Ruben RampWeb

The 10th edition of XTERRA France takes place this Sunday, July 3, in the beautiful Vosges mountains of Xonrupt.  The sixth stop on the XTERRA European Tour is an important gold-scoring event, boasts one of the most difficult courses on the World Tour, has more than 60 of the best off-roaders in the world racing, and it is once again sold-out.

“The Charbonnier family are the key to the success of XTERRA France,” said Nicolas Lebrun, a three-time winner of the event who now serves as the technical director for the European Tour.  “They have with the triathlon of Gerardmer one of the oldest races in France, and a very professional crew with all the structure to be really the best set up in the tour.”

Lebrun last won XTERRA France in 2013, then Ruben Ruzafa took over with victories the last two years.

“It’s a big race and with the big screen showing all the live action, two pro announcers, and lots and lots of spectators it feels really special to win here in France,” added Lebrun.

XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas is also in France to take in all the action and brings us this report from around the field on Thursday…

The buildup for Europe’s biggest event is well underway.  The always fabulous « le monster » wood track is about half finished, the Canyon bridge is done, the ramp for Saturdays eliminator start is done and the best part – the pallets of beer have arrived.  Tomorrow things start happening as registration opens at 14:00 (2pm).  At 10am Nico Lebrun will lead an investigation ride of the very tough mountain bike course.  Lebrun will also compete in the Eliminator head to head competition on Saturday with some extreme bikers.

Francois Carloni is here for his home race, Nicolas Fernandez and Yeray Luxem are also back in action.  They all will have to go through the Spanish duo of Ruben Ruzafa and Roger Serrano who have dominated the men’s races to date.  Kris Coddens has a win and a second in the last two races and has been riding and running very fast.  Never count out South African Bradley Weiss.  Brad did not have a good race in Switzerland nor did Ben Allen.  Look to both of them to get it right here in France.  Sam Osborne has been knocking on the door all season but has had a string of bad luck.  Sam « Bam » can never be counted out.  Some great competition is coming from Germany with Veit Honle having his best race ever last week in Switzerland, the fastest swimmer Jens Roth always contends and an old friend in Felix Schumann returns to XTERRA.  This is their home race and besides the always fast Carloni, Arthur Forissier and Arthur Serrieres and Damien Guillemet are legitimate podium contenders.

For the women we have two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson here.  She will provide some very tough competition for current leader Helena Erbenova who is recovering from an injury that kept her out of Switzerland, France’s home hope Myriam Guillot-Boisset, the “Swiss-Miss” Renata Bucher, Britain’s Jacqui Slack, Austrian Carina Wasle, Hungarian points leader Brigitta Poor, and a host of other fast women (Find the full start list on their homepage at xterra-france.com).

Make no mistake – France is the toughest race around.  It usually rains, the hills are long and steep going up and coming down.  It is two laps and that means the fast pros are lapping the age groupers and it can cause problems.  Asa Shaw had a bad accident when forced off the trail by a back-marker a few years ago and is only now recovering.  The run is also steep and has its muddy, off-camber and narrow sections.  You can expect a few thousand spectators all over the hills and at the start line that features « the monster » and lots of music.

There are two great kids races (with some 500 kids!), lots of food, dozens of vendors and the always popular beer tent.  Now if the weather will only cooperate.  Here in the north in the beautiful Vosges mountains one can never be certain.

Follow along in the days to coming and during the race (which starts at 1:30pm in France) at https://www.facebook.com/xterraeurope.

All-Time XTERRA France Elite Winners
Year Men’s Champ Women’s Champ
2006 Cedric Fleureton Renata Bucher
2008 Nicolas Lebrun Renata Bucher
2008 Nicolas Lebrun Renata Bucher
2010 Nicolas Lebrun Marion Lorblanchet
2011 Victor Del Corral Renata Bucher
2012 Asa Shaw Helena Erbenova
2013 Nicolas Lebrun Helena Erbenova
2014 Ruben Ruzafa Kathrin Mueller
2015 Ruben Ruzafa Kathrin Mueller


XTERRA Beaver Creek, scheduled for July 16 in Avon, Colorado, has always had a way of luring legendary road triathletes onto the dirt.

