Alistair Brownlee is not the only high-profile triathlete swapping on road for off this month – with American Eric Lagerstrom on the start list at Oak Mountain for the first XTERRA World Cup stop on US soil.
Double Olympic champion Brownlee won on his first attempt at XTERRA last weekend at Weston Park in Staffordshire and this weekend sees a whole host of the sport’s biggest names in action and features the first of five lightning-fast short track races in the series, which can be viewed live via the embed below.
The winners of the full-distance race on Saturday will score 100 points towards the XTERRA World Cup standings while the made-for-TV short track race on Sunday will offer the chance to claim another 20.
Serrieres on comeback trail
More than 40 elites from a dozen countries will take part in the pro races including both reigning XTERRA World Champions, Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin from France.
In the elite men’s race all eyes are on Serrieres, but he’s got plenty of competition with eight men in the top 20 of the XTERRA World Rankings up against him – not including the 2017 Cross Tri World Champ, Francisco Serrano (MEX), or the uber-talented Lagerstrom.
“The goal for me is to gain some confidence back because I lost two races in a row, and so the goal is to get back on top, to get some big points and move up in the Series,” said Serrieres.
For Lagerstrom, his target for the weekend now is a lot different than it was in December when he put Oak Mountain on his calendar.
“My initial goal when I put this race on my schedule six months ago was to come win,” said Lagerstrom. “But then as a result of this event now being part of the XTERRA World Cup a lot of guys from Europe decided to show up and that goal became significantly more challenging.
“Now I’m just trying to get on the podium and get experience racing these guys, so if I do want to do the whole World Cup series later I know what to expect, and especially to be ready for XTERRA Worlds later in the year.”
Billouin relishing the rain
In the women’s chase, it’s more of the same, with five of the top six in the world involved and another handful that could crack the podium on any given Sunday.
“We’re racing against each other 10 times this year, so there’s a spot on the podium at some point for everyone, just have to battle again and again,” exclaimed Billouin.
Billouin is a cyclocross vet and feels right at home in tough and rainy and muddy conditions and is hoping for some more this weekend.
“I would love it if it rained non-stop from now until the race, and then we had a big rainstorm during the race too,” laughed Billouin, one of a dozen great insights uncovered during a day full of interviews on-site at the park with none other than Bob Babbitt.
On Sunday the women’s race starts first at 3pm local time (4pm EST, 9pm UK, 10pm CET) with the men’s race to follow an hour later. Expect the top finishers to conquer the two-lap 400-metre swim, three-lap 7.5km mountain bike, and two-lap 3km trail run in a blink of an eye, about 35 minutes. You can watch the races via the embed above.