to put it out of my mind. The downhill to the start of lap two was fantastic and incredibly fast, some sections loose and rocky and others twisting through woods and a fast steep shoot where you could really pin your ears back. By the end of the decent the fatigue had transfered to my forearms but it was now time to give the legs and lungs more abuse as it started all over again. Lap 2 was uneventful and I felt my strategy was paying off, this was to be confirmed as I started the run feeling strong. As I entered the woods for the steep climb I was confronted by people in various states of agony and cramp, I switched into mountain marathon mode and dug deep. Coming out of lap 1 on the fast decent I passed a fellow brit Brian MacPherson, he commented later that I came past him like a rocket and he felt like he was standing still. The course certainly played to my strength as a runner and I picked several more people off on the way to a sprint finish, I was on the edge of blowing all the way round lap 2 but kept pushing until I collapsed in a heap after the line.

It is certainly the hardest Xterra I have ever done and one of the toughest races ever, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I finished 15th in Age Group which adds points to my to my position in the European Standings, I am currently 9th so it should push me back up into the top 5.

Xterra Germany is next on Aug 14th so lets hope for more points there. As they say in Xterra ‘LIVE MORE!’

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