Remember 2013 when Flora Duffy took to the trails for the first time?  She finished 7th that year and swore she’d never do another.  Lucky for us she did, and look at her now, literally, on top of the world with the ITU Cross Tri World Title, the last two XTERRA World Titles, and the No. 1 ranking in the WTS under her feet.

Could there be something to the challenge against Mother Nature that brings out the best in athletes?

Superstar couple Greg and Laura Bennett are about to find out.

“This will be our first XTERRA, so our expectations are low,” said Greg, one of the most decorated triathletes of all-time.  “We got on our mountain bikes (the first-time ever for Laura) and 28 years ago for me, back in November. We’ve had a ball, and are enjoying the process. We feel like newbies starting a brand new sport… so much to learn… can’t wait!”

Laura, a two-time Olympian, said “I am having thoughts of intimidation. Not only because I know I won’t be as prepared as I would like to be but because I feel like race brain will take over and I will be riskier than my skill level, & I would really not like to get hurt ;)”

“We only just tried mountain biking for the first time last fall, and fell in love with it!  I like the dynamics of it (more on the uphill skill challenges than the all-out downs of just letting go).  You are getting a great workout in, while staying entertained the whole time.  I will always keep in touch with my running and swimming, so having XTERRA if we want to do some racing is brilliant!  I really wish I would have tried it sooner in my career, when I was younger, fitter, and had less development of my frontal lobe!”

The Bennett’s will have plenty of fans and familiar faces from around Boulder joining them on the start line in a few weeks with the likes of three-time XTERRA World Champion Julie Dibens and American Ironman great Ben Hoffman.

“Excited to make my annual appearance at the XTERRA Beaver Creek Championship in a few weeks and see where I stack up against some of the best athletes on the circuit,” said Hoffman, who finished second last year behind Middaugh.

“This year should be even more interesting as plenty of the on-road guys are having a crack at the high-altitude course in the Colorado mountains, including a big crew from Boulder (AJ Baucco, Sam Long, Rodrigo Acevedo, Leon Griffin, among others). Last year was the closest I’ve come to Josiah on his home course, and it will be fun to do battle again and see if I can take down the current world champion. He’s on the top of his game right now, and always shows up ready in Beaver Creek, so it won’t be easy. »

Indeed Beaver Creek is never easy, although Middaugh has made it look pretty easy while winning the last three years on the course here he helped to design.  This year, the 37-year-old father of three enters the race as the reigning XTERRA World Champion, a title he chased for 15 years ever since he moved to Colorado.

« I was in Maui last year for Josiah’s big win, and it’s great to see an American bring it home after so many years without a title,” said Hoffman (noting Michael Tobin was the last American to win Worlds back in 2000).  “He’d been right there so many times, and it’s really cool to see the perseverance pay off. XTERRA is truly a global sport now, and to have the trophy back in the U.S. is definitely special. »




Beginning in my undergraduate studies, the physiological responses to training and racing at altitude have always fascinated me. In June of 2000 my wife and I moved to Vail, Colorado for for the summer to experience it first hand. That summer I also jumped in my first XTERRA in Keystone, with the swim above 9000 ft and the bike course peaking out above 11,000 ft. Since then I have seen the Mountain Championship won by both altitude dwellers and nonaltitude dwellers. Mountain courses are fitness courses and I concluded early on that the fittest athletes tend to do well at sea level, altitude and everything in between. Let’s take a look at what the research says, but no need to over-analyze.

Then I will offer some practical advice that everyone can benefit from especially for those arriving from lower elevations. The exercise physiology world took interest in altitude just prior to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, an event contested at about 7,350 feet above sea level. Coincidentally, the swim for the Beaver Creek XTERRA is at almost the exact same elevation. By scientific standards this is still considered a moderate altitude. Many of the studies since the 1968 Olympics focused on training at altitude as a method to improve sea level performance, but we want to examine what
happens when the race is held at altitude.

Because the partial pressure of oxygen is lower at higher altitudes, output in any endurance event relying on sustained oxygen uptake will be lower compared to sea level, even for those who live at altitude. Adaptation to altitude makes up for a percentage of this difference but not all, and adaptation occurs in three stages, acute, sub-acute, and chronic. Acute adaptation occurs during the first 72 hours, chronic adaptation can take 3 weeks or more. Sub-acute is the period between 72 hours and 3+ weeks.

