Over the weekend, Lac de Longemer in Xonrupt, France, played host to the XTERRA France Championship, an official qualifier for 2017 XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii in October.
This 11th annual XTERRA France is part of the XTERRA European Tour, the premier off-road multisport brand in the European Union with races in 16 countries providing top competition for professionals and amateurs.
KZN’s Mikaela Jonsson (20, Jeep Team SA) started her first season racing as an Elite Athlete at Xterra France, and what an introduction to her capabilities, managing an impressive 13th place finish in one of the toughest XTERRA races in the world. Jonsson completed the gruelling race in 05:08:33.
The cold XTERRA France began with over 900 Elite male and female swimmers entering the water for a 1500m water-start swim in the 18°C Lake Longemer, which was 10 degrees warmer than the air.
Jonsson had a great swim and was 111th out of the water in 23:21, and straight into a quick transition to start her 2 laps of 20.5km MTB. It rained hard the day before, leaving the MTB trails ridable, but very slick. By the time 900 Decouvert (sprint) athletes finished the MTB course, and 900+ long distance finished their first lap, it was a slow, gruelling and dangerous.
Jonsson had a decent first lap in 1:39:02, but the much slower second lap in 2:00:31, which included an accident, was the decider of her fate, because her times on all other legs and laps were very close to the top 5 elite women.
Women’s Elite winner, Laura Phillip (31, Germany), was 10 minutes slower on her second MTB lap and this was common through the results. To make matters worse, each year, the Charbonnier family creates a new monster MTB ramp and this year was no exception, and it was built with two separate ramps.
Both down ramps and the banked U-turn got very slick and slippery. Some riders lacked the confidence to let their bike roll down the ramp and tried to walk it – and slipped and dropped their bikes. Others rode it but touched their brakes and went down, causing queues and chaos.
Jonsson’s 10km trail run was brilliant and fast and would have put her in 5th place overall had her second MTB lap not decided her fate earlier.
Jonsson has what it takes at the tender age of 20 to compete with the best in the world and achieve top 5 against those that are 10, 15 and 20 years her senior with bags full of experience. Watch this space!
Says Jonsson, reflecting on the race, “That was tough! I really had to dig deep after a crash on the 2nd bike lap, but I am happy to have finished my first full distance elite race as the 13th woman. Thank you to everyone for the support at the race and back home, and thank you to XTERRA France for such an awesome event!”
Results – XTERRA France
1. Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) 03:27:52
2. Yeray Luxem (BEL) 03:30:12
3. Arthur Forissier (FRA) 03:31:10
1. Laura Philipp (GER) 03:58:52
2. Brigitta Poor (HUN) 04:06:55
3. Helena Erbenova (CZE) 04:08:06
13. Mikaela Jonsson (RSA) 05:08:33