The XTERRA Mountain Championship on Saturday, July 17, is the last of five regionals in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and the first major to be held high up in the mountains. The last four races were at relatively low-altitude courses in Nevada, Texas, Alabama, and Virginia; and while every destination has its own set of unique challenges – the Mountain Champs is all about big climbing in the thin air of the Rockies.
It’s exactly that feature that has attracted the sports best climbers and mountain dwellers to Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado. Of the 15 confirmed pros on the start list, nine are from Centennial State with others coming from the French Alps and mountain towns in Utah, New Mexico, Vermont and South Africa.
Frenchman Nico Lebrun (pictured), the 2005 XTERRA World Champion, will return to Beaver Creek to defend his title just a week after winning at the XTERRA France Championship on July 11. In last year’s race Lebrun was more than three minutes back coming out of the swim but posted the fastest bike split of the day, went out on the run in first place, and crossed the line more than a minute ahead of runner-up Mike Vine of Canada.
The real story, however, was what happened to Josiah Middaugh – the Vail resident who lives just a mile from the course and like Lebrun, excels at long, sustained, lung-burning climbs. The five-time XTERRA National Champ was in the lead on the bike last year when he hit a wooden sign post that exploded his pinkie finger (needed nine stitches post-race), sent him flying over the handlebars, and taco’d his front wheel. Amazingly he put it all together to finish in third, but you can rest assured it’ll be a different story this year.
Middaugh had surgery during the off-season to fix some lingering problems with his IT band that had hampered his run. As a result he posted the fastest run split at each of the first three races this year, only to finish second to Conrad Stoltz who has been nothing short of remarkable in winning the first four events of the season. Stoltz will not race this one as he already has a perfect 400-score leading up to Nationals on September 25 and will dedicate himself to training in preparation for the USA and World Championships (October 24 in Maui), which opens the door for Middaugh, Lebrun, and others.
Outside of what promises to be an all-star battle between Lebrun and Middaugh, there are two other riders that are certain to be factors come raceday – Dan Hugo and Cody Waite. Lakewood, CO resident Waite has had a break-out season on the XTERRA America Tour and comes in ranked fourth in the Series and in his element here in the Mountains. Last year he tussled with the leaders and actually crossed the finish line in second, but a missed turn on the run resulted in a time penalty that dropped him to fourth.
The South African young-gun Hugo, meanwhile, impressed everyone in his U.S. debut in Richmond, Virginia on June 20, placing second overall and proving he has the speed to race with the leaders. He just moved in to new training grounds in Boulder, Colorado but it is yet to be seen if he can keep up with the established climbers assembled for this race. Men’s updated pro start list:
2010 Pro Series Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
2 – Josiah Middaugh – 31, Vail, Colorado
4 – Cody Waite – 31, Lakewood, Colorado
5 – Seth Wealing – 31, Boulder, Colorado
7 – Will Kelsay – 28, Boulder, Colorado
8 – Branden Rakita – 29, Manitou Springs, Colorado
10 – Damian Gonzalez – 33, Stockton, California
11 – Nico Lebrun – 36, Digne-les-Bains, France
12 – Matt Boobar – 37, Stratton Mountain, Vermont
15 – Dan Hugo – 25, Stellenbosch, South Africa
17 – Brad Zoller – 32, Avon, Colorado
NR – Jimmy Archer – 37, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Justin Hurd – 28, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Joe McDaniel – 28, Colorado Springs, Colorado
NR – Darin Shearer – 36, Colorado Springs, Colorado
In the women’s race the clear-cut favorite is Shonny Vanlandingham, a two-time XTERRA National Champion and the most successful rider in NORBA mountain biking history. “Shonny V” has won this race each of the last two years, and has been on fire in 2010, taking home titles at the XTERRA West and Southeast Championship races and placing 2nd at the other two. Last year her bike split here was five minutes faster than any other female and she finished six-minutes ahead of runner-up Danelle Kabush of Calgary.
Among those shooting for Vanlandingham is Emma Garrard from Park City, Utah. No stranger to altitude and having her best year as a Pro, Emma posted the fastest run split in Texas and is currently ranked fourth in the Pro Series.