Think of altitude as an additional stress on the body, especially during the acute phase. To make up for the lack of oxygen, heart rate and ventilation rate go up and the body temporarily dehydrates itself. Below are some strategies for racing at altitude

1. Give yourself 4 days or more, or arrive just before the event. The negative effects of altitude exposure typically peak around day 3 and then start to get better from there. One strategy is to give yourself some time to get through the acute phase and start to make some of the altitude adaptations. During the first 3 days, take it easy since there is already additional stress on the body. Six days or more would be even better since you will start to make some longer lasting adaptations.

The other strategy is to arrive just before the event within 24 hours. This can be a little riskier since you have the stress of travel to deal with, but the theory is that you race before the negative effects of altitude exposure have time to manifest. I have seen this work with experienced athletes and it helps to know what to expect. If you can learn to pace for the altitude race and deal with the higher breathing rates then it can be an effective strategy.

2. Stay hydrated. During your initial days at higher altitude, your body tries to compensate for less red blood cells by lowering your blood plasma. Additionally, it is very dry at high altitudes so there is more insensible water loss just from breathing. Coupled with the higher respiration rates, you can lose larger amounts of water even without exercising.

3. Pace yourself. This is probably the most important advice. For an altitude race there is a much higher price to pay for going into oxygen debt early in the race. In the swim try to settle into your pace earlier than normal and breathe often. Since the bike course starts with a 5 mile climb with plenty of passing room, there is no need to peg the first 3 minutes. Again, try to settle in early and consider the entirety of the race. Your goal is your highest average pace for the entire event, not just the first mile. You may feel like there is a governor set on how hard you can push. Continue to assess your breathing compared to your perceived effort. You may find you are breathing harder than normal, but you actually feel ok and can sustain the faster
ventilation rate.

4. Arrive fit, but rested. As I mentioned earlier, the fittest athletes at sea level tend to be the fittest athletes at altitude and everything in between. If, however, you arrive in a deep hole of fatigue, then hammer your first day at altitude, it might be more of a setback.

5. Train for the climbs. You may not be able to simulate the altitude, but maybe you can simulate some of the climbing. Seek out the hills for your longer workouts and key sessions. Become a climber. Hills workouts can be a good boost to your VO2 max. Also keep in mind that climbing performance on the bike and run inversely correlate with body weight, so try not to carry anything extra up those climbs.

6. Pay closer attention to your raceday nutrition. Racing at altitude relies more on carbohydrate, especially during the acute and sub-acute phases of adaptation. Make sure to consistently fuel and hydrate. The big climbing courses like Beaver Creek, Ogden, and Maui, are energetically very demanding courses and require nailing the nutrition. Plan your nutrition strategy just like you plan your transitions or your race strategy and go over it before the race.

So there you go, now nobody has an excuse to avoid an altitude race. The course in Beaver Creek shares the most similarities with the XTERRA USA Championship in Ogden both in its course profile and the environment so it is the best preparation you can do.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA World Champion, and he dances for good causes!   He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro (drinking the pickle juice) also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at www.middaughcoaching.com


Five-time XTERRA World Champion Lorenn Walker mixed a little work with pleasure (if you can call it that) when she took on the inaugural XTERRA Belgium in Namur a few weeks ago.

The 64-year-young, 16x  finisher of XTERRA Worlds had quite a memorable experience, and shares her story with us here…

“Bravo Madame! Bravo Madame!” spectators yell enthusiastically to me during Belgium’s first XTERRA June 11, 2016 as I finish climbing a steep dirt path and complete the first lap of the bike course.

Along with these lovely people is Dave Nicholas (aka Kahuna), who’s yelling: “Come on old lady, get your butt going!”

I laugh and throw him my sunglasses, asking: “Can you hold these for me?”

I’ve known and appreciated Dave since the 1990s when he directed the Wahine Windsurfing contests at Diamond Head on O’ahu.

Read the rest



The half-hour broadcast of the 2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race will be shown in prime time on Australia and New Zealand’s ESPN at 7pm Sydney and Brisbane time (6:30pm in Adelaide/Darwin, 5pm in Perth and 9pm in Auckland) July 5.

There will be repeat airings July 9 at 7pm and July 10 at 3pm – all Sydney time.

Tune in to see some great racing action featuring the sport’s biggest stars as they swim, ride, and run all around Callala Beach at Jervis Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

Be Sociable, Share!