Mikaela shows world- class potential at Xterra France

2017-07-19 06:02
Mikaela Johnsson came in 13th place at the Xterra France Championships.PHOTO: KEVIN SAWYER

Mikaela Johnsson came in 13th place at the Xterra France Championships.PHOTO: KEVIN SAWYER

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LAST weekend, Lac de Longemer in Xonrupt, France, played host to the Xterra France Championship, an official qualifier for the 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.

Mikaela Jonsson (20, Jeep Team SA) from Pietermaritzburg, started her first season racing as a professional at Xterra France, and what an introduction to her capabilities, managing an impressive 13th place in one of the toughest Xterra races in the world. Johnsson completed the gruelling race in 5:08,33.

The cold Xterra France began with over 900 elite male and female swimmers entering the water for a 1 500 m water-start swim in the 18°C Lake Longemer, which was 10 degrees warmer than the air.

Johnsson had a great swim and was 111th out of the water in 23:21, and straight into a quick transition to start her two laps of 20,5 km MTB. It had rained hard the day before, leaving the MTB trails ridable but slick. By the time the 900 Decouvert (sprint) athletes finished the MTB course, and the 900+ long-distance athletes finished their first lap, it was slow, gruelling and dangerous.

Johnsson had a decent first lap in 1:39,02, but a much slower second lap of 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 five elite women.

The 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. Johnsson’s 10 km trail run was brilliant and fast and would have put her in fifth place overall had her second MTB lap not decided her fate earlier. She has what it takes at the tender age of 20 to compete with the best in the world and achieve a top-five place against those who are 10, 15 and 20 years her senior with bags full of experience.

Reflecting on the race, Johnssons said: “That was tough. I really had to dig deep after a crash on the second bike lap, but I am happy to have finished my first full distance pro race as the 13th elite 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.”

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