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XTERRA USA Championship Preview

Saturday at 9 am local time in Ogden, Utah.


Conrad Stoltz won his first XTERRA USA Championship race in 2001, just a few days after September 11, wearing purple shorts and a blue tank top.

“I couldn’t dream of winning the series. It is my first year, I am still on a borrowed bike and I didn’t think the Tahoe course suited me,” said the rookie from Stellenbosch, South Africa that day.  The victory gave him just enough points to leapfrog past Mike Vine and Nico Lebrun and win the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series title.

A month later Stoltz was wearing those same purple shorts, but sported a Specialized top for the first time on his way to winning his first of four XTERRA World Championships in Maui.  More than a decade later Stoltz is still Specialized, and still the man … the “Caveman”.

Since ’01 Stoltz is the winningest XTERRA pro of all-time with 47 championship victories, and has won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series nine of the past 11 years (Sylvain Dodet won the Series in ’04, Seth Wealing in ’06).

If Stoltz has a soft-spot, however, it could be this course.

“It’s the anti-Conrad course because there’s 3,000-feet of climbing, not a whole lot of descending, and I’m 180 pounds so it is especially challenging for me,” Stoltz has said since the XTERRA Mountain Championship race moved to Snowbasin back in 2006.

Still, he’s won here twice – in 2008 and 2010 – and at a similarly profiled XTERRA championship course at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado in July he dominated.  A win on Saturday would keep his goal of a perfect season intact and deliver his unprecedented 10th Pro Series crown.

Standing in his way is a quartet of XTERRA veterans including the defending champion Nico Lebrun from France, America’s best Josiah Middaugh, Aussie Chris Legh, and David Henestrosa from Spain.

Lebrun has won two of the last three here in Utah, and captured last year’s crown in perhaps the most-hyped XTERRA race of all-time as the world turned its attention to Utah to see how Lance Armstrong would perform in his return to triathlon.  Armstrong was 5th behind Lebrun, Dan Hugo, Middaugh, and Stoltz.

This year the Frenchman, nicknamed the “Professor” for his calculated racing IQ, spent the summer in his hometown, got married, and won the XTERRA Italy, Czech, and Switzerland championships en route to his fourth XTERRA European Tour title.  His prowess in the mountains – rooted in a childhood spent climbing around the French Alps – is legendary.

For Middaugh, a 7-time XTERRA National Champ, its unfinished business.  He’s been in the top five here for five straight years – placing 3rd in each of the last three years since Snowbasin became home to the U.S. Championships.  Despite these results, each year has come with adversity – from sickness to mechanicals – although to his credit Middaugh has never made any of it an excuse.  One can only think that on a day when it all came together, he would be the man to beat on this course.

Legh – the star of the famous Gatorade commercial – has made a career of triathlon with nearly 100 professional wins and most recently the IM 70.3 Lake Stevens title in July.  He did his first XTERRA more than 10 years ago, has had the fastest run split on Maui four times, and this year was 4th at the XTERRA West Championship (behind Stoltz, Middaugh, and Dan Hugo) and third at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship (behind Stoltz and Craig Evans). This course, which rewards endurance, seems particularly suited to Legh, although he’s never raced here.

Henestrosa, who was featured on the front page of today’s Ogden Standard-Examiner, won the XTERRA Italy Championship back in 2004, moved to nearby Clearfield, Utah a few years ago where he now teaches at a Spanish-immersion school, and had the fastest run of anyone on this course last year.  He jumped back into racing the XTERRA U.S. Series this year and has done well, most recently placing 4th at the highly competitive mountain championship in Colorado.  With home-course advantage and a run that could chase down even the speediest of contenders – he’s one to watch.

There are another dozen elites who shouldn’t be overlooked, like Ben Allen – an uber-fast swimmer who’s won XTERRA championships in Guam, Saipan, the Philippines and New Zealand this year – and the U.S. XTERRA contingent featuring Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Will Kelsay, Cody Waite, Adam Wirth, Will Ross, Damian Gonzalez, and Ryan Ignatz.
Pro Men : Bib# – Name – Age, Hometown
1 – Conrad Stoltz – 38, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 – Josiah Middaugh – 33, Vail, Colorado
3 – Craig Evans – 34, Hendersonville, Tennessee
4 – David Henestrosa – 35, Clearfield, Utah (Spain)
5 – Branden Rakita – 31, Manitou Springs, Colorado
6 – Will Kelsay – 30, Boulder, Colorado
7 – Cody Waite – 33, Lakewood, Colorado
8 – Chris Legh – 39, Lyons, CO (Australia)
9 – Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho
10 – Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska
11 – Damian Gonzalez – 35, Stockton, California
12 – Ryan Ignatz – 33, Boulder, Colorado
15 – Ben Allen – 27, North Wollongong, Australia
16 - Simone Calamai – 43, Florence, Italy
17 - Scott Gall – 38, Cedar Falls, Iowa
18 – Sam Gardner – 37, Surrey, Great Britain
19 – Denis Giovannetti – 38, Pistoia, Italy
20 – Nicolas Lebrun – 39, Digne, France


