The launch of the XTERRA World Cup has changed the landscape of off-road triathlon in its opening year. With the pros going shoulder to shoulder more times than ever before, the level of racing has risen significantly. The series has now come down to the wire for 7 athletes who will fight to become the first ever double champion at the most contested XTERRA World Championship in history.
A World Cup and World Championship Double-Feature Event
In the heart of the Brenta Dolomites in Molveno, Italy, the stage is set for a showdown like no other. As XTERRA gears up for its 27th annual World Championship Off-Road Triathlon, the implications have never been higher, and the anticipation is palpable.
The 2023 XTERRA World Championship holds far more weight than ever before as it coincides with the culmination of the inaugural XTERRA World Cup – a series designed to put the best against the best in a condensed circuit of 12 races. In the 10 races so far the series has delivered as promised, igniting fierce rivalries and battles that will spill over onto the trails of Trentino as the series comes down to the wire in the final two races set for September 21 and 23.
With razor thin margins on the World Cup leaderboard, 7 athletes are within reach of becoming the first ever double-champion in XTERRA history by winning the World Cup title and the World Championship title in the same year, and each of these 7 have reason to be picked as the favorite. Arthur Serrières is the defending World Champion and has seen the top of the podium more times than any other in the World Cup. Felix Forissier is now Serrières’ closest rival and, after winning the European Championship, seems poised to take his turn as the World Champ. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen has been on the podium more times than any other male athlete, but will want that top step more than any other as it is the only place on the podium to elude him so far, while Ruben Ruzafa is still the undisputed best biker on a course that favours strong riders.
As for the 3 women in reach of double champ status, Alizée Paties has the most podium finishes out of any athlete in the World Cup and a win at the World Championship would be the perfect finish, but she’ll have to first get past the European Champion Loanne Duvousin, who sits in 2nd pace in the World Cup, and the reigning XTERRA World Champion Solenne Billouin, who sits in 3rd.
But what makes the 2023 XTERRA World Championship even more interesting is that the favourite to win may even lie outside of these 7. Many will have the hometown hero, Sandra Mairhofer, pegged as the favourite after the season she has had outside of XTERRA and after just missing out on the title this time last year. For the men, the addition of 2x XTERRA World Champion, Bradley Weiss, will have sent a wave of concern through the elite mens’ field.
While we wait to see who will take the biggest title of them all, the one thing that cannot be argued is that this was the year where the level of racing in off-road tri was raised significantly – and that will be on full display this weekend in Molveno.
Top Contenders to Win the 2023 XTERRA World Championship
Top Female Contenders
If the XTERRA World Cup has shown anything, it’s the unprecedented rise in competition within the women’s field and that every single one of the top ranked athletes in the series has what it takes to get onto the top step of the podium come September 23.
The majority of the top half of the female leaderboard has gone shoulder to shoulder in no less than 10 races so far in the series, yet still it has come down to the wire as the final stop plays out at the 2023 XTERRA World Championship.
Alizée Paties ????????
Alizée Paties is by no means a newcomer to XTERRA but 2023 will be remembered as her breakout year. Her decision to become a full-time pro athlete for the second time in her career was timed perfectly with the launch of the XTERRA World Cup, and 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 the feet have seen her stand on the podium 8 times in 9 races in the World Cup series so far, with the only time she didn’t make the podium being the Short Track race in Germany where she clocked a DNF after breaking her handlebars. It’s also worth noting she has made 2 clean sweeps – winning both the Full Distance and the Short Track on the same weekend – in the 5 stops she has raced in the series.
“My preparation for the Worlds started in July and I’ve done good work. I’m confident and relaxed but it’s a race where you have to be at 100%.”
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 Champions and World Cup Champion), but she also has it all to lose as she is not out of reach in the World Cup and faces the stiffest competition yet in the World Championship.
Solenne Billouin ????????
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 feet, 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 6 podium finished from 8 starts in the XTERRA World Cup, including a clean sweep of both the Full Distance and the Short Track at Stop #4 in Czech.
Now sitting in 3rd place in the XTERRA World Cup, the reigning World Champion is in a position to swim, bike, and run herself into becoming a 2x 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 ????????
