When XTERRA Czech Takes Over Prachatice
When XTERRA Czech Takes Over Prachatice
Nowhere on the World Tour do the roots of XTERRA run deeper than in Prachatice, where for 1 week every year not just a mountain but an entire city is completely transformed, overrun and overflowing with the XTERRA Spirit.
XTERRA Czech is more than a race, not just any party, and without doubt one of the best race experiences on the circuit.
The Roots and Reach of the Czech Mafia
XTERRA Czech is the ultimate embodiment of the XTERRA DNA – a rough and rugged off-road triathlon wrapped in layers of history and culture and packaged together in an all-out festival complete with a music fest, local flavour and a legendary afterparty.
The event quite literally takes over the town square of Prachatice, with Red Bull pilots flying overhead, spectators coming out in droves, and Czech National TV stepping up to bring the Short Track race to the Czech Republic and the world with more on-course cameras this year than ever before in the ST format.
And those who’ve seen them at work will know that there’s only one family that can make all that happen, and that is the Piloušek family.
Ever since XTERRA Czech first made its debut over 2 decades ago, the event has been run by a Michal Piloušek – it just depends which one.
Michal Senior got his first taste of XTERRA back in 1999 and, after finishing the 2000 and 2001 XTERRA World Championship elite race in Maui, he floated the idea of the first XTERRA in Eastern Europe.
In 2002 XTERRA Czech was on the World Tour and he was at the hull – a testament to how the Piloušeks dream big and get things done.
Michal Junior, son of Senior, takes credit for moving the event to Prachatice – where the historic walls of the town lead almost directly into the forests of Dubovy Vrch – and developing one of the most unique courses on the tour.
Having already organised numerous small events, Michal Junior slowly took over the reins with Michal Senior stepping into the role of mentor to keep alive the tradition of a sports-driven family.
Fun fact: Piloušek Triple Senior was the first to establish sport as one of the family pillars when he started an ice hockey team in Ceske Budejovice back in the 50’s.
A family of born and bred race directors, Michal Junior and Senior, along with their local team, are known in the XTERRA community as the Czech Mafia.
And for the Czech Mafia, nothing is impossible.
As an unstoppable unit they have created one of the most anticipated races in Europe and given rise to some of XTERRA’s most exciting race formats.
XTERRA’s Unofficial Laboratory
The spiritual home of XTERRA Short Track is the Czech Republic, and that is no coincidence.
Back when XTERRA Technical Director and Hall of Famer Nico Lebrun was still dominating the European Tour he raced and won XTERRA Czech no less than 5 times, finding himself as a key voice within the Czech Mafia.
Now on the other side of the tape and working for the brand, Lebrun (often dubbed ‘the Professor’) has continued his relationship with the Piloušek family and together they have used XTERRA Czech as a laboratory to test and refine multiple XTERRA formats.
2019 saw the debut of XTERRA Short Track on the shores of Křišťanovický Lake and since then the made-for-fans format has grown to first become a stand alone series and now forms a critical part of the XTERRA World Cup.
For Short Track purists, XTERRA Czech is the one to watch.
The course is almost 100% natural with more cameras this year than ever before to catch every inch of intensity that the format was designed for.
Every single reigning elite male World and Regional Champion will be on the start line this weekend, with one of the biggest top-5 battles in recent history brewing in the female division.
This is where Short Track began, and 5 years later it will serve as one of the fastest and most-watched races of the series as the World Cup gets back underway.
The Prachatice Town Square Takeover
One of the signature features of XTERRA Czech is the Prachatice town square takeover.
From early in the week the old town square is converted into an XTERRA arena, taking over the heart of Prachatice and pumping XTERRA spirit into every lane and alley of the mediaeval town.
Prachatice has long been an XTERRA town, and from the very start of race week the atmosphere builds with increasing intensity.
As the athletes begin to test the course, so do the residents emerge on the side of the track to cheer them on.
The weekend will be a spectacle, and this is just a taster.
On Friday the music festival begins and the party starts.
From here the town square becomes the only place to be.
By Saturday the atmosphere is nothing short of electric as music blasts and the festival feeling gets into full swing.
But for those inside the tape, it’s the finish that will always be remembered.
Returning from the trails, the athletes run into the centre of Prachatice to finish in the middle of the town square to the sound of one of the most enthusiastic crowds in Europe.
It’s a finish well deserved, with plenty awaiting in the square to make it all worth it.
Why 2023 Will Be the Biggest Year Yet
The Piloušek family has been hell-bent in making every edition of the event better than the last, and with 2023 ringing in the 20th edition of the race, there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend.
The Full Distance Course
The full distance course at XTERRA Czech delivers one of the most unique and pure race experiences on the circuit.
It’s the only race where athletes are shuttled out to a start line almost 20K from the race village.
Here they’ll complete the 1.5K swim in a pristine lake before heading into a point-to-point bike section that winds through old panel roads made for tanks in the 60s, forested sections of the Golden Salt Path, and slick singletrack segments.
We’ve covered the town square finish already, and those in attendance this weekend will discover exactly what makes it such a bucket-list experience.
The XTERRA World Cup
The XTERRA World Cup returns to bring a star-studded lineup to Prachatice this year, leading the full distance race on Saturday and putting on a show for the fans in the Short Track Race on Sunday.
World Champion Arthur Serrières, Euro Champion Felix Forissier, APAC Champion Kieran McPherson, USA Champion Sullivan Middaugh, and series leader Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen will all be starting for the men, but expect the crowd to be loudest for the local hero, Lukáš Kočař, who gave the crowd exactly what they wanted with a win in the Short Track race in Czech last year.
In the womens’ race, World Champ Solenne Billouin, Euro Champ Loanne Duvoisin, multi-sport champion Sandra Mairhofer, and series leader Alizée Paties will be putting the power of the female division on full display in a double-feature weekend of pro racing.
Short Track Livestream
Czech National TV will once again be bringing the Short Track action to audiences around the world with 25 on-course cameras alone.
Whether you’re watching from the sideline, the town square, or somewhere across the globe, expect to see Short Track racing at its purest as the World’s fastest go to battle for World Cup points.
Watch live here, with the women’s race starting at 10am local time on Sunday and the men following at 11am.
Red Bull Air Show
Keep your eyes on the sky just as the Short Track races close out as Red Bull pilot Martin Sonka takes to the air at 10:50 and again at 11:50 to put on an aerial show to match the action happening down below.
XTERRA Czech Music Fest
Last year 2500 fans flooded the town square as 8 pop and rock groups played out one of the best afterparties there is.
The town square has a max capacity of 3000 and the goal this year is to reach that.
The music fest is open to anybody and entry is completely free.
The Spectator Experience
For those on the outside of the tape, XTERRA Czech is still one of the top race experiences of the season.
Over and above the live acts, the town square will be equipped with 4 massive LED screens and on-course cameras in the Full Distance race to watch friends and family competing in the age grouper division.
There will also be an entire food festival with 15 food trucks and a bunch of activities such as aqua zorbing on the lake.
There is no shortage of vibe at XTERRA Czech, with friends, fans and family being just as much a part of it as those inside the tape.
The power and capabilities of the organisers to consistently up the ante for over 2 decades now is almost hard to fathom, but in less than a week we’ll see once again why they are known as the XTERRA Czech Mafia.