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XTERRA West Championship Preview Part 2

The tenth XTERRA New Zealand goes Saturday.

The Duel in the Desert : Part IV  Stoltz vs. Middaugh

If history has anything to say about the outcome of Saturday’s XTERRA U.S. Pro Series season opener at Lake Las Vegas, Nevada – it’ll come down to two guys – Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh.

Since the XTERRA West Championship moved to the desert at Lake Las Vegas Resort in 2009 those two have had some of the best battles the sport has ever seen.  Consider this, in three years of racing here a total of 12 seconds (advantage Stoltz) is the difference in their finish times.

– 2009 Stoltz edges Middaugh by 32 seconds

– 2010 Stoltz edges Middaugh by 39 seconds

– 2011 Middaugh edges Stoltz by 59 seconds

That said, the headliner is nine-time series champ Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz, who already has a championship win in his pocket from his backyard race at XTERRA South Africa in February.

One cannot count out Dan Hugo, however, who is no doubt eager to notch the first of many victories this season on Saturday.  There’s also Chris Legh in the mix, who runs like the win and could catch anyone if given the chance.  Richard Stannard from the UK, the latest addition to the pro men’s list, adds intrigue by bringing serious speed to the swim – as his three Aquathon World Titles attest to.

On the women’s side we’ll have a battle of the best – with three-time XTERRA World Champ Melanie McQuaid (who’s won two of the last three here) against the reigning XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson and the “Swiss Miss” of XTERRA, Renata Bucher, who just won Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan on consecutive weekends.

Place your bets now, its Vegas after all, and see how the chips fall by following along on twitter @xterraoffroad this Saturday (9 am PST start).

XTERRA West Championships is now a qualifier for 2012 ITU Cross Tri World Championships on May 19

USA Triathlon designated Saturday’s XTERRA West Championship a qualifier for the May 19, 2012 ITU Cross Tri World Championship/XTERRA Southeast Championship in Shelby County, Alabama (near Birmingham). The number of qualifying spots varies per age group and is based solely on Saturday’s performance. Learn more at triathlon.org.

Updated XTERRA West Championships Pro List

Rank = Final position in 2011 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series

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

18 – Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska

19 – Damian Gonzalez – 35, Stockton, California

25 – David Henestrosa – 35, Clearfield, Utah

NR – Chris Ganter – 33, Boise, Idaho

NR – Doug Hall – 24, Bath, United Kingdom

NR – Chris Legh – 39, Melbourne, Australia

NR – Richard Stannard – 37, Surrey, United Kingdom

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 – 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

NR – Beth Walsh – 32, Encinitas, California

New Zealand Celebrates 10th Anniversary

This Saturday the XTERRA New Zealand Championship will celebrate its 10th birthday.

At the inaugural event in 2002, 900 people took part, since then over 18,000 people have taken to the stunning trails around the beautiful Blue Lakes area in Rotorua, and over the last 10 years, 237 athletes have gone on to compete at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui after qualifying in Rotorua.

The event now attracts people from all over the world, and organizers are expecting more than 2,500 entrants this year, each taking part in a walk, run, mountain bike or off-road triathlon.

The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival is one of the single biggest multisport events in the world and is part of the XTERRA World Tour which host events in 17 different countries.

Representatives from seven countries are expected to this year’s race, including some of the world’s best XTERRA athletes to compete for the Payment XTERRA New Zealand title and their share in the $10,000 prize purse.

Ben Allen of Australia is returning after a fourth place finish at last year’s event.  He comes into this race on fire having swept the XTERRA Asia Pacific tour with wins at the XTERRA Guam, Philippines, and Saipan Championship races on consecutive weekends in March.

“I’m feeling recovered, refreshed & ready for XTERRA NZ,” said Allen.”It’s always a tough battle for an Aussie crossing over the tasman to race in NZ, though, and I’m sure the local boys aren’t going down without a fight!  One thing is for sure, the course is world class in Rotorua which makes racing fast, fun & hard. I love NZ and all that it has to offer. It’s the adventure capital of the World!”

Like many entrants Allen is making it a family day out with his girlfriend Jacqui Slack from the UK, who will race in the elite women’s field. Slack also took part in the Asia Pacific swing, placing 2nd in Saipan and the Philippines and 3rd in Guam.

Taking on the Australians will be some of New Zealand’s best.

In the men’s field, Mark Leishman (Rotorua) and Scott Thorne (Hamilton) with be flying the Kiwi flag and each hoping they can fly it the highest by the end of the day.

Thorne comes to the race with a full complement of XTERRA medals, including two silvers, and will be looking for nothing less than another gold to add to that collection after finishing second to Richard Ussher last year.

Leishman was third in 2011 with Allan less than a minute behind. The top three seeded men this year are all expecting a tight tussle once again.

Locals will have a professional female to cheer for also with Leishman’s partner, Nic Leary (Rotorua) the number one Kiwi contender. 2012 is a comeback year for Leary,  after exploding onto the scene in 2009 as one of NZ’s most exciting mountain biking prospects, she has been absent from the national scene for most of the last 15 months battling illness and injury.

In a stellar 2 year period she emerged to won multiple mountain biking titles, as well as two XTERRA New Zealand Championships. She will be hoping her comeback period is complete in April with another XTERRA New Zealand title to her name.

While the professionals are out there battling themselves and each other for the title, there will be thousands of others taking part in what is an awesome day out.

XTERRA is about everyone living a little more, getting out there and giving it a go. There is an event option for all ages and abilities, including an 11km or 21km walk or run, a 29km mountain bike as well as a team or individual triathlon.