With the month of May upon us the first third of the XTERRA World Tour season is in the books, and oh what a colorful ride it has been. Here are some of the highlights from the eight XTERRA majors that took place in South Africa and the Asia-Pacific region from February through April.
The season started traditionally in the southwestern tip of South Africa, home to the sports biggest stars like Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz, and biggest turnouts – with some 2,000 triathletes taking to the trails.
The epic celebration served as a poignant reminder to cherish each day, as the worldwide endurance sports community mourned the passing of legendary South African mountain biker Burry Stander who lost his life on the roads while riding his bike in January. The Burry Stander Foundation was formed to leave a legacy for Stander by bringing about lasting change to save lives – a worthy pursuit.
The race itself revealed another ringer from SA, Olympian Richard Murray who proved he has more than just a big engine – he’s got mountain bike skills to boot. While Stoltz’ stamped his mark on the bike, Murray ran away with the title and will be a force to be reckoned with at XTERRA Worlds in Maui.
February faded into a March to remember for Aussie sensation Ben Allen, who won the Triple Crown of the Western Pacific with consecutive victories at XTERRA Philippines, Saipan, and Guam.
In Cebu, where thousands line the bike and run courses to cheer on competitors, Lesley Paterson gave them something to shout about, finishing third overall behind only Allen and Dan Hugo.
“Just finished THE most epic XTERRA ever. Seriously hard core, like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” said Paterson after the race.
Hard core is a good word to describe Paterson too, as the two-time XTERRA World Champ has started 2013 where she left 2012, absolutely on fire. She won the XTERRA West Championship in April by a landslide (was 4th overall) and has sprinkled in a pair of eyebrow-raising mountain bike race wins as well, taking down Olympians and World Cup riders at the Bonelli Park Pro XTC and last weekend’s Whiskey Off-Road 50-miler in Arizona.
“I’ve been having so much fun this year,” she said. “I’m feeling really healthy, been working my butt off, waking up at 4:30 and putting the time in, so nice to see it pay off. And, my bike has really improved … just being strong, consistent, and not playing scared.”
Jacqui Slack can identify with that, as her off-season training paid off with back-to-back wins at XTERRA Saipan and Guam. For Slack, it was confirmation that her podium finish at last year’s XTERRA Worlds was no fluke and more than that – a return on her investment to embrace a life of adventure.
“These races are the most extreme triathlons I’ve ever done,” said Slack about the Triple Crown events. “Everyone comes back with a story, and these are the races you remember for that reason. I encourage everyone to give them a try, it’ll be the best race/holiday/life experience you’ve ever had.”
One of the most visual displays of the XTERRA spirit took place about an hour before XTERRA Guam this year as the entire field got their groove on in a downright hilarious rendition of the Harlem Shake, yet another reason why XTERRA has gained a reputation for being “a super fun event.”
Speaking of fun, March also featured Motatapu on the South Island of New Zealand, which held a Maui qualifier for the second straight year at one of the most visually stunning locations for any race in the world.
“It’s insanely beautiful, I can’t even describe how killer it is in Motatapu,” said XTERRA Hall of Famer Jamie Whitmore, who was there competing with thousands of others in the mountain bike events that join the XTERRA in one huge festival of racing.
As April rolled around the XTERRA Tribe greeted its return to Oz at the beautiful and charming coastal town of Anglesea along the Great Ocean Road. Home country hero and two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson broke up Allen’s winning streak, and like Murray in New Zealand, has happily set his sights on a trip to Maui for XTERRA’s biggest day.
Australia sparked a new winning streak as well with Renata Bucher taking her first of three championships in the month. The remarkable resurgence of Bucher – one of XTERRA’s true greats with 32 major victories in 16 countries around the world – is a sign that all is good in the sport.
“Traveling the world with XTERRA has been a blessing for me,” said Bucher. “I’ve met so many wonderful people, and had the opportunity to discover such great places and neat cultures. It’s a dream for me to do this, and to win is very special – I know I won’t always be the one.”