Last year at this race Sara Tarkington from Boulder had the best race of her XTERRA career and finished in third. Three other notables – Jenny Smith, Brandyn Roark Gray, and Erin Kummer – are making their first appearance on the America Tour this season. Smith, a Kiwi living in Gunnison, CO, is a seven-year XTERRA vet and won the inaugural XTERRA Amazon off-road tri in Brazil last month. Gray and Kummer are both former amateur stand-outs in their second seasons racing professionally, and both are coming off injuries so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform.
With nearly 5,000 feet of climbing (3,600 on the bike and 1,300 on the run) in a race that combines a mile swim with a 16-mile bike and 6-mile trail run, the real competition is Mother Nature. For all the pros and age group athletes from around the country a grueling challenge awaits and who wins may be a matter of who can suffer the best. We’ll find out July 17. Women’s updated pro start list:
2010 Pro Series Rank – Name – Age, Hometown (Now residing)
1 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 40, Durango, Colorado
4 – Emma Garrard – 28, Park City, Utah
8 – Tracy Thelen – 30, Colorado Springs, Colorado
13 – Sara Tarkington – 29, Boulder, Colorado
15 – Katie Ellis – 25, Phoenix, Arizona
NR – Erin Kummer – 25, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Rebecca Rae – 30, Christchurch, New Zealand
NR – Brandyn Roark Gray – 31, Aztec, New Mexico
NR – Ingrid Rolles – 37, Cape Town, South Africa (Honolulu, HI)
NR – Jenny Smith – 37, Westport, New Zealand (Gunnison, Colorado)
French multisport stars Nicolas Lebrun and Marion Lorblanchet won the XTERRA France Championship in Xonrupt Longemer, France.
In doing so Lebrun, a three-time XTERRA European Tour Champ, ended Franky Batelier’s amazing run of six straight wins on the European Tour.
A full field of 350 athletes gathered in Northeast France for the grueling race that included a 1.5 km swim, two 17 km mountain bike loops in the heart of the National Park of Vosges Mountains and a 10 km trail run.
French pro Nicolas Becker was first out of the water just ahead of Olivier Marceau and the reigning Euro Tour Champ Batelier. Becker’s lead did not last long, however, when Marceau and Batelier took the battle to the front of the bike. Lebrun was more than four minutes back out of the swim but rallied to catch the leaders by the bike-to-run transition. The trio headed out on the run together, followed by the chase pack composed of Zadak (CZE), Schumann (GER), Del Corral (ESP), Luxem (BEL) and Gardner (ENG).
In less than a mile Lebrun took the lead and never looked back. Behind him Spanish rider Victor Del Corral was flying and posted the second best run time and passed everyone but Lebrun to finish in second. Marceau was third, Schumann caught Batelier at the end to finish 4th and an exhausted Batelier rounded out the top 5.
In the women’s race Sibylle Matter took the lead out of the swim but was quickly gobbled up by Marion Lorblanchet and Carina Wasle. After the 1st bike loop Wasle had more than two minutes on Lorblanchet and Bucher. Bucher was more than four minutes behind Lorblanchet after the swim but posted the fastest bike split to move into second by the bike-to-run transition. Out on the run Lorblanchet caught Bucher at about the 7km point and Wasle shortly after for the win, with Bucher in second and Wasle in third. It’s the first XTERRA title for Lorblanchet.
“It was a very exciting race to the end as Marion passed me, then I passed her back, and then she passed me again for the win,” said four-time XTERRA Euro Tour Champ Renata Bucher. “She was stronger than me today and I’m very happy for her to pick up her first win.”
Top 5 Men
1. Nicolas Lebrun (FRA) 2:52:39
2. Victor Del Corral Morales (ESP) 2:53:25
3. Olivier Marceau (FRA) 2:53:59
4. Felix Schumann (FRA) 2:54:12
5. Franky Batelier (FRA) 2:56:29
Top 5 Women
1. Marion Lorblanchet (FRA) 3:20:19
2. Renata Bucher (SUI) 3:21:23
3. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:25:23
4. Sibylle Matter Bruegger (SUI) 3:28:56
5. Emma Ruth Smith (GBR) 3:38:38