Arthur Serrieres and Alizee Paties from France won the men’s and women’s elite races at XTERRA Oak Mountain, the second stop on the XTERRA World Cup, on a beautiful day in Shelby County, Alabama on Saturday, May 20, 2023.
It’s the 22nd career XTERRA World Tour victory for Serrieres, his first this season, and the sixth big win for Paties, who is now 2-for-2 in the World Cup following her win at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship last month in Taiwan.
Both will be back in action tomorrow at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Short track race, which will be streamed live on xterraplanet.com, starting at 3pm local time (4pm EST).
In the men’s elite race, Eric Lagerstrom (USA) blitzed the swim in 19:43, nearly 30 seconds ahead of the “Shark” Michele Bonacina (ITA) and the speedy Sam Osborne (NZL).
Edmond Roy (CAN) and Keller Norland (USA) were one-minute behind the lead, Elliot Bach (USA) and Arthur Serrieres (FRA) were 1:20 back. Other contenders were further off the pace, with Sullivan Middaugh (USA) two minutes back, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) 2:30 behind, Josiah Middaugh (USA) 3:40 back, and Sebastien Carabin (BEL) 5:30 back in 19th position.
Once on the bike, Lagertsrom (pictured) was rolling, not only keeping the gap but pulling away in the first half of the ride. At the bottom of Jekyll n’ Hyde about 25K into the 32K bike course he still had a minute on the chase pack that featured Osborne and Serrieres, with the Middaugh’s (Sullivan and Josiah) not far back. Xavier Plouffe (CAN) was up there too, but suffered a flat that took him out of contention.
It wasn’t until about 3K before the bike-to-run transition that Osborne and Serrieres caught up to Lagerstrom, and the trio went wheel-to-wheel speeding through the forested single track like a centipede on the prowl before reaching T2 together.
One-kilometer into the run they were still in a bunch and the foot race was on. Roughly 3K in, Serrieres made his move. Lagerstrom went with him, but Osborne fell back.
“Arthur just kind of ever so slowly opened up a gap, and I was close, but it was one of the situations where I could go after him and risk blowing up and end up finishing sixth, or just hang in there,” said Lagerstrom, who made a big statement today with his runner-up performance.
Serrieres once again did what he does best by posting the fastest run of the day (36:45) to take the tape in 2:25:30, with Lagerstrom in second place 38-seconds back.
“Eric was really strong, I didn’t expect him to be at this level,” said Serrieres. “I ran really fast today and he stayed with me for a long time, it was a great battle. I just managed to do what I had to do to win the race.”
With the win, his first since capturing the XTERRA World Championship in Italy last year, Serrieres moves into the second spot in the XTERRA World Cup standings.
“Good to be back on the winning track after a couple of tough races in Taiwan and Ibiza,” he said. “With everyone focusing on the World Cup the level is really high so it’s a good victory, and great to get some big points and get some confidence back. Now, I look forward to the European Championships in Belgium and taking on all the European guys over there in what will be another tough race.”
For Lagersrom, the performance paints a pretty good picture of what he can do against XTERRA’s best, and has him looking forward to more off-road triathlon in the future.
“I really love it, I mean it’s type 2 fun to a degree, you have to be focused the whole time. Today I was a little surprised to be up front for that long, because I didn’t feel like I was going crazy or anything, and they were still not coming on the bike. I was expecting Josiah to come rolling with the whole field up the long fire road climb because he crushes those dual climbs. But I always felt that if I’m having a good day and could hold a gap out of the water long enough, I could be more relaxed going out on the run, and that’s what happened today. It was one of those race days you hope for, the dream scenario.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s XTERRA Short Track race, Lagerstrom teased, “I don’t know, I was the super sprint national champ in 2015, so there’s a little bit of pop in there somewhere. Guess we’ll see…”
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN) finished just 16-seconds behind Lagerstrom in third, and with the third-place points he took the lead in the XTERRA World Cup standings.
“Was a tough day, had a lot of work to do after the swim but was able to almost bridge the gap to the front group going into the run,” said Sloth Nielsen. “The run was super fast, and was really close, we could see each other and it was a bit scary to run out there. Felt like short track racing all the way through because of the single track. I’m happy with the third, there’s more to come.”
And just 15 seconds later in fourth place was Josiah Middaugh, having posted the second-best bike time in 1:24:55 (just 16-seconds slower than Sebastien Carabin from Belgium) and the second-fastest run split, which was only 12-seconds slower than Serrieres’ time.
“Really happy with my day, the body showed up, and I didn’t have any major problems,” said Middaugh, who was out of the water in 18th position. “I actually felt great in the water, but I ended up losing the group and swam by myself out there. On the bike it’s pretty tight that first six miles, a little tricky getting through people. People were pretty tightly spaced, so I was just moving through one person at a time.”
Middaugh got into T2 in eighth, and powered his way through the field to finish in fourth.
“I caught up to Edmond Roy (CAN) at the end of the bike, then got by Sully, and Michele, and I was trying to catch up to Jens. Got within five seconds with 2K to go but he turned on the jets to catch Sam for third, and I was able to follow him and get by Sam, but I couldn’t reel in Jens.”