The one race that repeatedly receives rave reviews from participants is XTERRA New Zealand in Rotorua. The entire community is involved in the event, and works on perfecting the trails year-round.
“It’s an off-road paradise. The only problem is it’s really hard to get enough rest before the race because the trails are so stunning it’s hard to stop riding and riding and riding,” said Bucher.
In the U.S. Josiah Middaugh won the perpetual duel in the desert against Stoltz at the XTERRA West Championship, while a pair of 17-year-old age-group phenoms, Hannah Rae Finchamp from California and Mauricio Mendez from Mexico, finished sixth overall in the men’s/women’s races.
And just this past weekend saw the first XTERRA Malaysia race in Putrajaya which featured one of the most spectacular and diverse courses on the XTERRA Planet. A full compliment of XTERRA pros made the trip, and all came away with the same thought.
“It’s a phenomenal location, and a really, really fun course. I can’t say enough about the organization, they didn’t hold back on anything. It was super entertaining, and the culture shines through here – very courteous, warm people,” said Hugo, who finished second for the fifth time this season.
At every stop a cast of talented age group competitors earned their spot on the starting line for the 18th annual XTERRA World Championship in Maui, and a new breed of XTERRA Warriors were born.
Allen, who raced in eight events (won six) in eight countries over the last nine weeks, it’s a time for rest and reflection with a trip to his girlfriend’s Jacqui Slack’s hometown in the U.K. (where she hadn’t been since September).
“I feel relieved, but in a good way,” said Allen. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Having the opportunity to travel and explore, and to meet so many great people along the way, it’s left a permanent smile upon my face, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
First, however, Allen will help get the second season started at the XTERRA European Tour season opener in Cieza, Spain on June 2.
There are still more than a dozen World Tour events left this season, and your chance to embrace the sports’ motto and “Live More”.
2013 XTERRA World Tour Pro Winners (link to images)
Feb 24 XTERRA South Africa Championship (Grabouw)
– Richard Murray and Carla Van Huyssteen
March 2 XTERRA Philippines Championship (Cebu)
– Ben Allen and Lesley Paterson
March 9 XTERRA Motatapu (South Island, New Zealand)
– Braden Currie and Nicky Samuels
March 9 XTERRA Saipan Championship (Northern Marianas)
– Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack
March 23 XTERRA Guam Championship (Piti)
– Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack
April 7 XTERRA Great Ocean Road (Angelsea, Victoria)
– Courtney Atkinson and Renata Bucher
April 13 XTERRA New Zealand Championship (Rotorua)
– Ben Allen and Renata Bucher
April 28 XTERRA Malaysia (Putrajaya)
– Ben Allen and Renata Bucher
UPCOMING XTERRA RACES
May 4 – XTERRA Big Pocono 5K (Tanersville, PA)
May 4 – XTERRA Epic – Rustman (Ruston, LA)
May 5 – XTERRA Gator Terra (Ruston, LA)
May 12 – XTERRA Key Biscayne (Key Biscayne, FL)
May 18 – XTERRA Southeast Championship (Pelham, AL)
May 18 – XTERRA Seven Tubs 5K (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
May 18 – XTERRA Muleshoe 6/16K (Spicewood, TX)
May 18 – XTERRA Malibu Creek 6/22K (Malibu, CA)
May 18 – XTERRA Fajardo 5/10/21K (Fajardo, PR)
May 19 – XTERRA Oak Mountain 5/10/21/42K (Pelham, AL)
May 19 – XTERRA King of the Hill (Lebanon, NJ)
May 19 – XTERRA Last Stand (Augusta, MI)
May 19 – XTERRA Muleshoe (Spicewood, TX)
May 25 – XTERRA Lums Pond 5/10K (Bear, DE)
September 2 – XTERRA Canadian Championships (Canmore, Alberta)