How Short Track Could Shake Up the World Cup at Stop #3

How Short Track Could Shake Up the World Cup at Stop #3

For all the pros looking to close gaps on the leaderboard, the biggest opportunity now lies ahead with a heavily weighted Short Track race in Oak Mountain.
But in order to score big, they’ll need to qualify first.

The chance to score big at stop #3
With 2 stops down in the 7-stop series, the XTERRA World Cup leaderboard is just now starting to take shape with the familiar big names finding their way to the top.
World Champ Solenne Billouin has earned a comfortable lead in the women’s field for now, while Felix Forissier leads the men by a knife’s edge with only 8 points separating the European Champ from his brother in 2nd.
But the biggest opportunity to close gaps and leapfrog leaderboard rungs now lies ahead with the first Short Track race of the 2024 series set for stop #3 at Oak Mountain on May 19.
This will be the first of 4 locations on the series to feature both a Full Distance and Short Track race in a single stop, presenting those with enough of a gas tank to go hard in back-to-back races with the chance to make significant gains in the rankings.
In 2023, the Short Track format was weighted at just 20 points for a win, while this year sees that number increase to a massive 75 – just 25 points less than a Full Distance win.
Last year Arthur Serrières won both races at Oak Mountain.
Had the World Champ to do it again this weekend, he’d walk away with 175 points and an almost assured jump from 9th into the top 5 to put serious pressure on Sloth Nielsen and the Forissiers.
These additional points for the Short Track format will undoubtedly light a fire under what is already a fiercely contested format.
It offers the chance to essentially score almost double points in a single stop.
But there is a kicker.
Only those who qualify will be able to race in the Short Track and bag the points that come with it, leaving those who don’t make the cut with just a single score from stop #3.
It’s enough to create some seriously hard work in the second half of the series for some, and something World Champ Solenne Billouin will remember all too well after falling victim to a mechanical at Oak Mountain last year.
But for those who do find themselves on the line, it’s one of the fastest, most down-to-the-wire races in off road triathlon there is, and an all-out show for fans of the sport tuning in to watch live.

The Short Track format explained
Only 30 of the best athletes take part in each of the men’s and women’s Short Track races.
Of these, 25 will have earned their place via qualification while the other 5 will be wild card entries reserved for likes of local heroes and young guns likely to spice things up between the tape.
The format takes all the grit and grime of XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon and condenses it into a fast-paced sub 40-min race that requires nothing less than maximum watts from start to finish for anybody looking for a worthy result.
When the buzzer sounds in Oak Mountain this weekend, athletes will go head first into the washing machine with reckless elbows making it hard to get up front in a lightning-fast 2x200m open water swim in Double Oak Lake.
Quick transitions will be a factor as athletes then go from the water into a 2×3.5-kilometre MTB section packed with features designed to test endurance and skill as riders power through the 3 laps at maximum speed.
A final transition from bike to run will set up a 2×1.5-kilometre sprint to the finish to determine who walks away with maximum points.
The winner will add another 75 points to their World Cup tally, with 67 points for 2nd, and 61 for 3rd.
It’s a flat-out sprint race with everything to gain for those willing to empty the tank.
But in Oak Mountain, it’s not only a question of emptying the tank – it’s a question of who still has anything left in the tank from the Full Distance race the day before.

Short Track qualification at Oak Mountain
Qualification for all 4 of the Short Track races in the World Cup series is determined by either results or rankings, depending on whether the Short Track race takes place before or after the Full Distance race of the same stop.
For races where the Short Track race takes place first, the top 25 athletes from the World Cup rankings will be invited to race.
But for stops such as Oak Mountain, where the Full Distance precedes the Short Track, qualification will be based on the results of the Full Distance race – meaning athletes will need to finish in the top 25 to secure their place on the Short Track starting line.
It’s no easy task, with athletes needing to find the balance between pushing hard through the 44.5K of lake water and mountain trails to get as many points as possible in the Full Distance, and then recovering fast enough to go another round in the Short Track race less than 24 hours later.

Names to watch in the men’s ST race
There is not much in it at the top of the leaderboard for the men, especially for the Forrisier brothers who lead the charge.
It’s likely that there will be a few changes in the top-10 before the Short Track race even begins, meaning some will be racing to extend their lead while others will be looking to gain back what was lost in the Full Distance race the day before.

Felix Forissier (FRA)
Currently in the lead with 2 strong showings in the series so far, all signs are pointing to the younger brother putting on a proper show in Oak Mountain.
The Frenchman is in incredible form, and if it wasn’t for his error in Greece, he would be sitting on the perfect score in the series.
He wasn’t able to find the top step of the podium in the Short Track format last year, but he’s had an explosive start to the series and a double win for the current leader in Oak Mountain does not seem like a stretch.

