Carloni, Riou win XTERRA Belgium

Monday 11 June 2018
Francois Carloni and Morgane Riou, both from France, captured the third-annual XTERRA Belgium off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful day at the Citadel of Namur on Saturday, June 9,  2018.

It's the second XTERRA World Tour win for Carloni, who last won a major at XTERRA Greece in 2014.  Carloni was the 20-24 age group XTERRA World Champion 10 years ago before turning pro, and was third in the final XTERRA European Tour elite standings last year. 

It's also the second XTERRA World Tour win for Riou, who won her first at XTERRA Dominican Republic last year. In 2017, Riou raced in 11 XTERRA World Tour majors and finished in the top five at all of them, and ended up ranked 3rd in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour and 8th in the XTERRA European Tour standings.

The day started at 2:30pm with more than 700 athletes fighting against a strong current in the Meuse River. First out of the water was Harry Leleu from the UK followed by Maxim Chane and Will Crudgington, who was racing his first XTERRA and is one of the youngest elites at just 19-years-old.  He finished 15th today. Our swim leader Leleu sadly did not finish today, but Chane was on fire. After 8km on the bike he had a big lead before a puncture ended his plans for a place on the podium.

Arthur Serrieres was one of the big favorites coming in to the race but crashed and ended up in a hospital with stitches to his knee.  With that, victory was up for grabs and Xavier Dafflon managed to get close to the leaders, making up three of the five minutes he lost on the swim during the bike. Unfortunately, he also punctured and with that, his dream of winning in Belgium disappeared. With three of the big favorites out of the race, it was hard to predict what would happen, and seeing Theo Dupras leading the bike until T2 was a big surprise for me.

About one-minute behind at T2 was Carloni followed by Anthony Pannier, who was in a good position after coming fourth out of the water. The Belgians, Geert Lauryssen and Yeray Luxem, were both pushing hard on the bike in front of hundreds of spectators that created an amazing atmosphere. 

Dupras had the fastest bike split of the day and started the run with a 1'30" lead on Carloni.

“My legs felt empty at the end of the bike and I was not feeling that optimistic exiting T2,” he said.

Pannier was still in 3rd at this point followed closely by the two Belgians.  At the start of the second loop, Carloni took the lead from Dupras, who was now paying for his strong effort on the bike.

On the other hand, Carloni said "when I started to run I was amazed how fresh my legs felt, that’s the beautiful thing about triathlon, you never know what lies ahead."

The end of the race was very exciting as Carloni was still leading but only by 30-seconds with 2km to go. When he entered the amphitheater on his way to the finish line, he was hurting with cramps in his legs but he was not going to lose this one.

“It was a crazy day, but I'm so happy. This race is fantastic, I feel at home here and winning this one has been a dream of mine,” said Carloni.

Not far behind Pannier also struggled on the last few kms.  Three-hours of racing really takes its toll, but he was delighted with his first podium. Lauryssen was even happier crossing the line in 3rd in front of his home country fans. 

Dupras finished 4th and Luxem 5th.

In the women's race Megan McDonald and Nicole Walters, both from England, exited the water together with Lizzie Orchard from New Zealand only 45-seconds back. Diane Lee was in 4th, 1'20" behind, then Carina Wasle 1'40" and Morgane Riou trailing by 2'15". 

Walters took the lead very quickly as we have come to expect, and led almost the entire time on the bike. Wasle was second for the first part of the bike, saying "I can feel that I need some rest after so many consecutive races. Normally I love to climb but today my legs were empty.”

Starting the second loop, Walters still had about 1'15" on Riou, who managed to pass Wasle.

"I had a crash and didn't know where I was, so was a little bit stressed, but when I started to see Nicole on the second loop, that was good," said Riou.

Orchard had a bad crash and had to pull out of the race, as did many other athletes during this tough Belgian course.

Finishing the bike, Riou was just a few seconds in front of Walters, who said, "I had a crash on the last downhill, and had to finish the bike with a crooked handle bar.  It wasn't easy riding down those steep stairs heading into transition."

At this point I think Walters realized the probable outcome of the race. Riou is a natural runner and with this being her first race of the season, she was fresh and full of confidence. With the best bike and run splits of the day, Riou crossed the finish line first to take the tape for the first time in Europe.

"I'm so happy, winning here on such a big stage and against two very strong athletes, it's a big day for me," said Riou.  

Walters made her way to the finish line to claim second, and said, “This run loop is so nice when you do it in training but takes a lot out of you during the race."

Wasle finished third with second fastest run split, and was delighted with another podium, her fifth in five races this season in Europe.

XTERRA Belgium Elite Men  
1 Francois Carloni, FRA 3:04:22
2 Anthony Pannier, FRA 3:04:46
3 Geert Lauryssen, BEL 3:05:35
4 Theo Dupras, FRA 3:05:48
5 Yeray Luxem, BEL 3:05:59

XTERRA Belgium Elite Women  
1 Morgane Riou, FRA 3:27:30
2 Nicole Walters, GBR 3:31:19
3 Carina Wasle, AUT 3:33:58
4 Maud Golsteyn, NED 3:49:00
5 Diane Lee, GBR 3:52:20
XTERRA Triathlon


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