Nobody has been to more XTERRA Championship events than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour – “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas. We lean on his experience here to speculate on how this year’s XTERRA USA Championship men’s and women’s pro races might unfold.
If you have not heard the news then you must be on a different planet than the “XTERRAPlanet”. Lance Armstrong is coming to Utah. Not to be on TV or do charity work, he is coming to race XTERRA. That’s right; one of the biggest stars in our kinds of sport is coming to play with us.
If this doesn’t throw a wrench in figuring out what might happen, nothing could. It was going to be enough of a battle as is. Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz is always the favorite, and he won handily last year, but Utah has not always been easy for him.
Frenchman Nico Lebrun (pictured), as always, is in fabulous shape with a stunning second in Switzerland last week and the fastest bike split on a flat course. Lebrun won this race two years ago, and he is a climber! Josiah Middaugh slam dunked the field in Canada and won on his home turf in Colorado last month. Seth Wealing is having a phenomenal season winning in Mexico, second in the rain in the Czech Republic, and was poised to podium if not win in Germany when he had bike problems.
Branden Rakita is continuing his move forward in the ranks and will be in the top five off the bike for sure and Brian Smith is getting more fit and faster every race with a 3rd in Colorado only 40 seconds behind Middaugh.
Fellow South African Dan Hugo has been closest to Conrad every time they have competed together and would love nothing more than to beat Stoltz and Armstrong in one huge move to the top. Oh yes – the other wild card? None other than two-time Ironman World Champ Tim DeBoom will also be challenging the XTERRA regulars and says he can ride a mountain bike.
The Championship fight for the women is super tight between Melanie McQuaid (pictured above) and Shonny Vanlandingham (pictured below). Shonny unfortunately tore an ACL in a freak training accident, but thinks she will be OK for the race. Mel has to be the favorite and is extremely fit having won Canada and had a great 70.3 season.
Lance and Tim are not the only interlopers; for the women we have the return of Tammy Jacques – a former UCI world cup mountain biker and Hawaiian Mountain tour winner. Tammy is back skiing professionally and riding her bike as well as ever. She is tiny, she can climb and run and her presence could also make a difference.
Returning to XTERRA after a fabulous win in Santa Cruz and a great road season, Lesley Patterson will be looking to take home the big prize money put out at Utah. Diminutive Austrian Carina Wasle is coming back to Utah with a years experience and we will see the return of Canadian Danelle Kabush and a new northern neighbor Mical Dyck to challenge our fastest swimmer Christine ‘Big Fish’ Jeffrey for a podium spot.
There is much to expect and a whole lot to wonder about with such a fantastic field. The course for the bike and run has been changed much for the better. Yes, the climb from the reservoir is still the same but the Forest Service just completed the new Sardine Peak trail that makes the bike course far superior to previous times. It also means we can use much of the trail network that made up the bike in years past so the run will have very little service road and much more single track. Will this favor runners like Wealing, Lebrun and Paterson? Will it make no difference to the Caveman and McQuaid?
The appearance of Lance certainly makes things very different and we look forward to having him on the start line. With a record entry for both the championship and open races, it will be one heck of a weekend.
2011 XTERRA USA CHAMPIONSHIP PRO START LIST
Rank based on position in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series
NR = Not ranked in 2011 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series
2011 Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 – Conrad Stoltz – 37, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 – Josiah Middaugh – 32, Vail, Colorado
3 – Nicolas Lebrun -38, Digne, France
4 – Branden Rakita – 30, Manitou Springs, Colorado
5 – Seth Wealing – 32, Boulder, Colorado
6 – Craig Evans – 33, Hendersonville, Tennessee
7 – Cody Waite – 32, Lakewood, Colorado
8 – Dan Hugo – 25, Stellenbosch, South Africa
10 – Jason Michalak – 33, Lakewood, Colorado
11 – Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho
12 – Brad Zoller – 33, Avon, Colorado
13 – Patrick Valentine – 25, Colorado Springs, Colorado
14 – Brian Smith – 35, Gunnison, Colorado
15 – Matt Boobar – 38, Stratton Mountain, Vermont
18 – Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska
24 – Jimmy Archer – Boulder, Colorado
25 – Will Kelsay – 29, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Ben Allen – 26, North Wollongong, Australia
NR - Lance Armstrong – 40, Austin, Texas
NR – Tim DeBoom – 40, Boulder, Colorado
NR - Chris Ganter – 32, Boise, Idaho
NR – David Henestrosa – 34, Manresa, Spain
NR – Michael Hiscott – 28, London, England
NR – Lewellyn Holmes -29, Bristol, England
2011 Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 – Melanie McQuaid – 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada
2 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 41, Durango, Colorado
3 – Christine Jeffrey – 38, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
4 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
5 – Suzie Snyder – 29, Fredericksburg, Virginia
6 – Jessica Noyola – 29, San Diego, California
7 – Caroline Colonna – 46, Taos, New Mexico
8 – Tracy Thelen – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado
10 – Kelley Cullen – 30, New Castle, Colorado
11 – Lesley Paterson – 30, San Diego, California (Scotland)
12 – Sara Tarkington – 30, Boulder, Colorado
13 – Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 – Luisa Bryce – 29, Denver, Colorado
15 – Jaime Brede – 33, Breckenridge, Colorado
17 – Kim Baugh – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado
NR - Mical Dyck – 29, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR – Tammy Jacques – 45, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
NR – Carina Wasle – 26, Kundl, Austria