Sandra Mairhofer was the favourite to win last year, and many will have her pegged as the favourite again this year. The multi-sport queen has won the hearts and respect of the Italian Nation with podium finishes inside and outside of XTERRA this season, and will undoubtedly have the nation behind her when she steps up to the water of Lake Molveno.
The 2x XTERRA European Champion and 2022 World Triathlon Cross Champion has honed her skills on the bike to become arguably the biggest threat on 2 wheels within the women’s field, and backs that up with speed in the water and on the feet 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.
“After my crash I had some weeks off from training to heal properly and prevent future injuries. But I will give my everything to show up and race hard at Worlds.”
Loanne Duvoisin ????????
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 #3 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 feet 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 6 times in 9 starts, and she now finds herself in 2nd place – just 7 points above World Champion Solenne Billouin. Depending on how the race plays out, each of the top 3 – Paties, Duvoisin, and Billouin – have the opportunity to end the season as a double champ.
Marta Menditto ????????
Marta Menditto enters as the second local hero in the top contenders 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. She is a fighter till the end and will have the crowd behind her every step of the way.
Menditto claimed the top step of the podium in her first race this season at XTERRA Oman, but despite 3 podium finishes in the World Cup, she has not made it to the top step. Yet consistently competitive racing sees her in 4th position in the series.
“I will not change a lot about my preparation from last year: a lot of sleep, good Italian food, some little efforts to keep the body ready, and then full gas!”
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.
Top Male Contenders
The men’s division has become increasingly fierce this season, with no room left for error anywhere on the course as the margins in all 3 disciplines grow slimmer.
There is not much that divides the XTERRA purists on the World Cup leaderboard, but their fight for those crucial points that will make the difference has just been made a lot more interesting as a big name from the on-road world has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2023 XTERRA World Championship.
Arthur Serrières ????????
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. One of the most driven athletes to ever compete in XTERRA, the Frenchman will start in Molveno knowing that he has what it takes to repeat what he did this time last year.
“I did 2 altitude training camps, 6 weeks before Czech and Germany and just over 2 weeks directly after. I am quite happy about the work I did up there.”
Serrières had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season with a 7th 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 5 times in the World Cup – more than any other athlete – including 2 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 the feet. His closest competitors are well aware that without a significant lead going into the run, he will hunt them down. The worrying part, however, is that Serrières’ improving swim and bike times are making it increasingly hard to create a gap ahead of the run.
Felix Forissier ????????
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 7 seconds between them.
There was a lot of speculation at the beginning of the season that this would be the year of Felix Forissier, and so far that speculation is proving to be true. 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 2nd 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. There is a new race for Fastest Frenchman in town, and it’s bound to deliver fireworks.
Ruben Ruzafa ????????
Ruben Ruzafa has already written himself into the XTERRA history books by being the first off the bike in 9 consecutive World Championship races, and there’s a high chance he’ll make it a perfect 10 this year.
The 3x XTERRA World Champion and 4x 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 4th scoring Full Distance race, but a last minute trip to Beaver Creek in the USA saw him race his way into 4th 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 4th 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 4th position.
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+ 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.
Sloth Nielsen is measured in his approach to training and racing, and there is a feeling that once he starts to find himself at the top of the podium, it may be the start of many, many more to come.
Bradley Weiss ????????
A last minute entry that will no doubt send a ripple of worry through each of the male top contenders.
Bradley Weiss enters as the second of the big on-road athletes to contest for the biggest prize in off-road tri, but unlike Lagerstrom, Weiss comes with a proven XTERRA track record. Of the last 3 XTERRA World Championships the South African has raced, he’s won 2 of those and come 2nd 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 2x XTERRA World Champion and 4x IRONMAN 70.3 Champion just finished 7th 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.
It’s hard to know what form the South African athlete will be in when it comes to off-road, but the showdown between Weiss, Serrières, and Forissier is a frighteningly exciting thought.
A New Level of Champions for the Age Group Race
The picturesque setting of Trentino, Italy, serves as the backdrop where Lake Molveno’s crystal blue waters sets up the battleground for 750 off-road triathletes hailing from 56 countries. From the remote corners of Zimbabwe and Aruba to the formidable French delegation of 144 athletes, the global landscape of participants displays XTERRA’s diversity and ever-expanding community.