The women’s field at the XTERRA USA Championship is pure quality. Four different women won the four regional championships leading up to this event.

Renata Bucher won by three-tenths of a second at the West Champs, Lesley Paterson won the Southeast Champs, Melanie McQuaid won the East Champs, and Danelle Kabush took home the Mountain Champs title.

Any one of the four is capable of winning Saturday, and that’s not even including 2010 XTERRA World Champ Shonny Vanlandingham.

The favorite, however, has to be McQuaid.  Since XTERRA started racing at Snowbasin Resort in 2006 McQuaid has won here five times (2nd to Jamie Whitmore in ’07) and reeled off four straight.

Despite a ridiculous racing schedule that included six 70.3’s, all the U.S. XTERRA’s, a handful of mountain bike races, and a stretch where she raced every weekend for 10 weeks in a row, McQuaid said, “I feel awesome right now.”

She won XTERRA Canada against a stacked field that included Kabush and Bucher earlier this month and the course suits her strengths.

“You have to lay the power down for a long time on this bike, and the grade of the climb really suits me.  It’s not the most technical course but you have to hold momentum with corners and it takes some handling skills.  That said, it’s basically all up, with two eight-minute descents,” said McQuaid, who has posted the fastest bike split here each of the last three years.

To defend and win her fifth XTERRA U.S. Pro Series crown, however, McQuaid would need to win the race and have current points leader Lesley Paterson finish third or worse (among other scenarios).

“No doubt I’d have to win the race to have any chance of pulling the Series title out of the fire, but I’m not focusing on that.  I’ll focus on things I can control.  I think the strength of this field is fantastic for the sport.  I think people were shocked I could win a 70.3 earlier this year, but I’ve had races I was stronger at XTERRA and not won. People don’t understand how fast these girls are,” said McQuaid.

Speaking of fast, no one has been faster over the last year than Paterson, the reigning XTERRA World Champ and ITU Cross Tri World Champ.  The hilarious Scottish triathlon sensation is the Series points leader and looking for a clean sweep of off-road triathlon’s most prestigious titles on Saturday. She has finished runner-up to McQuaid in each of the last two seasons here in Utah and has the leg speed to reel-in anybody that might be in front of her coming off the bike.

Bucher, with 29 championship wins in 12 countries on her resume, also controls her own fate.  If she wins on Saturday, she’ll lock-up the Series crown at the same time.  In contrast to previous years which involved a ton of international travel late in the season, Bucher has been grounded in the U.S. since the summer and has trained and raced at altitude in preparation for this one.

Kabush could also be considered a favorite on this course – with the altitude – the climbing – and a tough run that are her strengths.

Add Vanlandigham, Suzie Snyder, and Carina Wasle to the mix and you have all the right ingredients for a world-class battle for the women on the Wasatch Front.

Pro Women : Bib# – Name – Age, Hometown
61 – Lesley Paterson – 31, San Diego, California (via Scotland)
62 – Renata Bucher – 34, Lucerne, Switzerland
63 – Melanie McQuaid – 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada
64 – Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
65 – Suzie Snyder – 29, Fredericksburg, Virginia
67 – Heather Holmes – 31, Pocatello, Idaho
68 – Tamara Donelson – 36, Edwards, Colorado
69 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado
70 – Caroline Colonna – 46, Taos, New Mexico
71 – Kim Baugh – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
74 - Christine Jeffrey – 39, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
75 – Jacqui Slack – 29, Stoke-on-Trent, Great Britain
76 – Carina Wasle – 28, Kundl, Austria


