Dan Hugo and Lesley Paterson won the XTERRA East Championship pro race on a beautiful day at James River Park in Richmond, Virginia this morning.
In contrast, tropical storm Andrea on Friday and another storm front that came in Saturday morning dumped two inches or more of rain on Richmond and combined to create fast currents and flood level river heights in the James forcing the cancellation of the swim. Fortunately, several hours of bright sunshine starting Saturday afternoon and into Sunday morning dried up the trails and the full, epic Richmond bike course was still a go.
The swim was replaced with a 1.6 mile run, followed by the 20-mile bike and final 6-mile run (which was also re-routed to replace the “dry way” section that was under water).
The change in format from a triathlon to a run-bike-run duathlon changed the dynamic of the race, stealing the advantage from the strong swimmers and handing it over to the fleet of foot. It’s the second time in the 15-year history of the event the swim was cancelled, last time was 2003.
Regardless of the format, the day seemed destined to belong to Hugo, who captured his first XTERRA Championship since winning the South Africa title in 2011. The 27-year-old from Stellenbosch was the first out of T1 and posted the fastest bike split by more than six minutes to fellow South African Brad Weiss.
“It’s much easier to win when the sports icon is commentating, or staying home in Vail, so a big respect to Conrad (Stoltz) and Josiah (Middaugh),” Hugo told the crowd moments after breaking the tape. “I really love this course and it’s gotten better. There was a nutty bunch on two of the rock sections going crazy. I thought the cannon was loud, but then when I got through to those boys the cannon seemed OK.”
Hugo is referring to a raucous bunch of bike and trail fanatics known as “Foghorn Leghorn Productions” who annually throw a trail party at the trickiest section in Buttermilk Heights known as “Rock Face.” They blast music, BBQ, dress in costumes, scream, shout encouragement, and blast on vuvuzela’s to the delight of riders all day long.
Hugo’s victory was cause for celebration for his friends, family, and XTERRA fans worldwide as it broke a noteworthy string of 13 runner-up finishes in his previous 14 XTERRA races. It’s fitting the win came here in Richmond as well. He had a broken wrist and couldn’t race his first year here (following a crash in Alabama). He posted three runner-ups in Richmond (twice to Stoltz, once to Middaugh) and last year at this time he was in a sling, “a total mess,” he said, after crashing on the road earlier in the season.
“So many friends and family have said to me over the last three years ‘today is your day’, and it just hadn’t wanted to be, but today was my day. Not just for myself, but for everybody who has shared in the long, slow journey, thank you so much for your support over the years,” said Hugo at the awards ceremony in front of some of his best friends and even a grade-school buddy from South Africa he hadn’t seen in years.
“I’d also like to thank Luck Stone (Richmond-based presenting sponsor of the East Championship). It’s incredible to see on their truck the motto “Ignite Human Potential,” and I couldn’t think of a better phrase to take home from today. They’ve pioneered a new frontier, and it’s great to be a part of that and I look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve next year.”
Luck Stone covered the race with live streaming video, GPS trackers on the pros, and a social media map of the course while Conrad Stoltz’ provided the play-by-play and color for the day in what is assuredly the best live coverage the sport has ever seen.
The coverage must have created some anxious moments for the fans of Brad Weiss, Ryan Ignatz, and Nick Fisher as those three battled nearly all day long on the bike and run. Ultimately, Ignatz broke free from the group at the famous “Mayan Ruins” section of the run and finished second – his best result in a major XTERRA.
“I was getting blown-up on that ride, and was lucky to be able to hang with those guys,” said Ignatz. “Then on the run Brad pushed really hard in the beginning and it wasn’t until the stairs when I starting pulling away. It’s pretty exciting, best result in a national series race and to be able to work all week and show up for the weekend like this…it feels great.”
Ignatz is a full-time bike fitter back home in Boulder and of note, his wife Maia (a full-time massage therapist) won the women’s age group title today.
Weiss pulled past Fisher for third, his best result in a U.S. race. Fisher took 4th, his second top 5 in this his first year racing pro. Will Kelsay passed four guys to get into 5th place, the second year-in-a-row for him on the podium in Richmond.
