The long-awaited return of XTERRA triathlon to the shores of the UK not only has the off-road community chomping at the bit, but also the roadies too as some of the biggest players in on-road tri throw their hat in the ring for the inaugural XTERRA Weston Park.
It’s been 8 long years since the XTERRA triathlon flag last flew in the UK and for the multisport athlete community, that has felt like 8 years too long. But the wait ends this weekend on May 13th as XTERRA Weston Park stamps itself into the history books and gives the athletes what they’ve been asking for - a signature XTERRA racing experience through the 1000 acres of rocks, roots, and glorious dirt that surrounds the centuries-old Weston Park House.
It’s a race that combines the rich history of England, the adventurous spirit of XTERRA, and unmistakable friendliness of the off-road community. Over 500 athletes have already put their names on the list to be a part of the first-ever XTERRA Weston Park, setting the stage for grand return to UK soil.
The pinnacle race of the weekend will be the full-distance triathlon, a 1.5K lake swim, a 27K bike through the custom-design bike course, and an 11K run that winds through the historic grounds of Weston Park. There will also be a sprint triathlon for the short distance specialists and those new to the sport, as well as a duathlon.
With stop #2 of the XTERRA World Cup just a week away, many of the top ranked athletes will not be on the starting line at Weston Park, leaving the race wide open for up-and-coming elites and the many wild cards on the start list. And if ever there were a few wild cards to make things interesting, this is it. Multiple big names in on-road tri have stepped up to go against experienced XTERRA racers, creating an epic off-road vs on-road storyline within the race.
“I’m going to say [the strategy is] a steady, controlled and well paced effort. But I’ll probably just go for it.” - Alistair Brownlee
In the UK, names don’t come much bigger (or faster) than that of 2 x Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee of Yorkshire. Brownlee is one of Britain's fastest male triathletes, and while his extensive list of credentials are mainly on-road, he is also no stranger to off-road having grown up competing in fell races and mixing up gravel racing alongside his long-distance racing. How he stacks up against some of XTERRA’s most experienced athletes will be a show in itself. His toughest competitor will for sure be the lightning fast #7 ranked XTERRA Elite, Maxim Chane. The Frenchman is in incredible form and will no doubt still be hurting from an ill-timed puncture in his World Cup debut race, so expect him to be going full-gas from start to finish - the only way he knows.
Speaking on going up against one of the UK’s best, Chane said, "I can't wait to race one of the biggest names in triathlon. We all know his capacity on swim bike run, he lives in the UK so he knows those conditions, too. The only question is about his mtb skills."
For Brownlee, the plan vs reality might be two different things. “I’m going to say [the strategy is] a steady, controlled and well paced effort. But I’ll probably just go for it.”
Other newcomers to the off-road world include Benjamin Goodfellow, a British athlete who has won almost every age group event available to him on the road, so with an elite ticket for 2023 he’s now looking to add XTERRA to his palmares. Richard ‘the fish’ Stannard has been a cornerstone of British Triathlon for the last 20+ years racing at the highest level, and while not a complete stranger to XTERRA, he’s ready to get back in the mud and dirt come May 13. Will Draper of Great Britain is another elite athlete making the move to include off-road racing into his career. But all these names will first need to get past experienced XTERRA racers, so expect speed, risk taking, and fireworks on a big day out.
The same theme will carry through to the women's race, where 2022 Ironman Lanzarote winner, Lydia Dantmakes, will make her XTERRA debut. But she’ll be up against an always smiling but always impressive Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand. The kiwi racer has had some stellar results in the last few years and will no doubt be looking to extend her run.
It’s a different kind of battle from those usually seen at any given XTERRA race, but it will certainly add the kind of fire everybody would like to see after 8 years away.
Once out of the water and onto the bike, athletes will take on the freshly-built 27K bike section.
With over 1000 acres to play with at Weston Park and no restrictions on course design, the XTERRA EMEA team has built a bike course completely from the ground up to give all levels of riders a proper day on the bike that they won’t soon forget. The course has a bit of everything, including twisting single track, fast gravel sessions, steep difficult climbs and plenty of classic UK mud, and the faster you go the harder it gets.
Not content with a course for race day, in a partnership between XTERRA and Weston Park, the course will be permanently signed and maintained for all-year-round riding.
XTERRA Weston Park goes down on May 13 and athletes of all kinds, fans of off-road sports, friends, and family are encouraged to get involved. For those not racing, the venue itself offers a trip through history and the chance to explore pristine grounds of Weston Park. Just be sure to choose a good spot for the race as the action between the tapes, after 8 years of waiting, will not disappoint.
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