XTERRA World Cup: Can Forissier and Billouin Hold the Lead In Greece?

Stop #2 of the World Cup in Vouliagmeni, Greece, brings two distinct challenges for the current leaders: A vastly different set of trails from the race that gave them the series lead in Taiwan, and the presence of two new contenders that will be looking to push the French pair to the absolute limit amongst a stacked field of 50 pros.

  1. How it happened at stop #1 in Taiwan
  2. What to expect at stop #2 in Greece
  3. Battles to watch in the fight for series points
  4. How to watch and follow all 7 World Cup stops
  5. Where does the series head after Greece?

How it happened at stop #1 in Taiwan

For the second year running, it was Taiwan that got the series started with its notoriously tough course in the southern beachtown of Kenting. Between the relentless heat and humidity and the sheer rawness of the unmanicured, natural trails, the small island is fast becoming known as being home to XTERRA’s toughest race. 

Yet somehow European Champion Felix Forissier and World Champion Solenne Billouin made it look easy this time as they emphatically stamped their name on the 2024 series opener. The two French athletes both pieced together a near-perfect race to begin their campaigns at the top of the leaderboard, earning them the honour of starting with the golden cap in the waters of Vouliagmen this weekend.

However, it’s not just Forissier and Billouin that leave with positive takeaways from stop #2. The series opener was once again a clear indication of just how much the needle has moved in the level of off-road tri, with those responsible for pushing the level putting together a world-class display in Taiwan.

The first of these is Denmark’s Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen. Now based in France, the 26 year old spent a large portion of his off-season working on his run, and in Taiwan it showed as he put down the fastest run split of the race to claim 2nd place. Sloth Nielsen has already earned the reputation of being the fastest man on 2 wheels, but he may now have also earned himself a place at the table in the conversation for fastest man on 2 feet. 

Alizée Paties will also be happy with her 2nd place. At the press conference and in interviews she spoke about strategically looking to peak later in the season this year. The reigning World Cup Champ had the single best season of her career in 2023, taking a place on almost every podium there was but just missing out on finishing the season with a World Championship title. It’s clear that this is the goal for 2024, so opening with a silver as she looks to build must surely count as a positive opening to her campaign.

Marta Menditto will also be a name to watch as she looks destined to be a podium regular in this series. The Italian has done more racing than any of the other top-ranked athletes this year, with her 3rd place finish in Taiwan sitting neatly between two first place finishes in South Africa and New Zealand. Lethal on the feet and extremely competitive on the bike, Menditto seems to be hitting full stride and could find herself well within the mix by the end of this series. 

But while Taiwan may have answered many of the pre-season questions, Greece will now be the true test for those at the top. It’s no secret that Europe dominates the majority of XTERRA’s top rankings, and this will be the first of 3 World Cup stops on European soil. Not only are the trails expected to be faster, but the field is set to be stacked as some of the biggest names enter the fray. 

What to expect from the course in Greece

Compared to Taiwan, Greece should deliver a much faster race with a far more favourable climate for the majority of the current top 10. 

The race begins with one of the most picturesque swims of the series, leading athletes through a 2-loop, 1.5K open water swim in the Aegean Sea. 

Through transition and onto the bike, the race then heads into a double loop 30K mountain bike ride that weaves between the forests and land areas that lie between the suburbs. Trails are expected to be dry and dusty, but with plenty of Mediterranean rock for a bit of technical spice. There are also a number of short, punchy climbs along the course that will help those with a proper gas tank to work their way to the front before the final descent back into transition.

The run will quickly separate those with gas left in the tank and those without as the 9.2K trail opens with a technical scramble directly up to the highest point in the course. Two loops in the mountain trails will present those in contention with the chance to make their move before a final 1K sprint through town to the finish.

Battles to watch in the fight for series points

In Greece we’ll get to see the top 3 men and women from stop #1 go at it again, with both Forissier brothers and Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen locked in for the men’s race and Billouin, Paties, and Menditto locked in for the women. But it’s the presence of two new names that will have long-time fans of the sport particularly excited for the second Full Distance race of the series. 

The first is 2x World Champion and current double-champ, Arthur Serrières. Easily one of the of the most dominant and exciting athletes to watch in recent times, the Frenchman will essentially be the litmus test for the rest of the men’s field this weekend. Taiwan may have answered a lot of the pre-season questions amongst the top-ranked men, but the true test of where exactly anyone stands can only come by going toe to toe with the reigning champion.