Arthur Forissier (FRA)
Arthur Forissier is famously meticulous in his race planning, and he has no doubt done his calculations for the double-feature weekend of racing.
He knows how to win in this format after taking the top step in Belgium, but he will almost certainly be looking at how to use both races to bridge the 8 point gap between him and the series lead.
He’s coming off a win in Greece and will have his eye on at least one more win in Oak Mountain.

Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DNK)
Of the large number of highlight moments Sloth Nielsen has produced, one of the best has to be the Short Track battle between him and Arthur Serrières at the 2023 XTERRA World Champs.
He won that battle to take gold at the last ST race of the year, and will surely have his eye on doing the same in the first ST of 2024.
The Dane stood on the podium at all 4 of the Short Track races in the series last year, and now has a shiny new weapon in his arsenal.
Already one of the best riders, he has now massively improved his run – which could make the difference of where exactly he stands on the podium this time.

Arthur Serrières (FRA)
With more career wins than anyone else in the current men’s field, the current World Champ and World Cup Champ will be the favourite for many in Oak Mountain.
Not only does he have more Short Track wins than any of his competitors, he also won both the Full Distance and the Short Track races here in Oak Mountain last year.
He knows this course, he knows how to win in any format, and having raced one less race than the others in the top 3 he’ll be ready to gain as much ground as he can on his return to Oak Mtn.

Sullivan Middaugh (USA)
Sullivan Middaugh is still an unknown variable in the series as he is yet to race this year.
The last time he was between the tape in off-road tri was XTERRA Worlds where he claimed an impressive 3rd place in the Short Track and 5th in the Full Distance at just 19 years old.
His father was an XTERRA World Champion, and by the looks of it, Sullivan will be next.
And if we’re completely honest, his younger brother Porter could be the 3rd XTERRA World Champion from the same household.

Names to watch in the women’s ST race
With the 175 points at stake in Oak Mountain, this could be a pivotal stop for the women’s field.
Break-out athlete of the season Aneta Grabmüller and World Cup Champ Alizée Paties are locked into a tied battle in second place, which won’t be the case by the end of the weekend.
Solenne Billouin, on the other hand, has carved out a solid lead at the top.
If she takes all the points, just like she did in Czech and Trentino last year, she may just become unstoppable from here on out.

Solenne Billouin (FRA)
The World Champion is (not so) slowly writing her name into the history books as she continues to add to her legacy.
She’s already got 2 consecutive World Championship titles under her belt and is now on course for a first World Cup Title and potentially a third World title after two back-to-back wins to open the season.
She has incredible power which she is able to put to use on both formats, having won the Short Track races in Italy and Czech last year.
The momentum behind the current series leader is immense, and she has unfinished business with this track.

Alizée Paties (FRA)
The reigning World Cup Champ has not managed to inflict the damage she did in the opening races last year, yet she has done enough to hold onto 2nd place on the leaderboard.
She is a strong Short Track racer, having podiumed in all the ST races last year except for Italy where she finished 4th.
She’ll be looking at this stop as a good opportunity to win big and firmly establish herself in 2nd, with eyes on the World Championship next.

Aneta Grabmüller (CZE)
It’s hard not to be an Aneta Grabmüller fan at this point.
She has come out of nowhere in 2024 to shake up the women’s field and seems to be surprising even herself.
She said she could do better after Taiwan but the Czech athlete seemed genuinely shocked when she crossed in 2nd in Greece.
She has only raced once in the Short Track format, where she came 8th on home country soil.
But in the opening 2 races this season she was first out the water on both occasions and led the race for a significant section of the bike.
With this kind of power she may be poised to score big in the ST race in Oak Mountain.

Sandra Mairhofer (ITA)‍
Mairhofer’s current 7th place in the series is a misleading reflection of just how good the Italian can be in off-road tri.
Much like Arthur Serrières, she has one race less than her competitors and will have likely climbed her way into the top 3 by the end of the 7 stops.
She is arguably one of the best bikers in the series, which will be on full display in the Oak Mountain Short Track race.
She knows there are 175 points across the two races and she’ll be looking to get as many of those as possible to get herself back into the top 5.
The level of off-road triathlon is now at a point where so many names have what it takes to win races.
But in the Short Track format there is no time to build or slowly chip away.
It’s all-out from start to finish, and at Oak Mountain we’ll see for the first time how that looks in two increasingly strong and competitive fields.

How to watch the Short Track race LIVE
The XTERRA World Cup Stop #3 Short Track race will be streamed live on YouTube on May 19 at 09:00am Central Time.
Visit the XTERRA Live page for all the upcoming livestream races and click the bell to get notified when the action begins.
There is no live coverage of the Full Distance race in Oak Mountain, so be sure to follow on IG for updates throughout the race, and subscribe to the XTERRA YouTube channel to get notified when the extended highlights and analysis video drops the week after the race.

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