Photo by Jacvan Trihebdo
Three-time Olympian Olivier Marceau, who has been one of XTERRA’s best for 10 years now, won the XTERRA Italy Championship for the fourth time on Sunday in 2:29:14, just 27-seconds faster than German standout Ronny Dietz. In the women’s race Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet, the defending XTERRA European Tour Champion, edged four-time Euro Tour champ Renata Bucher to win the first race of the European XTERRA season.
“Kahuna Dave” Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour, was at the race and brings the report:
A perfect day. Sun, beautiful blue water, a breeze all day, temperature about 78-degrees. So perfect that all the athletes were on the line early and the race started at 9:55 a.m. rather than 10:00.
It was nearly perfect for Olivier Marceau as well. He won with 30 seconds to spare over Germany’s Ronny Dietz, but it did not start as well as he wanted. Coming out of the water just a minute behind Australia’s Ben Allen, Marceau did his usual quick transition, but ran towards Bike Out and realized he did not have his shoes on. Unbelievable as it seems, Marceau had not clipped his shoes to his pedals and totally forgot about them. This resulted in a T1 of almost a minute where his usual is about 40 seconds. So, all you age groupers, have hope, even World Champions make mistakes.
Ben Allen is an Aussie living in France and racing triathlon for his living.He came out of the water first and led the bike for almost the entire first lap. Marceau took over before the pontoon bridge and came into T2 a little over a minute ahead of Dietz and Allen. Dietz was on a mission. Ronny has raced XTERRA for years and has been German champion and Euro Tour winner a few times – today he turned in the fastest bike and the fastest run but came up 27 seconds shy of being Italian Champion. As he ran by me on the beach, Ronny shook his fist high and yelled “It was the perfect day”.
Allen was able to stay with the quick German on the run but felt his hamstring tightening. About 1K from the finish he had to pull up and do a quick self-massage and limp in to a fabulous third and his first XTERRA podium. Fourth and fifth went to Belgium with Jim Thijs posting the fifth fastest mountain bike time of the day and held off Yeray Luxem by just 22 seconds at the end. Nico Lebrun was a disappointing sixth. At the final K marker he smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said “I am dead – still sick”. He will be back and ready for Richmond in two weeks.
Marion “BuBu” Lorblanchet took the women’s crown, but it was an up and down day. Englishwoman Jacqui Slack led out of the swim and onto the bike followed by BuBu and South Africa’s Carla van Huyssteen. Carla is an interesting story, an ITU racer who loves her mountain biking, she got her first taste this spring at XTERRA South Africa with a solid third place. She decided to try the European Tour and spent “oh a lot of money” to get here. It was rewarded with a great finish. Her swim was good, her bike not fabulous but good enough to arrive into T2 in fifth place. She quickly ran the fastest women’s time of the day, first passing Jacqui Slack and then Carina Wasle, for her podium spot. She was not planning on returning for France in July but now has to look for someone to help with airfare. “France is all by itself on the schedule and I can’t afford to stay in Europe and wait until Czech and Germany” is her dilemma. This kid is for real. We will hear more of her. Somebody buy her a ticket.
Back and forth I said. BuBu was out of the water and going well until Austrian Mini Might Carina Wasle rocketed past into the lead. Carina was really quick on the first lap but began to fade a bit on the second. Swiss Miss Renata Bucher had a terrible swim – losing almost 3 minutes to Lorblanchet. “I knew I was behind but not how much” said Bucher “I went hard but thought I was OK… it felt good”. Good? She was on fire. She easily caught Slack and van Huyssteen and shortly after passed Lorblanchet. When she got by Wasle, Renata knew she had the lead but also knew that BuBu was a faster runner. “When I heard I was only 2 minutes behind on the run I thought I could catch her” the Frenchwoman said. Bucher had left it all on the bike and while finishing a solid second she lost over 4 minutes to BuBu on the dunes. In this case, the race went to the quick and steady. First Slack bombed the swim, Wasle then Bucher blazed the bike – the little South African ran the fastest, but in the end Lorblanchet had what it took to start the season where she ended it – in first place. Bucher a good second, Carla third, Jacqui Slack a nice 4th and Carina struggling and tired to fifth.
Marceau is simply “cool”. Olivier has been a model for clothes with a devilishly handsome face. He seems effortless and wears this unflappable poker face everywhere. Give him a drink or two and the eyes move and the smile comes.“Hah, I kept looking behind all day because I knew those guys were coming” said Olivier. But with experience comes knowledge; the best Grand Prix driver of all time won his last World Championship at age 46. How did he do it? “The object is to win at the slowest possible pace” said Juan Manuel Fangio. Marceau knows this as does Conrad Stoltz who is doing the same winning scenario in the U.S.
The young guns are coming, but the King’s will not go quietly in the night.
As mentioned earlier, the entire day was perfect. With a water temp just at the yes or no wetsuit level organizers made the decision early to go with wetsuits. A fabulous full field made a mass start and a two lap swim, two lap bike and two lap run. The course was ringed with over 1,000 spectators running back and forth, cheering with the great Italian “VAI VAI VAI”. At least two million photos were taken and I am happy to say not one bike or one spectator fell off any bridge. Sergio Oppo and his band of men had everything marked beautifully, marshals at all the right spots and the organization was flawless. I caught a glimpse of the Capo of XTERRA Italian Tour, Sandro Salerno, driving an ATV and smiling all day. He deserves every bit of applause as now in the fifth year in Orosei – his race ranks at the top.
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