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Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin from France captured the 26th annual XTERRA World Championship elite titles on a cool, crisp day at Lake Molveno in Trentino, Italy on Saturday, October 1, 2022.
It’s the 21st career XTERRA World Tour victory for Serrieres, the fourth for Billouin, and the first XTERRA World Championship win for both athletes, who earned €20.000 each for their respective victories.
In the men’s elite race, Franco Pesavento (ITA) led a group of five out of the 1.5km swim in the chilly and clear 16-degree water of Lake Molveno along with Keller Norland (USA), Jules Dumas (FRA), Francois Vie (POR), and Michele Bonacina (ITA).
Serrieres was 37 seconds back of the leaders in 11th position after the swim, Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) was 49 seconds behind in 19th, and Arthur Forissier (FRA) was 1:03 back in 25th place.
By the top of the first climb on the bike, however, Arthur Forissier (pictured) had worked his way past everyone to take the lead and after the first of two 16km loops he was 24-seconds ahead of Ruzafa and Serrieres.
“Today I tried to ride like Ruben,” said Forissier. “I really had a lot of fun on the bike, to have a big battle with Ruben. I’m so impressed with his riding, it was spectacular.”
Those three controlled the race the rest of the way, going back-and-forth in the treacherous, muddy conditions, but as has been a staple at each of the last nine XTERRA World Championships, Ruzafa (pictured) led off the bike and on to the 10km trail run.
“Conditions were tough, really muddy, so the downhill was good for me, I was taking time, and I ran well so a very good race for me,’ said Ruzafa. “It’s amazing to get third in a field full of the good young guys, and it’s great for Arthur, he deserves it. He’s worked really hard and I’m happy for him.”
Serrieres, the fastest runner in the sport, was just seconds behind and quickly sprinted past Forissier coming out of transition and then flew by Ruzafa 30-seconds later to take the lead all the way into the finish line. He crossed the line in 2:38:21, more than two minutes ahead of Forissier in second, and Ruzafa in third.
“It’s a very emotional win, because today I ran for two,” said Serrieres, with tears in his eyes, to the crowd gathered at the finish line. “My mom has cancer, and she couldn’t come here because she got sick, but I’m sure she is proud of me.”
Serrieres was the heavy favorite going into the race as the reigning and two-time World Triathlon Cross Champion and the reigning and three-time XTERRA European Champion. He won the Europe Triathlon Cross Championship on this course in Trentino last year, and was runner-up at XTERRA Worlds in 2019 and 2021. To win this one was the ultimate reward for many years of work.
“It’s not just a year of training, but 10 years of training hard for this moment,” he said. “This was the big dream. I’m happy now, my career is complete. I’m happy to join this circle of World Champions, and especially Nico Lebrun as the only other French XTERRA World Champion. I have to thank all my training partners, family, and friends, because this victory is for everybody. It’s extra special because it’s for my mother, and because it was the first XTERRA Worlds ever in Europe after 25 years in Maui.”
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen placed fourth, and Sebastien Carabin posted the fastest bike split of the day (1:39:10) to move from 46th out of the water to fifth at the finish line for the second straight year.
“So fun out there, but I couldn’t catch the front, they were too fast. I chased all race but they were out of reach.” said Sloth Nielsen.
“The mud made the bike really slippery so with my technique I could enjoy the conditions and come back into the race,” said Carabin. “I was always passing and catching, and caught Jens Emil just before transition. We ran the first half together, but then he took off on the flats.”
In the women’s race, Solenne Billouin had the race of her life to secure the biggest win of her career on the grandest stage in off-road triathlon.
She was fourth out of the water, jumped ahead of Amanda Presgraves and Sandra Mairhofer early on the first lap of the bike, reeled in swim leader Daisy Davies about 20 minutes into the bike, and never looked back.
“It was my strongest race ever,” said Billouin, who posted the best bike split of the day (1:59:01). “I did the bike by myself and the run by myself. It was just my day.”
Billouin crossed the line in 3:11:05, more than one-minute, 40 seconds ahead of home country favorite Sandra Mairhofer from Italy in second.
“I don’t know what to say, I thought if I made the podium it would be a very good day, and then I won it. It’s crazy, I didn’t imagine this. And I’m really happy because the prize money will help me focus on my athlete life more.”
For Mairhofer, a runner-up performance in her first attempt at the XTERRA World Championship race in her home country was a great result considering the conditions.
“I’m happy, it has been a really nice race in this wonderful place. I really wanted to be on the podium, to be in front at the finish line, but unfortunately it was not possible,” she said. “My performance was not so good today but I know I was not at my best because of a cold I had since last week, and I felt it during the race. I tried to get back on Solenne during the bike, but she was good in the technical parts and every time I was on her I had some problem with mud in the chain that stopped the wheels.”
Alizee Pateis (FRA) was strong all around to finish third.
“I had a really bad swim and then I crashed on the downhill. It’s funny because I was so confident on the bike, but my tires slipped out,” she said. “It was still fun, and I’m happy to finish third here today.”
Lesley Paterson (GBR) overcame mechanical problems on the bike with the fastest run split of the day (49:55) to finish fourth, and Marta Menditto (ITA) rounded out the top five.
“I couldn’t get my back wheel to spin because of the mud, so lots of girls passed me before I managed to get the bike going again and caught them back up,” said Paterson, a three-time XTERRA World Champion. “Fought with all I could, and felt bloody great on the run.”
Watch the live coverage replay of the race on swimbikerun.gr
The XTERRA World Championship is presented by Trentino Marketing and Dolomiti Paganella. Partners include Molveno Holiday, Andalo Vacanze, Zoggs, Vittoria, Elleerre, Pissei, Namedsport, Kolektor, One Zipper, and Paller.