Racers from Belgium have been a force on the XTERRA World Tour for more than a decade, boasting several of the sport of off-road triathlon’s fastest racers and biggest personalities, and now for the first time, on 11 June 2016 in Namur, Belgian athletes have a country championship race of their own.
Organizers Denis Detinne and Florian Badoux are XTERRA racers themselves, and put a lot of thought and effort into the idea of XTERRA Belgium before committing to host the event this year.
“We started to discuss hosting an XTERRA in Belgium with Dave Nicholas in Greece,” said Denis Detinne. “Then we made a marked study interviewing 95 athletes to understand where are they coming from, how many XTERRA do they do per year, how many nights they spent in the country. We discovered that the main nations participating in XTERRA were coming from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium – all the bordering countries.
He added, “Namur is also very accessible by car, by train, and by air with three international airports connecting all the big cities around the world. XTERRA European Technical Director Nico Lebrun also came to see the route and was very positive, so after that we decided to organize XTERRA Belgium.”
Dave Nicholas, the Managing Director of the XTERRA World Tour who has developed the European Tour from one race to a dozen in the past decade, thinks Belgium is a great addition.
“We’re really looking forward to the new Belgium race,” Nicholas said. “Nico Lebrun has been there and assisted with getting the trails and infrastructure to work well. Plus, Denis and Florian are actually XTERRA competitors, so they know what our athletes expect. I have to bet this will be a great course.
“Belgium is very centrally located in Europe so most people thinking about making the race can drive there. For those flying, it’s about an hour and a half from Brussels airport. For those who are not familiar – Belgium claims to have the absolute best frites on earth and they challenge the Czechs for the best beer. What more do you want!?”
Denis Detinne added that the organising team chose Namur because “the location is just beautiful to organize such an event. The athletes will ride around the Citadel of Namur, which is a historical site from the 17th century. Namur is also the capital of Wallonia and has a large offer of hotels, restaurants, shops, museums – and last but not least we live there so we know all the tracks of the region!”
“I can’t describe in words how much I’m looking forward to this race,” said Yeray Luxem, a 30-year-old elite from Merksem, Belgium who finished seventh at the XTERRA World Championship last year.
“I’ve been racing XTERRA for 10 years now and it’s nice to travel, experience the culture, explore new places and make new friends. I love it, but on the other hand I love to share my performances with family and friends too, and now this is my opportunity to do that. Expect I’ll be bringing a big fan base to Namur.”
Luxem isn’t the only Belgian racer who can’t wait until June. “I’m really excited,” exclaimed Jim Thijs, who is noted for chronicling his racing adventures on This Is Thijs TV.
“I used to train in Namur. They have an amazing downhill track and I used to spend days riding down the track with friends Nico Vink and Kristof Lensens. We got back up by shuttle and with my XTERRA and MTB friends we rode back up using the scenic road up to the Citadelle. Funny, I did my first XTERRA in 2006, as a pro, at XTERRA Italy in Villacidro. And that’s where I live right now. So ironically, I will have to travel in June from the place where I did my first XTERRA to Namur for XTERRA Belgium. And Namur is only a 40min drive from where I used to live.”
Kris Coddens, who won XTERRA Greece and XTERRA Denmark in 2015, said it’s “very nice to me because we have nice parts in our country to mountain bike. I also feel lonely in my discipline from time to time. I hope it will get a little bit more popular this way. Now my friends and family will have an opportunity to see what we actually do.”
He continued, “The area itself at the Citadel of Namur, is a very nice, unique, and historic location. Swimming around an island in a river will be something different. Bike course very hilly, also beautiful but not so technical. I thought about Xonrupt and Zittau while riding it the first time. The run course has a lot of climbing too, not the steepest but quite long climbs. Climbs on the bike and run are never longer than about 300ft elevation gain, but they are there.”