Conrad Stoltz and Shonny Vanlandingham won the XTERRA Southeast Championship titles at the very hot, humid and tough course at Pelham, Alabama yesterday.
The key story of the race was the introduction of 29er mountain bikes (referring to the diameter of the wheel) by many racers, most notably the race winners.
“I’m real proud of my 29’er,” said Stoltz to the XTERRA Media. “It’s the first time I’ve used it in an XTERRA and it worked brilliantly. On a bumpy course like this the bigger tires ride better. They have a bigger contact patch with the ground that gives you better traction. You don’t have to brake as much so you can keep your momentum rolling. It’s like an extra suspension, and because it’s so smooth you don’t get as tired.”
“Just two weeks ago Orbea launched their 29’er and this is my first XTERRA race with it and I love it,” said Vanlandingham. “It’s got such good traction, let’s you carry your speed and momentum and it weighs the same as my 26″ hardtail.”
Stoltz took the race lead from Craig Evans (USA) at the 9-mile mark of the bike, and his 1:21:18 bike split gave him a healthy lead heading onto the run.
“The run is probably the hardest I’ve ever done,” said Stoltz. “I think I had a four minute lead on Josiah, and in the beginning I thought it’ll be pretty easy, I’ll just keep going and take it, but by halfway through I was thinking ‘I don’t care if Josiah catches me, I just don’t want to die.”
Stoltz held on for the win (2:21:27), Josiah Middaugh (USA) used the fastest run split (40:02) to finish second, and Evans was third (2:26:55).
Two years ago, Vanlandingham earned her first XTERRA win on this course, but yesterday she was even more impressive. She finished sixth overall (2:38:02), with only the top five pro men ahead of her.
Guelph’s Christine Jeffrey was first out of the water, and was passed early during the bike by Victoria’s Melanie McQuaid – a two-time champion at this race, and the winner of the XTERRA European Championship in Italy two weeks ago. However, Vanlandingham then passed McQuaid, and put together a great run (45:02) to win her second XTERRA America Tour win this year.
“I caught Melanie on the long climb, and thought if I could keep the pace it’d be a good day,” said Vanlandingham, who finished 4 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of McQuaid in second.
“I’m getting shelled on the bike,” said McQuaid, who has not won an XTERRA America Tour title this year. “I don’t have any excuses though. Shonny is riding strong and these courses are all about the bike. But, I’d like to make an adjustment and mix in a 29’er for Richmond.”
Up next is the XTERRA East Championship in Richmond, Virgina this Sunday June 20th.
Top 10 Pro Men
1. Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 2:21:27
2. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:23:54
3. Craig Evans (USA) 2:26:55
4. Seth Wealing (USA) 2:31:20
5. Cody Waite (USA) 2:33:53
6. Will Kelsay (USA) 2:40:05
7. Scott Gall (USA) 2:40:24
8. Kevin Carter (USA) 2:40:46
9. Damian Gonzalez (USA) 2:47:26
10. Ryan DeCook (USA) 2:43:18
Top 8 Pro Women
1. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) 2:38:02
2. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 2:42:05
3. Lesley Paterson (SCO) 2:46:28
4. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:49:41
5. Emma Garrard (USA) 2:49:57
6. Christine Jeffrey (CAN) 2:55:06
7. Fabiola Corona (MEX) 3:00:02
8. Tracy Thelen (USA) 3:02:19