TRENTINO, ITALY – Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin from France captured the 26th annual XTERRA World Championship elite titles on a cool, crisp day at Lake Molveno in Trentino, Italy on Saturday, October 1, 2022. It’s the 21st career XTERRA World Tour victory for Serrieres, the fourth for Billouin, and the first XTERRA World Championship win for both athletes, who earned €20,000 each for their victories.
Colorado’s father-son duo, Josiah Middaugh and Sullivan Middaugh, finished 12th and 14th in the elite men’s competition. Sullivan beat his dad, Josiah, out of the water, posting a swim time of 16 minutes 46 seconds, while Josiah exited in 18:02. The elder racer and former world champion then went on pull ahead of his son, posting a 1:44:49 bike to Sullivan’s 1:46:30, and a 45:46 run to Sullivan’s 45:48. Josiah crossed the finish line in 2:50:05 (11:43 off Serrieres’ first place time). Sullivan crossed the finish in 2:50:44, just 39 seconds behind his father.
Josiah Middaugh is a 20-year veteran and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. His son, Sullivan, turned 18-years-old in March and graduated last spring from Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail where he set the school record in the 5K (15:30). He has already proved himself to be a world-class athlete, beating his dad at this year’s XTERRA USA Championship in Beaver Creek. He is now at Arizona State University as part of the USA Triathlon Project Podium squad, which is designed to develop athletes into Olympic medalists.
Serrieres Takes Men’s Race
In the men’s elite race, Franco Pesavento (ITA) led a group of five out of the 1.5km swim in the chilly and clear 16-degree water of Lake Molveno along with Keller Norland (USA), Jules Dumas (FRA), Francois Vie (POR), and Michele Bonacina (ITA).
Serrieres was 37 seconds back of the leaders in 11th position after the swim, Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) was 49 seconds behind in 19th, and Arthur Forissier (FRA) was 1:03 back in 25th place.
By the top of the first climb on the bike, however, Arthur Forissier (pictured) had worked his way past everyone to take the lead and after the first of two 16km loops he was 24-seconds ahead of Ruzafa and Serrieres.
Those three controlled the race the rest of the way, going back-and-forth in the treacherous, muddy conditions, but as has been a staple at each of the last nine XTERRA World Championships, Ruzafa (pictured) led off the bike and on to the 10km trail run.
Serrieres, the fastest runner in the sport, was just seconds behind and quickly sprinted past Forissier coming out of transition and then flew by Ruzafa 30-seconds later to take the lead all the way into the finish line. He crossed the line in 2:38:21, more than two minutes ahead of Forissier in second, and Ruzafa in third.
“It’s a very emotional win, because today I ran for two,” said Serrieres, with tears in his eyes, to the crowd gathered at the finish line. “My mom has cancer, and she couldn’t come here because she got sick, but I’m sure she is proud of me.”
Serrieres was the heavy favorite going into the race as the reigning and two-time World Triathlon Cross Champion and the reigning and three-time XTERRA European Champion. He won the Europe Triathlon Cross Championship on this course in Trentino last year, and was runner-up at XTERRA Worlds in 2019 and 2021. To win this one was the ultimate reward for many years of work.
“It’s not just a year of training, but 10 years of training hard for this moment,” he said. “This was the big dream. I’m happy now, my career is complete. I’m happy to join this circle of World Champions, and especially Nico Lebrun as the only other French XTERRA World Champion. I have to thank all my training partners, family, and friends, because this victory is for everybody. It’s extra special because it’s for my mother, and because it was the first XTERRA Worlds ever in Europe after 25 years in Maui.”
Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen placed fourth, and Sebastien Carabin posted the fastest bike split of the day (1:39:10) to move from 46th out of the water to fifth at the finish line for the second straight year.
Billouin Takes Women’s Race
In the women’s race, Solenne Billouin had the race of her life to secure the biggest win of her career on the grandest stage in off-road triathlon.
She was fourth out of the water, jumped ahead of Amanda Presgraves and Sandra Mairhofer early on the first lap of the bike, reeled in swim leader Daisy Davies about 20 minutes into the bike, and never looked back.
“It was my strongest race ever,” said Billouin, who posted the best bike split of the day (1:59:01). “I did the bike by myself and the run by myself. It was just my day.”
Billouin crossed the line in 3:11:05, more than one-minute, 40 seconds ahead of home country favorite Sandra Mairhofer from Italy in second.
“I don’t know what to say, I thought if I made the podium it would be a very good day, and then I won it. It’s crazy, I didn’t imagine this. And I’m really happy because the prize money will help me focus on my athlete life more.”
For Mairhofer, a runner-up performance in her first attempt at the XTERRA World Championship race in her home country was a great result considering the conditions.
“I’m happy, it has been a really nice race in this wonderful place. I really wanted to be on the podium, to be in front at the finish line, but unfortunately it was not possible,” she said. “My performance was not so good today but I know I was not at my best because of a cold I had since last week, and I felt it during the race. I tried to get back on Solenne during the bike, but she was good in the technical parts and every time I was on her I had some problem with mud in the chain that stopped the wheels.”
Alizee Pateis (FRA) was strong all around to finish third. Lesley Paterson (GBR) overcame mechanical problems on the bike with the fastest run split of the day (49:55) to finish fourth, and Marta Menditto (ITA) rounded out the top five.