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XTERRA World Championship Predictions

The race goes Sunday October 28 in Maui.

Nobody has been to more XTERRA Championship events than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour – “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas.  Having been to every World Championship race in Maui since creating the sport back in 1996, and having been onsite to see this years races unfold all over the world – the Kahuna is more than qualified to speculate on who might win it all this year.  That doesn’t mean he’ll get it right, in fact, he hardly ever does (just 3-for-20 in picking winners over the last nine years).

Regardless, the man is an entertainer.  So, with a grain of salt, but some tasty insight nonetheless, here are the Kahuna’s 2012 Maui prognostications; or as he would say “My annual ‘How can he be so wrong’ prognostication”…

Thankfully it only happens once a year that I must go out on a limb and predict the uncertain.  For the 2012 World Championship it is even more impossible with perhaps the strongest all-around triathlon athlete entry of all time.  We have world champs in Olympic distance, Long distance, Ironman branded, ITU branded, Adventure racing, Duathlon, Winter tri and naturally XTERRA.

We have to start with Lesley Paterson.  She won the equivalent of the golf or tennis grand slam.  XTERRA World Championship, ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship, the XTERRA USA Championship, and the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series. Nonstop, bring it on and I will win it racing.  While our little Scot has to be the favorite, she will go up against last year’s second and third place women from the European tour that she has not seen all year.  Helena Erbenova was new to XTERRA in 2011 and finished the last half of the season with podiums all the way.  She proved it was no fluke with a solid 3rd in her first time at Maui.  This year she won 4 of 5 races in Europe and most were convincing, dominating performances.  Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet was hurt early in the year and just returned to competition at the Swiss race.  She was not 100% there but still finished second and has had another month to get better.  Don’t forget she was 2nd to Les at Maui last year.  Never count out Melanie McQuaid.  She is a three-time World Champion, 70.3 and mountain bike champion to boot.  She was leading by minutes last year when her body failed and I don’t expect that to happen twice to a veteran like Mel.  Danelle Kabush has had a love affair with Maui and has been 2nd twice.  Danelle broke through with a big win in Colorado at the Mountain Championship and finished 3rd at this year’s USA champ race just 13 seconds behind the runner-up Suzie Snyder.  With 2010 World Champ Shonny Vanlandingham not back to 100%, Suzie has to be America’s best hope.  She is the 2012 XTERRA USA Pro Champion and has had a solid season.  Suzie is ready for the top step and this determined young woman could make that happen at Kapalua.  Is Shonny ready?  Only she knows for sure and we all hope she is right there with her Luna teammates Danelle and Suzie.  There is no doubting Shonnys courage and skill – it is only a question of how far her rehab has taken her.

The unusual suspects that we don’t have a lot of history could play a huge part in this year’s race.  Australian Erin Densham won the bronze at the Olympics and sits #1 in the ITU rankings.  She was 6th last year at Maui and has some XTERRA wheels under her.  No doubt of her strength – but has she been on the MTB?  The Canadian Invasion will include Magali Tisseyre who has not done XTERRA, but is a strong roadie along with Heather Jackson and Mary Beth Ellis.  In that trio you have unbelievably strong women and never forget what Julie Dibens has done at Maui.  Our stealth woman has to be Barbara Riveros from Chile.  A winner and consistent podium finisher in the ITU world cup series; she lists mountain biking as her favorite “other” sport.  And being Chilean, you know this 5’2″ 104lb dynamo can climb.  Brit Jacqui Slack has had a great year with wins in New Zealand and Italy and was 2nd to only Erbenova in the Euro tour.  We know she will challenge the “Big Fish” Christine Jeffrey, Densham, and the other ITU girls out of the water, so look for her on the sharp end of the field early on.

The men’s field may be more stacked than the women!  Josiah Middaugh won the USA Championship race in Utah and is really fit and motivated.  Will we “Fear the Beard” at Maui?  Craig Evans, the “Tennessee Terror” has had a great season and will want to repeat his 2nd place finish at the ITU cross World Champs.  Branden Rakita has had a good year and is training hard to end on a high note.

The European Invasion is incredible.  At the top is Nico Lebrun, a former World Champ and the 2012 European Tour champ.  Nico is smart, fast and wants another world crown.  His big challenger in Europe this year was Brit (living in France) Asa Shaw.  Asa won in France and in Czech and gave Nico fits at the winner-take-all race in Switzerland.  Sebastian Kienle is the 70.3 world champ and has experience in Maui.  Together with his best friend “Herr Doktor” Felix Schumann, this German Duo could panzer the field.  Olivier Marceau did not have his best season in Europe, but he is back healthy and has a fabulous history on Maui.  Three-time World Champion Eneko Llanos has shown he has the endurance to do well at Kona and then come to Maui and win.  He’d love to tie Conrad as a 4-time World Champ.  Also from Spain, Victor del Coral is fast, has won Euro XTERRAs, Ironman races, an ETU cross championship and is a threat.  Maybe the biggest unknown is also from Spain in Javier Gomez.  The Olympic silver medalist and current ITU No. 2, one cannot deny his skill in the swim and run.  If he can hang on the MTB he may well surprise everyone.  The UK’s Ex-World Champ Tim Don is here.  He is finished with ITU and has asked about XTERRA for a few years.  There can be no doubting his run and swim – again it is a question of the mountain bike.  Add Czech Jan Kubicek (9th last year) Francois Carloni, Yeray Luxem, Jim Thijs and Pierre-Yves Facomprez from the European Tour and the contingent is strong and deep.

