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Previewing the XTERRA West Championships

Canada's McQuaid, Kabush, and Staynor to race on Saturday.

Four of the top five ranked men in the 2011 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series will wade into the frigid Lake Las Vegas water to bring in the start of the 2012 season on Saturday, April 14.  Per tradition, the headliner is nine-time series champ Conrad Stoltz, who already has a championship win in his pocket from his backyard race at XTERRA South Africa.

Josiah Middaugh won this race last year, and in the off-season he won another USSSA Snowshoe National Championship, the Mt. Taylor Winter Quad title again, the Teva Mountain Games uphill and snowshoe races, a couple Beaver Creek snowshoe races, and the Pedal Power Winter Tri in Leadville.

Branden Rakita was busy getting in race shape by competing in the XTERRA Asia Pacific triple crown with three consecutive weekends of championship races in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan last month.

Dan Hugo, who fell just 33 seconds short of winning the XTERRA World Championship in October, won another Totalsports Challenge back in South Africa.

Missing from the top five is Nico Lebrun, who will focus on the XTERRA European Tour, USA and World Championship races.  In the off-season Nico grew some serious facial hair and did some big-time training in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeastern France.  He also placed third at the ETU Winter Triathlon European Championships, so it’ll be fun to see how fast the reigning XTERRA USA Champ is this year.

Expect strong years from Waite, Evans, and DeBoom.  Brian Smith, who won the Grand Traverse 40-mile endurance ski race last weekend with teammate Bryan Wickenhauser, is hoping to make it to Vegas – but for sure will be at the Mountain, USA, and World Champs this year.  “My new job with FedEx limits my travel considerably but psyched to be able to make a few races,” said Smith.

XTERRA West Championship Pro List, as of 4.6.12

Rank = 2011 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Rank

Rank – Name – Age, Hometown

1 – Conrad Stoltz – 38, Stellenbosch, South Africa

2 – Josiah Middaugh – 33, Eagle-Vail, Colorado

4 – Branden Rakita – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado

5 – Dan Hugo – 26, Stellenbosch, South Africa

7 – Cody Waite – 33, Lakewood, Colorado

8 – Craig Evans – 34, Hendersonville, Tennessee

12 – Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho

13 – Patrick Valentine – 26, Colorado Springs, Colorado

14 – Brian Smith – 36, Gunnison, Colorado

18 – Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska

19 – Damian Gonzalez – 35, Stockton, California

25 – David Henestrosa – 35, Clearfield, Utah

29 – Tim DeBoom – 41, Boulder, Colorado

No Ranking – Chris Ganter – 33, Boise, Idaho

NR – Doug Hall – 24, Bath, United Kingdom

The Women

Veterans, injuries, and newcomers define the women’s pro start list in Vegas.  Melanie McQuaid is coming off a convincing win at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside last weekend will be shooting for her fifth XTERRA U.S. Pro Series title this year – in addition to road glory.

She’ll have to contend with the reigning XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson, assuming the Scottish sensation is racing at 100%.

2010 XTERRA World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham will miss the first race of the season while recovering from off-season ACL surgery and has high hopes to be ready to race at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships / XTERRA Southeast Championship on May 19. Riding the bike is not an issue for Vanlandingham, however, so expect to see her join in the fun in Vegas as part of a relay team.

Christine Jeffrey and Jessica Noyola will start the season on the injured list as well, while Kelley Cullen will take the season-off to have her second baby which should come around, get this, Labor Day!  “I’ll be back in action in 2013, though,” said Cullen, who posted three top four finishes in her first year with XTERRA in 2011.

Renata Bucher is coming in hot after sweeping the XTERRA Asia Pacific triple crown of races in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan last month.  Emma Garrard was second at the USAT Winter Tri Nationals this year, and Suzie Snyder – who was a three-sport state champ (cross country, pole vault and slalom waterskiing) in high school, just signed with Team Luna Chix.  You can also count on veterans Danelle Kabush and Sara Tarkington to come in hot.

Several roadies are giving XTERRA a try for the first time, or the first time in a while, with Ironman stand-out Kate Major, Heather Jackson, Courtenay Brown, Kathryn Ross, Rebecca Staynor, and Jennifer Todd.  Joining the pro ranks for the first-time is reigning amateur XTERRA World Champ Tamara Donelson.

Rank – Name – Age, Hometown

1 – Melanie McQuaid – 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada

4 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah

5 – Suzie Snyder – 30, Fredericksburg, Virginia

7 – Caroline Colonna – 47, Taos, New Mexico

10 – Lesley Paterson – 31, San Diego, California

11 – Renata Bucher – 34, Lucerne, Switzerland

12 – Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

13 – Sara Tarkington – 31, Boulder, Colorado

NR – Courtenay Brown – 33, Boulder, Colorado

NR – Tamara Donelson – 36, Edwards, Colorado

NR – Heather Jackson – 27, Carlsbad, California

NR – Kate Major – 34, San Rafael, California

NR – Kathryn Ross – 21, Boulder, Colorado

NR – Rebecca Staynor – 21, Victoria, B.C., Canada

NR – Jennifer Todd – 37, Newbury Park, California