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Race Recap 2014 Xterra World Championship: Melanie McQuaid

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The lead up to the 2014 edition of the XTERRA World Championship had some interesting drama courtesy of Mother Nature. The Hawaiian Islands narrowly escaped a hurricane the weekend prior to the event but still experienced significant rainfall the previous weekend and in the lead up. Athletes attempting to ride the course would spend more time washing their bikes than actually pedalling them as the sticky Hawaiian clay would cake tires with mud, grass and leaves to the point that wheels would not even turn. There were rumours of course alterations and contingency plans spreading like wildfire. In the end, the weather turned, the sun started shining and the event saw Ruben Ruzafa and Flora Duffy crowned the 2014 World Champions on a picture perfect day. The swim was a little rough but the bike course was dry save a couple of large mud puddles so conditions were nearly perfect for the event. Such as drama queen is Mother Nature.

Chantell Widney, Mel McQuaid, Danelle Kabush in Maui 2014
Chantell Widney, Mel McQuaid, Danelle Kabush in Maui 2014

The Canadian contingent was comprised of a trio of experienced female athletes as the only male pro, Brent McMahon, needed to scratch at the last minute. Danelle Kabush, Chantell Widney and I were the only Canadian girls who decided to race Maui this year. I am not sure any of us were overwhelmed with our performances but everyone had a good perspective on their races.

Chantell had this to say about her race: “My 12th place finish was my career worst XTERRA finish to date.  I had a bad chest infection and wasn’t able to get in the training I needed leading up to the race. The day started with a decent swim, the surf big and the swells and chop were pretty crazy.  I seem to swim well in these conditions so I wasn’t too fazed.  At the start of the bike I felt ok but people were flying past me.  I was struggling to get on the wheels that were coming past.  I didn’t have the climbing legs or fitness I needed for this race.  I never felt bad, I was just slow.  Heading into the run, up the 3 mile hill, I struggled.  The heat was getting to me and I had to work hard to keep running.  I think I even walked a couple times.  It will take me a few tries to nail down a podium spot in this race.”

Danelle Kabush finished in 13th place. She said, “That was probably the roughest swim ever I’ve done it a triathlon, and the roughest in 10 years of XTERRA Maui. I had to pause and duck under the large shore break for both times exiting the water. On the bike I was super happy Mel and I made the decision to stay off the super muddy, greasy trails. The day before the race, when it was nice and tacky, we rode it and it stayed that way for race day. I had a lot of fun on the bike with no dust and super fast rolling trails and the legs were feeling pretty good. The negative was with higher numbers every year and with about 900 racers on course, I got stuck in some traffic at times. I started the run in 13th and unfortunately didn’t move up although I could see 12th place on the sandy beach at the end. It was nice being a little cooler than past years on the run and I had a pretty good rhythm going most of the way minus when a midway a foot-root connection slammed me down on the ground hard – ouch. Overall, I was happy with my fitness coming into the race and how strong I was feeling but was a little disappointed at missing out on a top 10 finish. It was nice to be competing in such an amazingly deep, women’s Pro field though.”

I agree with what Danelle said about the swim, the swells were the largest I have experienced on this course. This is one of the big differences between this venue and the old race venue, the Makena venue was in a more protected bay with less exposure to swells so the swim was generally smoother. I had a great swim start and found myself in front of Charlotte McShane and felt that was a good place to be. I lost that group when I bungled my exit after the long loop, so I ended up a few seconds down on the group into transition. I rode my way up to fourth by the sixth mile with Katrin Muller hot on my heels. We rode together for the rest of the bike, with her exposing my weakness on the very steep climbs and me riding past on the flat sections.  Riding with her was a lot of fun as she is amazingly sportsmanlike and we moved out of each other’s way when we felt the other would be the better leader. Having not seen the course before the race, I let her ride all the fast descents on the second half of the course, and she let me lead all the twisting technical bits near the end. Up until I crashed at least. My strengths have changed significantly with my present time trialing focus.

By the time the bike was finished I found myself in 8th place. I went out onto the run behind Katrin and caught her on the first climb. I thought I would run myself into 7th but that ITU speedster McShane tracked me down on the sand in the closing meters and sprinted past to leave me 18 seconds back (I am not much of a sand sprinter) in 8th again. That was not my most impressive day but given the field was nothing to be ashamed of and after multiple years of complete blowouts since 2011 I choose to be happy with it.   I was strong across all three disciplines but not particularly fast at any of them. It was a great reminder about how much speed and power is in XTERRA racing and it was so much fun to duke it out even if I wasn’t competing for the top rung. Congratulations to the ITU trio of Flora Duffy, Barb Rivieros and Nicky Samuels for an ITU sweep of the XTERRA World Championship.

Congratulations to the overall age group winner, Brittany Webster, who happens to be a phenomenal skier from Canmore, Alberta. I really hope to see this talented young Canadian lady in the pro ranks in the future. As a newcomer to the sport of triathlon it looks like she has significant potential for success.