Andreev, Fox win XTERRA Finland

Monday 19 June 2017
Pavel Andreev (RUS) and Louise Fox (GBR) captured the inaugural XTERRA Finland Championship off-road triathlon race in Rauha this afternoon.

The event combined a 1.5 kilometer swim in the beautiful Saimaa Lake, followed with a 30-kilometer mountain bike in the forest surrounding the lake, and concluded with a 10-kilometer challenging trail run.

XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas was on-site to take in all the action and brings us this report…

I hate it when the weatherman is right.  And right on time the sprinkles began about 10am.  This small rain did not deter the Finn’s at all and it did help the temperatures were in the high 60’s.

Everything was perfectly organized and ready for a noon start and the bunch took off from a deep water start on a one lap 1500m swim.  We expected local triathlete Panu Lieto would be quick, but he destroyed the field and came out of T1 with a 3 minute lead.  Czech Jan “the fox” Kubicek and Russian Winter Tri World Champion Pavel Andreev left literally side by side in 2nd and 3rd.  The first K of the bike is on paved paths headed to the forest.  Riders cross a bridge and take a 270 degree circle under the road and onto the trails.  It is gravel and downhill and with the fresh rain – slick.  Kubicek locked his brake and fell hard.  “I was surprised by this and lost contact with Pavel” he said “But Pavel was so strong today I don’t think I could stay with him”

Indeed the Russian rode well putting in the fastest bike time by far.  With Kubicek’s having lost time on his fall, he never caught our Finnish triathlete until T2.  In a pretty slick move, Kubicek came in behind Lieto and left before him.   One of the favorites, Norwegian Oivind Bjerkseth had a bad day.  His first open water swim in his life was at XTERRA Malta and although he has been training, he lost over 8 minutes to Pavel and over 11 to Lieto.  Oivind did have the second fastest bike of the day but had lost too much in the beginning and ended 4th.

For the women, Louise Fox had a good swim and led Swede Cecilia Jessen by over a minute.  “Foxy” as we often call her rode well and made no mistakes.  She was able to pull out nearly another minute over Cecilia and she needed it as our Swedish woman pulled it back on the run for a very solid second place.

The weatherman had predicted the rain would stop in the afternoon but it never did.  It never came down hard but was on and off all day.  Great for the athletes as they stayed cool the whole race.  The now famous “Swamp” a typical Finnish bog was wonderful with people sloshing through, feet plunging into the bog up to the ankle.  Leader Pavel Andreev lost his shoe running through and had to stop, find it and put it back on.  I was there and stayed outside it but to no avail, my shoes went through the moss and I spent the rest of the afternoon with soaked feet.  I can only imagine what the runners feet were like having to run another 5K lap and through it again!

Rave reviews from everyone about the bike and the run.  Every trail was beautifully marked and despite the cloudy day and rain nobody got lost.  Dozens of volunteers were everywhere, aid stations manned by enthusiastic workers.

Finland will be held in August next year and this place will be rocking.  Imatra has a major league baseball team and you will not believe Finnish baseball.  The trails and lake are beyond great – women’s winner Louise Fox said it was the only swim she was ever in where she could drink the water !

St. Petersburg, Russia is only a few hundred K away and the Russian Border only 10K.  Get your VISA now.  Simply a great experience.

ELITE RESULTS 
Men
1 Pavel Andreev  (RUS) 02:32:25
2 Jan Honza Kubicek  (CZE) 02:36:42
3 Panu Lieto  (FIN) 02:39:11
4 Oivind Bjerkset  (NOR) 02:48:57
5 Pavel Jindra  (CZE) 02:53:12

Women
1 Louise Fox  (GBR) 03:08:28
2 Cecilia Jessen  (SWE) 03:10:25
3 Elina Honkavuori  (FIN) 04:01:12
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