WHO: More than 1,300 athletes from 45 states and 10 countries ages 10-to-80.
WHAT: The XTERRA USA Championship triathlon and XTERRA Utah short and long course tri’s are on Saturday, plus kids races, clinics, and Ogden’s annual Harvest Moon Festival, and the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship half-marathon and 5k, 10k fun runs are on Sunday.
WHEN: Friday-Sunday, September 21-23, 2012
The XTERRA Expo is from 12 noon to 6pm on Friday in Ogden
The XTERRA USA Championship race starts at 9am Saturday

The XTERRA Trail Run Nationals race starts at 9am Sunday
WHERE: Ogden on Friday and Snowbasin Resort on Sat/Sun
WHY: Both the XTERRA Tri and Trail Run National Championship races are the culmination of 70-race nationwide series, that end with a best-of-the-best showdown in Utah.
TV: XTERRA TV is producing an hour-long, nationally broadcast television show on the USA Championship, highlighting Northern Utah as a mecca for outdoor adventure recreation.
LIVE COVERAGE: Saturday, 9am MST at xterraLIVE.com


Swim course distance: 1,500-meters (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between)
Elevation at Port Ramp Marina for swim start:  4,900-feet
Water temperature: 67 degrees on Wednesday
Mountain bike course distance: 28-kilometers (17.7 miles)
Total climbing on bike: 3,400-feet
Elevation at highest point: 7,300-feet (where Sardine Peak Trail meets the ridgeline)
Elevation at T2/Snowbasin Resort Lodge: 6,400-feet
Trail Run course distance: 10.4kilometers (6.47 miles)
Total climbing on run: 616-feet
Total climbing on course: 4,016-feet


The 2012 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series dishes out $145,000 in prize money: $85,000 among the five Series races, plus $60,000 to the top overall points scorers in the Series. Here’s how Saturday’s payout breaks down to the top performers in the Series:

XTERRA U.S. Pro Series

Pro Purse ($60,000)

Rank    Men    Women
1st    $10,000    $10,000
2nd    $6,000    $6,000
3rd    $3,500    $3,500
4th    $2,500    $2,500
5th    $2,000    $2,000
6th    $1,500    $1,500
7th    $1,200    $1,200
8th    $1,000    $1,000
9th    $800    $800
10th    $600    $600
11th    $400    $400
12th    $300    $300
13th    $200    $200

And for just the XTERRA USA Championship race:

XTERRA USA Championship

Pro Purse ($20,000)
Rank    Men    Women
1st    $2,500    $2,500
2nd    $2,000    $2,000
3rd    $1,500    $1,500
4th    $1,200    $1,200
5th    $900    $900
6th    $700    $700
7th    $500    $500
8th    $350    $350
9th    $200    $200
10th    $150    $150


The invite-only XTERRA USA Championship triathlon is truly a national, even international, affair with just 3% of the field hailing from the home state of Utah.  Here’s a look at the stats…
Countries Represented: 10; Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Scotland/GBR, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, USA.
U.S. States/Territories Represented: 45
Most populated base: Colo. (75), Calif. (39)
Men: 236
Women: 120
Oldest Man: Ronald Hill, Hayden, ID,  75
Oldest Woman: Lynne Collard, Gaithersburg,  62
Youngest Man: Jonas Woods- Nashville, TN, 15
Youngest Woman: Jocelyn Vides- Reno, NV, 15

Note: An additional 600-some triathletes will take part in the open XTERRA Utah short and long-course races.


XTERRA and Luck Stone are teaming up to bring fans a comprehensive slate of coverage for the XTERRA USA Championship race on September 22nd at XTERRALIVE.com.

One screen will feature live video feeds from several spots around the course, another will showcase a social media (GIS) map of the course with detailed positioning and tweets from strategically positioned spotters; and every elite athlete is being equipped with a GPS tracking device that will allow followers to see their every movement.  The “shadow” device reports location, speed, distance, and elevation.

Note that the pros can’t swim with the shadow, but the race clock will start right at 9am MST (8am PST, 11am EST), and viewers can expect the shadows to start moving around 9:20am.

For the Social Media Map we’ve found the Google Chrome browser seems to be the best browser for viewing (and it won’t run on Internet Explorer).  For the GPS Tracker you can download a free app for the iPhone that is pretty cool.  Just go to www.xterralive.com and follow the various links for more info.

For those on-site at Snowbasin Resort we’ll have big screen TV’s set-up displaying all the action.

Also of note, fans are encouraged to share their experiences via twitter with hashtag #xterraUTAH.