The XTERRA Czech Championship celebrates its 10th year on the World Tour today in Spindleruv Mlyn and last weekend's XTERRA Mexico winners Seth Wealing and Shonny Vanlandingham will be on hand shooting for their second victory in as many weeks.
The Americans will face some stiff competition from Europe’s best with names like Olivier Marceau, Felix Schumann, Ronny Dietz, Julian Langer, Jim Thijs, Yeray Luxem, Llewellyn Holmes, Ben Allen, Jan Kubicek, Will Kelsay, last year's women's winner Renata Bucher, Marion Lorblanchet, Carina Wasle, Helena Erbenova, Maud Golsteyn and a cast of others.
The race is the third of five XTERRA European Tour Championship races with Italy and France in the books, and Germany and Switzerland yet to come.
The weather is holding. Anyone who followed the Euro Tour last year knows how the rains came and pelted the field here at the Czech race and flooded dozens of towns throughout the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. Sadly, 11 people died in those floods and the town of Zittau, home to XTERRA Germany, was hit hard and the German XTERRA was cancelled.
The forecast this week was for rain but thankfully it has held off and Thursday was actually warm and sunny. This area is hilly, full of pine forests and the finish of the race is held on the same hill as a World Cup Slalom event in December. It is stunning in its beauty, but always better when the sun shines.
The pro field is stacked. For the women we have World Champ Shonny Vanlandingham racing an XTERRA in Europe for the first time. She is hot from a nice win in Mexico last week and will also race in Germany next week. This will not be an easy win for her. She faces last year’s Czech Champion Renata Bucher, 2010 European Tour Champion Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet and the always fast Austrian Carina Wasle. The unknown factor is Czech pro Helena Erbenova. She has been winning everything on the Czech Tour and has been consistently in the top 10 overall.
For the men, Olivier Marceau carries top position in points followed closely by German Ronny Dietz. In fact, the top six in points are here with less than 70 points top to bottom. Aussie Ben Allen is looking to redeem himself after a disappointing French race, Belgium racers Yeray Luxom and Jim Thijs have been battling this year and stand 4th and 5th in points. Rumors say Nico Lebrun may not make it although he is on the start list. Karel Zadak, usually the fastest Czech racer has withdrawn as his wife just gave birth to their second child earlier this week. This leaves the often fast, often erratic Jan Kubicek as perhaps the quickest Czech. The wild cards come from the States. Seth Wealing and Will Kelsey are here and are coming off a win and third place in Mexico last week. This duo should shake up the results quite a bit and repeat next week in Germany.
We have a bundle from the U.S. here including G.L. Brown, his son and ex-pro Pat Brown plus Vanlandingham, Wealing and Kelsey, Shelby Katz, Barbara Peterson and Michelle Brown as cheerleader for her husband and son.
This is the 10th year for XTERRA in the Czech Republic and it retains a very strong series throughout the country and a great organization. With this race being coupled with Germany it just begs for U.S., Asian, or South American athletes to come and enjoy a short vacation, see the fabulous cities of Prague and Dresden, enjoy the mountains of both Czech, Eastern Germany and Poland and sample some of the best comfort food on earth not to mention the legendary Czech beers. Hotels and Pensions abound in this great little village. Prices are very inexpensive and the experience first class.
Editor's Note: XTERRA Managing Director "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas is in Spindleruv and wrote this report.