This championship stands out as 22 of the 28 reigning champions, both in elite and age group categories, return with their eyes set on defending their titles. The elite field comprises 105 professionals, of which 69 make up the male division with 39 in the female division, including the reigning champions Arthur Serrières and Solenne Billouin, both hungry for back-to-back victories.
A significant wave of newcomers, totaling 372 athletes, including 111 women and 261 men, will be diving into the 2023 XTERRA World Championship experience for the first time, introducing fresh dynamics to the race. Amid this fresh inflow, the sport’s veterans continue to inspire. Six seasoned warriors proudly stand in the elite 20+ XTERRA Worlds club. Legends like Josiah Middaugh, marking his 22nd appearance, and Lorenn Walker, racing at the age of 71, are embodiments of dedication. G L Brown, at a sprightly 80, gears up for his 24th race, while Cliff Millemann and Jay Heller edge closer to a remarkable 25 championship races.
Yet, Steve Fisher’s journey from Hawaii to Molveno remains unparalleled. Starting with XTERRA in its initial ‘Aquaterra’ phase in 1996, Fisher has been a consistent presence at every single World Championship. Despite facing recent challenges, including the harrowing Maui fires, Fisher’s resilience remains unwavering. This year, he will build on his record of 27 XTERRA World Championship appearances.
The introduction of new qualifying races has not only broadened the participant base but has also elevated the global calibre of racing, with an additional 13 countries represented in this year’s World Championship over the previous year.
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 16°C to 19°C 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 2 laps of 16K each. After a 3K flat loop around the lake on a narrow single track, the course rises for the next seven kilometres with a mix of large gravel trail and some more rocky, steeper parts, sometimes with rocks, to hit the highest point of the course at the 10K mark. It’s all downhill from there 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 field of play with wooden ramps and all the spectators cheering athletes on.
Run Course – 10K
The run course starts on the shore of the lake, then follows up with a nice gravel flowy 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.
Watch XTERRA World Championship Short Track Race Live
The final Short Track race of the XTERRA World Cup will play out on September 21 and will be livestreamed direct from between the tape in Molveno on the XTERRA Watch Live page.
The made-for-TV format will see 30 of the top men and women go head-to-head on the shortened course in a fight for World Cup points.
The fast-format race includes a 0.4K swim, 8K bike and a 3K sprint to the finish and is over in under 40 minutes.
The 11th race of the World Cup brings with it an interesting twist as both series leaders, Arthur Serrières and Alizée Paties, have an interesting choice to make as both athletes already have the maximum points they can take in the Short Track format. It’s therefore a simple choice: race slow and save energy, or go full gas and take the points that would otherwise go to those in close contention for the World Cup win.
Thursday promises an adrenaline-charged spectacle with the Short Track Race. The women’s race is first with the men starting exactly one hour after. This 40-minute blitz is a whirlwind of speed, strategy, and sheer willpower. Mark your calendars for 2pm local time (GMT +2hrs, Paris: 2pm, Tokyo: 9pm, New York: 8am) – it’s a race that promises to leave you on the edge of your seat.
Where to Watch the 2023 XTERRA World Championship
The 2023 XTERRA World Championship is set to be broadcasted live, unfiltered, and absolutely free, exclusively on xterraplanet.com via the XTERRA Live page. In these times, where the digital realm is teeming with imposters, we urge our dedicated fans and spectators to prioritize safety by tuning in only through our verified channels.
Stay in the loop with real-time updates and riveting behind-the-scenes stories, all available on XTERRA IG. Plus, get instant access to live timing links to ensure you don’t miss a beat.
On Saturday, prepare for the ultimate Off-Road Triathlon battle. The Full Distance Race, the climax of the XTERRA season, kicks off at 10am local time (GMT +2hrs, Paris: 10am, Tokyo: 5pm, New York: 4am). And for those age group athletes with dreams of global dominance, their quest for the World Championship title begins at 11:15am local time (GMT +2hrs, Paris: 11:15am, Tokyo: 6:15pm, New York: 5:15am). The stage is set, the stakes are high, and the world will be watching.