This Sunday, the XTERRA European Tour finds itself in the most southern and eastern part of Europe on the ancient island of Cyprus for the inaugural XTERRA Cyprus off-road triathlon. It’s the second of 15 stops on this year’s tour and promises to provide an experience like no other for the XTERRA Tribe.
“Our event is in the Paphos district,” explained XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas. “Coastal Paphos is famed for its archaeological sites relating to the cult of Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs, and mosaic-tiled villas.”
A dozen of XTERRA’s best off-roaders will be in Cyprus to welcome the new venue, led by the reigning XTERRA Poland Champion Yeray Luxem for the men and the reigning XTERRA European Tour women’s champion Brigitta Poor for the women.
Both will have plenty of competition. For Luxem, it’s Francois Carloni, Hannes Wolpert, Thomas Kerner, Stephan Radeck, Sebastian Neef, Julian Buffe, and Oivind Bjerkseth. For Poor, its Morgane Riou, Daz Parker, and Cecilia Jessen.
“There is no doubt Brigitta is the favorite,” said Nico Lebrun, XTERRA European Tour director. “She was in perfect shape in Malta and able to beat the very strong Helena Erbenova. Her main opponent in Cyprus will be Morgane Riou, who was twice on the podium at XTERRA Argentina and Chile and was 5th last year on the Euro Tour. Morgane has improved a lot and this is a good test for her shape in front of the last year Euro Tour winner.”
Cecilia Jessen was 8th at XTERRA Malta and will likely go toe-to-toe for the podium with Daz Parker, who works as a stunt woman when she’s not racing.
“On the men side, I think we will see a battle between Luxem and Carloni,” said Lebrun. “Carloni was strong in Malta and I bet he will finish the bike leading the race, but he will need more than two-minutes on Luxem to stay in the front and capture his second XTERRA title after Greece in 2015. Luxem, after winning his first major in Poland last year, should be more relaxed and motivated.”
For a place on the podium, Lebrun bets on Wolpert, and says Kerner should also be in good shape, “according to what he was posting on Facebook during the winter J.”
Julien Buffe, who already raced twice on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour, will likely be the first man out of the water and if he has a good day, could find himself in the top five.
Norwegian Oivind Bjerkseth, who was 10th at XTERRA Malta, and Stephane Radeck, 13th in Malta, can move up high in the XTERRA European Tour rankings with a good race in Cyprus.
“As we are still at the start of the season and there are 13 races to follow, certainly things will change in the standings,” said Lebrun. “However, with this year’s new theme “Every Race Counts” every point matters for these racers.”