The Canadian boys are definitely on the radar.  Mike Vine has been runner up on Maui and won Canada this year.  He has taken a lot of time off and is fresh and focused.  With perhaps more speed than Vine is Brent McMahon.  Brent also has a 2nd at Maui and has been racing all year with ITU and at the Olympics.  Is he fit and ready or has the season worn him out?  I am betting he is ready.

Aussie Ben Allen has four wins this year after completing his XTERRA World Tour of four continents, Chris Legh was 3rd at the ITU championship and it is rumored he has a new bike.  A very fast runner, if Legh is within a few minutes of the lead off the bike – look out.  Kiwi Adventure Champ Richard Ussher was 8th at Maui last year and returns to step it up in 2012.  Mexico’s Francisco “Paco” Serrano has also retired from ITU, has won XTERRA Mexico a number of times and is ready to make his mark at Maui.

Oh Dear – Did I forget Someone?  A big kid, sits high on his 29er bike in his white and red kit?  Is always the one everyone has to fear?  The most respected XTERRA athlete of all time?  Iconic Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz will again be the crowd favorite, the one that everyone knows and cheers for and as the only 4-time World Champion, is the perennial favorite.

Is that enough star power to ruin Captain Kirk’s day?  So you can all laugh and make fun of the old man on Sunday night, I give the nod to Lesley for the women with Erbenova as the spoiler and Suzie Snyder, Riveros, McQuaid and Densham making up the top 5.  (I know there are six names).  My sentimental has to be Shonny making her return sooner than later.

For the men I think Nico is ready for his second Championship.  The ITU guys will need to be caught on the bike as they will have a few minutes lead out of the water.  Conrad and Josiah will also need to be caught and we know their bike skills are at the top of the heap.  We are a bit more technical this year and this will give a bit more advantage to Caveman and “The Beard” but it seems there is always a Maui specific racer that keeps it interesting.  For Llanos and Kienle how things go at Kona will affect them.  Marceau will be close off the bike but can he keep it up on the run?

I like Nico, Stoltz, Middaugh, McMahon, Kienle, Shaw and Llanos to make up the top 5.  Again, I know there are seven names – give me a break – there are 17 guys who can win.

Since 1998 Hawaiian Airlines has sponsored the “Double”, awarding cash and free flights to the pro and amateur men and women who can conquer the challenges of the Ironman World Championship and the XTERRA World Championship (Oct. 28) in the fastest time.

There are several notable “doublers” in this year’s field, including five-time winner Eneko Llanos, Ironman Mary Beth Ellis, former Japanese Olympic mountain biker Kenji Takeya, and last year’s winner Pablo Ureta.

New among the brave souls who have committed to doing both Ironman and XTERRA is Carol Rasmussen, a 48-year-old from Denmark – who remarkably is in her first year of racing triathlon.

“My first triathlon was XTERRA Germany and I placed 1st. Things have been going great ever since,” said Rasmussen.  “In my first Ironman, which was in Spain this spring, I qualified for Ironman Kona. I competed again at XTERRA Germany and won, so now with one year triathlon training I’m doing both world championships.”

Rasmussen started swimming after a bike accident six years ago that resulted in two fractured backbones.  While she thought about getting into triathlon at the time, she continued bike racing.

“I have won a lot of different kind of races.  Road racing in the French Alps and in Belgium, and I have won a lot of Danish MTB races – 12hour and 24hour races – and even placed 2nd in the Danish elite group although I am the grand old lady in Danish mountain biking and could be their mom.”

Rasmussen will be racing with the added adversity of an injured left Achilles, “but I hope I am feeling great on the 28th.  If my body isn’t too tired from the Ironman I believe I will be able to end up on the podium at XTERRA – hopefully in first place.”

Inspired by XTERRA videos and the friendships she has made in the sport, anything is possible.

“I really can’t wait for the XTERRA, I think it is the greatest triathlon event and sport in the world.”

Here’s a look at the tentative list of those that are racing the Ironman World Championship on Saturday before heading to Maui for some fun at XTERRA Worlds.  We’ll break down their times (and find out who we missed) from Ironman next week to see where they stand.