Osborne was solid all day to round out the top five, coming in just 22-seconds behind Middaugh.
“It was an exciting race, and after what I felt was a below par year last year I was happy to be back at the front being a player this time round,” said Osborne. “I hit the trails and hoped to close the gap down quick but Eric was riding really well and it took a long time to close it to seven seconds 3/4 of the way up the climb. Wasn’t until the last section of trail I took it up to close the gap down and come off the bike neck & neck with Eric & Arthur. I tried to take it out hard and make it a tough one but after 2k Arthur hit the front and split us. I hit 8.5-9k and was starting to get wobbly, lost 3rd place with Jens & Josiah rolling through me which hurt. Frustrated I couldn’t close it out for the podium but it was a step in the right direction.”
TOP 10 ELITE MEN
Place – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – Arthur Serrieres, FRA (2:25:30)
2 – Eric Lagerstrom, USA (2:26:08)
3 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, DEN (2:26:24)
4 – Josiah Middaugh, USA (2:26:39)
5 – Sam Osborne, NZL (2:27:04)
6 – Sebastien Carabin, BEL (2:29:20)
7 – Michele Bonacina, ITA (2:30:13)
8 – Francisco Serrano, MEX (2:30:31)
9 – Sullivan Middaugh, USA (2:30:59)
10 – Edmond Roy, CAN (2:31:14)
In the women’s elite race, Samantha Kingsford (NZL) led out of the water in 23:07 with Suzie Snyder (USA) six seconds back and then Solenne Billouin (FRA), Paties, Jessie Koltz (USA), Marta Menditto (ITA), and Lizzie Orchard (NZL) all together about 40 seconds off the front.
“I had a good swim, and got into the first part of the trails first which is nice because you can ride at your pace and take your own lines, but once we hit the first road section the Euro train (Alizee and Solenne) came through Suzie and myself,” said Kingsford. “These girls are riding well at the moment, and are definitely setting the bar for ride strength!”
The race soon turned into another Alizee-Solenne bike battle up front, just like in Taiwan, until the reigning XTERRA World Champion (Billouin) suffered a mechanical breakdown in the rock garden section about 20K into the bike which took her out of contention.
“Solenne got a flat, then I managed alone from there and had three minutes at T2, so I was able to do the run in my own space,” said Paties. “It was difficult with the heat, and the run is flat so you have to push all the time, but it was a great day. And the bike here is so fun and amazing.”
At the finish line, Paties, who spent her younger years dancing in the cabaret, performed a traditional French Cancan after crossing the line with a winning time of 2:47:18.
“It was for Bob,” she laughed, explaining how Bob Babbitt had encouraged her to show off her dance skills at the finish line during an interview earlier in the week. “It’s my favorite dance from the Moulin Rouge, a very big cabaret in France.”
Behind Paties, Snyder and Kingsford were pushing each other on the bike.
“We rode the whole bike together, taking turns in the lead which was really good as it kept us both on the gas the whole ride,” said Kingsford. “After blood rock we came through Solenne who had a mechanical, and ultimately me and Suzie came into T2 together. This run may not seem like there’s a lot of climbing to it, but it definitely takes a lot out of you. Unfortunately, my run fitness showed and I was overtaken by Marta with like 1K to go so I came home 3rd.”
Menditto had the run of the day, a 44:08 split that was a minute faster than Paties, to move into second on the day and second in the World Cup standings.
“I came off the bike in 5th and I was dead, but on the run I tried to push and believe in myself,” said Menditto. “I caught Lizzie, then Suzie, then was happy with third, and 1K to the finish I saw Samantha and was able to catch her too. It was amazing. I’m really happy to move all the way up to 2nd with the points, because I didn’t know what to expect. Today gave me a lot of confidence, I showed that I can be good on the swim and the run, now I just have to work on my bike.”
Lizzie Orchard turned in a strong run to finish fourth, and Snyder battled through some breathing issues to round out the top five.
TOP 10 ELITE WOMEN
Place – Name, NAT (Time)
1 – Alizee Paties, FRA (2:47:18)
2 – Marta Menditto, ITA (2:52:58)
3 – Samantha Kingsford, NZL (2:53:21)
4 – Lizzie Orchard, NZL (2:55:19)
5 – Suzie Snyder, USA (2:58:41)
6 – Lisa Becharas, USA (2:59:23)
7 – Loanne Duvoisin, SUI (3:00:24)
8 – Katie Button, CAN (3:06:08)
9 – Carolyne Guay, CAN (3:08:41)
10 – Jessie Koltz, USA (3:20:42)
Elite Women’s Complete Results
SLOTH NIELSEN, PATIES LEAD XTERRA WORLD CUP AFTER 2
After two of 12 events on the 2023 XTERRA World Cup, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen and Alizee Paties sit atop the leaderboard heading into tomorrow’s XTERRA Short Track showdown.
Serrieres made a big move to jump from seventh to second position on the men’s side, while Menditto did the same in the women’s chase.
Find updated standings here, and hit refresh after Sunday’s XTERRA Short Track race for the latest.