Craig Evans was in that trio of guys on the bike before taking a spill just before the tunnels coming out of Forest Hill Park on the second lap. The crash was captured by a couple of photographers (see here). When he went down, Weiss, Fisher, and Ignatz rode by but Evans shook-it off and got back in the mix. Andy Lee, who won the age group race in Richmond last year, passed Evans in the end to take 6th – his best finish as a pro.
Evans came across in 7th, followed by 21-year-old Karsten Madsen from Canada who raced with a hyperextended elbow, then Branden Rakita and Ryan DeCook.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time
1 Dan Hugo 27 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:12:47
2 Ryan Ignatz 34 Boulder, Colorado 2:18:30
3 Bradley Weiss 24 Somerset West, South Africa 2:19:07
4 Nick Fisher 27 Ogden, Utah 2:21:54
5 Will Kelsay 32 Boulder, Colorado 2:24:15
6 Andy Lee 41 Lakeway, Texas 2:25:09
7 Craig Evans 35 Hendersonville, Tennessee 2:25:25
8 Karsten Madsen 21 Kitchener, Ontario, Canada 2:25:53
9 Branden Rakita 32 Colorado Springs, Colorado 2:26:42
10 Ryan DeCook 32 Rochester, Michigan 2:27:31
PATERSON WINS ON A BIKER’S COURSE
“Who says I’m not a mountain biker,” Paterson exclaimed moments after crossing the finish line.
That may have been the wrap on Paterson two years ago, but not anymore. She proved once again today her XTERRA success is about more than just fitness. Today she hung with arguably the best mountain biker in the sport – Shonny Vanlandingham – on a slippery, technical course and posted the second-best split of the day while riding behind Vanlandingham for much of the race.
“My goal was to really go out there and enjoy it and try to keep my focus,” said Paterson, who has now won six straight XTERRA championships. “Shonny passed me going into the second lap so I was really pleased to have fended off the other people. I rode with her for most of the lap and to be honest it was really fun, we chatted around the lap and she was giving me encouragement all the way, which is XTERRA Style. Yeah, she’s my favorite athlete by far.”
Paterson continued to praise Vanlandingham at the awards ceremony where she thanked the 2010 World Champion for “giving me her lines.”
“It was a tough course, really was gnarly, and I only came off once,” said Paterson.
Vanlandingham crushed the bike, and headed out on the run with the lead, albeit short-lived as the “Scottish Rocket” flew by about a mile into it.
“I was trying to emulate her form as she passed,” smiled Vanlandingham, who said she feels really good with her run and is finally getting back from the knee surgeries that slowed her down since 2011.
Brandi Heisterman posted her second straight 3rd-place finish spurred by another great day on the mountain bike. With the trails closed the past two days and this being her first time to Richmond, Heisterman hadn’t ever ridden on these trails before this morning.
“Lovey, love, loved that course,” exclaimed Heisterman, who rode in second behind Paterson for a while. “Killed me not to know it on the first lap, wasn’t in the right gear and got caught off guard at Hodson ramp, but I got it right the second time around. The crowd was awesome, the cheering was amazing.”
Melanie McQuaid finished in fourth, her 13th straight year in the top 4, and Danelle Kabush rounded out the top five.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time
1 Lesley Paterson 32 San Diego, California 2:30:40
2 Shonny Vanlandingham 43 Durango, Colorado 2:33:23
3 Brandi Heisterman 38 Brackendale, B.C., Canada 2:36:06
4 Melanie McQuaid 39 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:38:33
5 Danelle Kabush 37 Calgary, Canada 2:38:53
6 Suzie Snyder 31 Fredericksburg, Virginia 2:41:41
7 Christine Jeffrey 41 Guelph, ON., Canada 2:56:21
8 Katie Button 28 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:56:55
9 Caroline Colonna 49 Taos, New Mexico 2:59:52
10 Catherine Sterling 36 West Boylston, Mass. 3:00:54