Name (Hometown) Division
Eneko Llanos (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain) MPro
Sebastian Kienle (Hohenklinger, Germany) MPro
Mary Beth Ellis (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware) WPro
Jeff Bassett (Scottsdale, Arizona) Men’s 45-49
Patrick Clark (Aiea, Hawaii) Men’s 35-39
Erica Dueger (Concord, New Hampshire) Women’s 45-49
Brett Dunstan (Geelong, Victoria, Australia) Men’s 40-44
Rebecca Fondermann (Bonn, Germany) Women’s 30-34
Elisabeth Gruber (Redding, CA) Women’s 20-24
Carol Rasmussen (Karlslunde, Denmark) Women’s 45-49
Josh Rix (Melbourne, Australia) MPRO
Kenji Takeya (Misato, Japan) MPRO
Pablo Ureta (Huerta Grande, Argentina) Men’s 30-34
Thomas Vonach (Schwarzach, Austria) Men’s 40-44

(Place at last year’s WC) – Name – Age, Hometown (Origin)
(3) – Eneko Llanos – 35, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
(4) - Josiah Middaugh – 34, Vail, Colorado, USA
(6) – Olivier Marceau – 39, Vallauris, France, (Switzerland)
(8) – Richard Ussher – 36, Nelson, New Zealand
(9) – Jan Kubicek – 32, Chodov City, Czech Republic
(10) – Chris Legh – 39, Lyons, Colorado, USA, (Australia)
(11) – Sam Gardner – 37, Surrey, United Kingdom
(13) – Nicolas Lebrun – 39, Digne-les-Bains, France
(14) – Mike Vine – 39, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(17) – Jim Thijs – 32, Huldenberg, Belgium
(18) – Branden Rakita – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
(22) – Llewellyn Holmes – 30, Bristol, United Kingdom
(23) – Felipe Moletta – 25, Sao Jose Dos Pinhais, Brazil
(29) – Ben Allen – 27, North Wollongong, Australia
(31) – Cody Waite – 34, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
(32) – Cid Santos – 30, Natal, Brazil
(33) – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska USA
(36) – Pierre Facomprez – 29, Nervers, France
(39) – Yu Yumoto – 34, Tokyo, Japan
Francois Carloni – 27, Frejus, France
Leonardo Chacon – 28, Liberia, Costa Rica
Braden Currie – 26, Wanaka, New Zealand
Brice Daubord – 27, Orleans, France
Gianpietro De Faveri – 43, Vittorio Veneto, Italy
Victor Del Corral – 32, Santa Olivia, Spain
Tim Don – 34, London, United Kingdom
Craig Evans – 34, Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA
Jan Francke – 43, Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic
Javier Gomez – 29, Pontevedra, Spain
Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California, USA
Brendan Halpin – 28, Missoula, Montana, USA
Sebastien Kienle – 28, Hohenklingen, Germany
Mark Leishman – 34, Rotorua, New Zealand
Yeray Luxem – 26, Merksem, Belgium
Brent McMahon – 32, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Takahiro Ogasawara – 32, Tokyo, Japan
Max Renko – 27, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Josh Rix – 34, Melbourne, Australia
Felix Schumann – 30, Bad Wimpfen, Germany
Paco Serrano – 32, Garza Garcia, Mexico
Asa Shaw – 28, Frejus, France, (United Kingdom)
Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Kenji Takeya – 43, Misato, Japan
Jean-Philippe Thibodeau – 22, Baie-Saint-Paul, Canada
Denilson Freitas – 44, Serra, Brazil

Women’s Tentative Pro Start List
(Place at last year’s WC) – Name – Age, Hometown (Origin)
(1) – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, Calif.(United Kingdom)
(2) – Marion Lorblanchet – 29, Clermont Ferrand, France
(3) – Helena Erbenova – 33, Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech
(4) – Renata Bucher – 35, Lucerne, Switzerland
(5) – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
(6) – Erin Densham – 27, Melbourne, Australia
(9) – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Brackendale, B.C., Canada
(15) – Suzie Snyder – 30, Stafford, Virginia, USA
(17) – Catherine Dunn – 50, Wellington, New Zealand
(21) – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico, USA
Katie Button – 27 Collingwood, Ontario, Canada
Mary Beth Ellis – 35, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA
Heather Jackson – 28, Carlsbad, California, USA
Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada

Elizabeth Orchard – 26, Epsom, New Zealand
Mari Rabie – 26, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Barbara Riveros – 25, La Pintana ,Chile
Jacqui Slack – 29, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
Magali Tisseyre – 31, St-Sauveur, Canada
Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado, USA

Oct. 13 – XTERRA Harvest Half 10/21K (Kirkland, WA) 2013
Oct. 13 – XTERRA Fall Fitness 5K (Buford, GA) 2013
Oct. 14 – XTERRA Pt. Mugu 11/18K (Malibu, CA) 2013
Oct. 20 – XTERRA Red Mtn 5/8/16K (Birmingham, AL) 2013
Oct. 27 – XTERRA Epic Iron Mtn (Arkadelphia, AR) 2013 points
Oct. 27 – XTERRA Degray Lake (Arkadelphia, AR) 2013 points
Oct. 27 – XTERRA Duke’s Beach House 10K/Hula Grill 5K (Maui)
Oct. 28 – XTERRA World Championship (Kapalua, Maui)