2023 © Alice Russolo

The other is Italy’s multi-sport queen, Sandra Mairhofer. The two XTERRA European Championship crowns the Italian athlete has earned sit alongside a host of medals and accolades earned both inside and outside XTERRA racing. She has been very active in the off-season, claiming her third Winter Triathlon World title in Pragelato this February, so it will be interesting to see how she stacks up against the likes of Billouin and Paties in her first XTERRA race this year. 

The margins between the top-ranked athletes are razor thin, with multiple names able to take it on the day. But come Greece, there will be some key battles at play. 

Felix Forissier vs Arthur Serrières

The European Champion vs the World Champion. Both triple-threat athletes with the ability to race up front in the water, on the bike, and on the feet. The two Frenchman have gone down to the wire in their last three meetings, with Forissier taking the win in Czech before Serrières took Germany by just 8 seconds and snatched the World Championship in Italy with only 28 seconds to spare. Expect this battle to begin in the water and last all the way to the finish.

Sloth Nielsen vs the men’s field

With the swim being the Dane’s weakest discipline, Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen’s reputation has long been defined by damage he does on the bike. In Taiwan he spoke of how he sees all the athletes in front of him like pearls on a necklace, slowly “reeling them in” one by one. In 2023 he worked his way to the front in every one of his races, and now he’s unleashed an even faster run this year. Coming off a 2nd place finish last time out, follow this man closely for a masterclass in overtaking once he leaves the water. 

Arthur Forissier vs Maxim Chané

Make no mistake, both these athletes have what it takes to win big races. They’ve proved it before and they could prove it again in Greece. But right now the two Frenchman are locked in a battle for 3rd place on the World Cup leaderboard. Both suffered campaign-ending injuries in 2023 and are looking to make this season count. With Forissier claiming the last spot on the podium in Taiwan and Chané finishing in 4th, and the two will likely have have a close eye on each other at stop #2.

Solenne Billouin vs Alizée Paties vs Sandra Mairhofer

Three of the world’s best female riders in the sport of off-road triathlon. The World Champion, the World Cup Champion, and a 2x European Champion. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the current top-ranked female athletes go to battle after Mairhofer suffered a nasty fall in Czech last year and never quite recovered to full form for the remainder of the season. The Italian seems to now be in fine form, setting up the clash we’ve all been waiting for.

Aneta Grabmüller vs Marta Menditto

This series could have a new name ready to light a fire under the core four in the female field, and that is Aneta Grabmüller. The Czech athlete had a stand-out race at stop #1, leading the race out the water and holding that lead for a large section of the ride. Her and Menditto entered into the run going elbow to elbow before Menditto dropped the hammer to claim the last spot on the podium and leave Grabmüller in 4th. The two are now set to meet again, where that 3rd place on the leaderboard could be at stake. 

How to watch and follow all 7 World Cup stops

Subscribe to the XTERRA Youtube channel for pre- and post-race videos that take you between the tape at all 7 stops of the series. Pre-race videos with course breakdowns, top contenders and everything else to know for each of the stops drop at the start of race week, with post-race highlights and analysis dropping the weeks after. 

There will also be beginning-to-end livestream coverage of 3 of the fast-paced Short Track races and the series-ending World Championship Full Distance race available to watch for free. Check the XTERRA Watch Live page for all the official World Cup livestream times and dates. 

Stop #2 in Greece will also feature a livestream of the Full Distance race, with local organisers putting together a team to take fans and spectators between the tap and into the action in Vouliagmeni. 

For official results, times, race week updates and plenty more World Cup content, check out the World Cup series page along with each of the individual stop pages. Also be sure to follow XTERRA on Instagram for additional content from the series. 

Where does the series head after Greece?

Taiwan is now in the books with Greece ready to take centre stage as the host of stop #2 in the 7-stop, 11-race series. After Greece we can look forward to the first of the double-feature stops when the fan-favourite Short Track race becomes a factor for the first time in the series. 100 points for a Full Distance win and a massive 75 points for a Short Track gold, leaving the door open for those with the ability to push hard across 2 consecutive days the chance to score big when the series heads to the USA.

Stop #3: Oak Mountain 

May 18: Full Distance

May 19: Short Track [🔴 LIVE]

Livestream start: 09:00 GMT -6

Stop #4: Belgium

Jun 8: Full Distance

Stop #5: Quebec

Jul 12: Short Track

Jul 14: Full Distance

Stop #6: Czech 

Aug 10: Full Distance

Aug 11: Short Track [🔴 LIVE]

Livestream start: 13:00 GMT +1

Stop #7: Trentino 

Sep 26: Short Track [🔴 LIVE]

Livestream start: 14:00 GMT +2

Sep 28: Full Distance [🔴 LIVE]

Livestream start: 09:45 GMT +2

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend