After a couple of fun warm-up rounds the EuroTour gets serious this weekend, with dozens of international athletes heading to France where they’ll clash at the classic SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime this weekend, followed by big showdowns in Germany (The Lost Mills) and Bilbao.
These three races represent the “Headline” events of the 2016 EuroTour presented by Starboard.
Just some of the top ranked paddlers competing include Connor Baxter, Titouan Puyo, Mo Freitas, Jake Jensen, Georges Cronsteadt, Arthur Arutkin, Sonni Hönscheid and Fiona Wylde. They’ll be joined by several more international athletes as well as a huge contingent of European dark horse contenders for what should be a cracking few weeks of racing.
Set on the iconic French Riviera – you can see St. Tropez across the bay – the SUP Race Cup combines two days of racing that will give us a good form guide for the rest of the summer. This is the 7th annual edition of the event, making St. Maxime the second longest-running international race in Europe (just behind the infamous 11 City Tour).
After filling up on cheese and baguettes this weekend, the paddlers will migrate north towards the Bavarian countryside and the big Lost Mills race on May 28th. The Lost Mills has long been Europe’s most competitive event, and it looks like it’ll probably retain the title for at least another year.
Once the athletes have had their fill of sausages and beer in Bavaria, they’ll pack their lederhosen and fly south to Bilbao, all while the free EuroTour Trailer conveniently shuttles their race boards down the autobahn for them.
Bilbao, in the Basque Country of Spain, is one of my personal favourite stops on the tour — you’ll come for the paddling, you’ll stay for the pintxos. Also keep an eye out for some more iconic images of paddlers racing past the unmissable Guggenheim Museum.
The Bilbao Paddle Challenge will cap off the three biggest weeks of this year’s “European summer of SUP,” however the EuroTour doesn’t stop there. The series continues on for a full 14 weeks and will hit some more great spots in Spain, Croatia, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Greece, Portugal and the UK.
The great thing about the EuroTour is that it’s as much of an adventure/holiday as it is a race series. A lot of the paddlers are sticking around after Bilbao for the San Sebastian race, which takes place just half an hour down the road the following weekend. It won’t be quite as elite as the “Big Three,” however I think that event is going to be a real highlight – San Sebastian is one of the coolest cities you’ll ever visit. Many of us have already booked in Croatia and Finland as well.
The EuroTour Headliners
Week 3: The SUP Race Cup ★★★
St. Maxime, France, May 21/22
Week 4: The Lost Mills ★★★★
Brombachsee, Germany, May 27/28
Week 5: Bilbao Paddle Challenge ★★★
Basque Country, Spain, June 4/5
Sounds like the Lost Mills will once again be the most competitive race of the summer. Last year it was actually the single most competitive race in the world outside of the USA, a feat it has a good chance of matching in season 2016. Indeed, we’ve given the ‘Battle of Bavaria’ a guaranteed 4-star, 40% score on the Race Index, and I expect it will actually hit closer to ~45% on the men’s side of the draw.
Though St. Maxime and Bilbao won’t be too far off the pace; Those two races have been given a guaranteed 30%, 3-star rating, and I expect all three EuroTour Headliners to safely exceed their minimums on the Race Index and give the SUP Racer World Rankings a good shakeup.
Some of the biggest names that I know are definitely competing include: Connor Baxter, Titouan Puyo, Mo Freitas, Trevor Tunnington, Arthur Arutkin, Jake Jensen, Georges Cronsteadt, Michael Booth, Vinnicius Martins, Leonard Nika, Beau O’Brian, Martin Letourneur, Eric Terrien, Arthur Daniel, Kenny Kaneko, Paolo Marconi, Daniel Hasulyo and Bruno Hasulyo.
Throw in the dozens of dark horses from around Europe – the Italian mafia, the French connection – as well as a couple of world beaters from Tahiti in Rete Ebb and Steve Teihotaata, and we’re going to have a fairly entertaining hit out this weekend and for the next few weeks.
The women’s races won’t have the same depth as the men’s events, however at the pointy end it’ll be just as hard to win, with the likes of Fiona Wylde and Sonni Hönscheid leading the way along with Manca Notar, Seychelle Hattingh, April Zilg, Lexi Alston, Olivia Piana, Susak Molinero, Celine Guesdon, Laura Quetglas, Susanne Lier and no doubt a few dark horse locals that will stand up and make a name for themselves.
It all begins this Saturday in France, and SUP Racer will be on the beach in St. Maxime with a Facebook Live stream of the SUP Race Cup (internet coverage permitting) to give you a window into the European Summer of SUP.
Now, time to go find myself a croissant. Or as they say in France; “Je voudrais un croissant…”