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XTERRA World Championships Race Week Preview

Race day - Sunday October 23.

The Hawaiian word Kapalua can loosely be translated to mean “embracing the sea.”  Fittingly enough, XTERRA is embracing Kapalua as the new home for the world’s most prestigious off-road triathlon next Sunday, October 23.
The 16th annual XTERRA World Championship is crossing the island after 15 glorious years in the Makena/Wailea area. Gone are the calm seas of Makena, the kiawe thorns and sharp lava rocks of Haleakala, and the unforgiving South Maui sun.  It’s a whole new world at Kapalua, and the inaugural class of 2011 will usher in a fresh era of big surf, red dirt, and verdant green passages.

The Kapalua Resort is on Maui’s northwest coast and as such its greener, cooler, and more tropical than the south shore.  A capacity field of 675 athletes from 28 countries and 42 U.S. states will tackle this new challenge – having competed all season long for the right to dig their toes in the sand at the sports’ ultimate event.

In addition to the new course, they’ll be treated to an area of Maui that is considered one of the most picturesque settings in the world with amazing beaches, renowned resorts, world-class restaurants and incredible golf courses.  In short, there will be no shortage of sights and activities for XTERRA athletes and their families.

Kapalua is indeed a place worth embracing and even those that can’t make it to Maui can experience the magic, as all the action is being filmed for a one-hour TV special that will be broadcast across the nation starting in mid January 2012. Visit www.XTERRAMaui.com for more information and race coverage.


Men’s pro field as of 10.14.11

Canada – Kelly Guest, Mike Vine
Australia – Ben Allen, Chris Legh
Austria – Michael Weiss
Belgium – Jim Thijs
Brazil – Felipe Moletta, Cid Santos, Marco Silva Junior, Frederico Zacharias
Czech Republic – Jan Kubicek
France – Pierre Facomprez, Victorian Lafargue, Nicolas Lebrun
Germany – Ronny Dietz, Jan Frodeno
Italy – Simone Calamai, Denis Giovannetti, Antonello Pallotta
Japan – Yu Yumoto
New Zealand – Richard Ussher
South Africa – Dan Hugo, Conrad Stoltz
Spain – Victor Morales, Eneko Llanos, Ivan Rana, Alejandro Santamaria, Marcel Zamora
Switzerland – Olivier Marceau
United Kingdom – Sam Gardner, Llewellyn Holmes, Cedric Lassonde, Richard Stannard, Graham Wadsworth
USA – Jimmy Archer, Lance Armstrong, Brian Astell, Tim DeBoom, Jason Michalak, Josiah Middaugh, Branden Rakita, Will Ross, Cody Waite, Adam Wirth, Brad Zoller

Women’s pro field as of 10.14.11

Canada – Brandi Heisterman, Danelle Kabush, Melanie McQuaid, Tanis Tomlin
– Erin Densham
Austria – Carina Wasle
Brazil – Carla Prada, Manuela Vilaseca
Czech Republic – Helena Erbenova
United Kingdom – Julie Dibens, Lesley Paterson
France – Sabrina Enaux, Marion Lorblanchet
Hungary – Brigitta Poor
Italy – Elisabetta Curridori
Mexico – Fabiola Corona
New Zealand – Catherine Dunn, Karen Hanlen
Saipan – Mieko Carey
Switzerland – Renata Bucher
USA – Kim Baugh, Caroline Colonna, Kelley Cullen, Emma Garrard, Jessica Noyola, Brandyn Roark, Suzie Snyder, Sara Tarkington

The Pro Race as Prognosticated by Dave Nicholas

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’s hardly ever right (just 3-for-18 in picking winners over the last eight years).  So, with a grain of salt, but some tasty insight nonetheless, here are the Kahuna’s 2011 Maui prognostications:

It seems the pro triathlon world is as excited as the age groupers to head into an all new Maui experience at Kapalua. The field is unbelievably strong and deep.

With 2010 World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham relegated to spectator after her ACL operation, it appears to boil down to Melanie McQuaid, Julie Dibens, Lesley Paterson, Renata Bucher and Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet.  I don’t mean to diss the likes of Carina Wasle, Suzie Snyder, Emma Garrard, or Danelle Kabush as all of them have won races and could easily beat any of my top five picks. The wildcards have to be Czech pro Helena Erbenova who has two podiums in her first season in Europe and Aussie Erin Densham, an Olympic triathlete, as well as American Kelley Cullen who has been top four every XTERRA championship race she entered this year.

This could be the year of Bubu.  She has been unstoppable in Europe with a third-place in France due to some bike problems as the only blemish to a perfect four-win season.  Melanie was super strong last month in Utah and if Bubu is to win she has to go through the 3-time World Champ McQuaid to get it.  Julie Dibens is simply a superb athlete and can win anytime anyplace, but we’ll have to see if she can run on that toe that took her out of a brilliant race in Kona. Regardless, how can you deny anyone who won three world champ trophies in a row and came second in her only other appearance?  Lesley Paterson had her first XTERRA championship win this year in Santa Cruz and may be better suited to Kapalua than Makena.  If she gets into T2 within three minutes of the leader she truly has the ability to make up that much time on the run.  Renata has not had one of her best years, but took some time off in Europe and is reported happy and rested and ready to come claim her World Crown.

When it comes to the men we must look to the “Caveman” Conrad Stoltz.  With four XTERRA World Championship titles and more wins than any other XTERRA athlete in history one can never dismiss him as the favorite, but what a field of stellar athletes are coming to try and take him down.  European champ Olivier Marceau is always powerful on Maui despite never grabbing the top spot, Eneko Llanos has three XTERRA world titles and has proven he can race Kona and come to Maui and win. The “Professor” Nico Lebrun beat everyone up in Utah and chased Marceau in Switzerland for his last two finishes.  Nico is always at his best in September and October.  Austrian Michi Weiss returns after a great 70.3 and Ironman season, Victor Morales, who won France, is coming along with Marcel Zamora – a 5-time IM France champion.  Now throw in the fabulous Dan Hugo who is so due for the big win, Josiah Middaugh who has only bad luck holding him back from a Maui win, German Ronny Dietz who has Euro victories and chased Marceau down to the last few miles in Switzerland for the season crown, Tim DeBoom who got his XTERRA feet wet in Utah, Branden Rakita who was only 40+ seconds back of some newcomer named Lance in Utah and you have a field with anyone of 10 guys who could win.

Oh dear, did I say Lance?  We were thrilled to have this generation’s best endurance athlete race with us in Utah.  And “The Man” did not disappoint.  Will he be back to face this horde of performers? All signs say yes he will. This field is arguably tougher than any he faced in The Tour and he will only have 2.5 hours to defeat them rather than 28 days.  To augment all of these names we must include 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold Medalist from Germany, Jan Frodeno.  No stranger to a mountain bike and a mate of Conrad and Hugo, Jan is a threat.

In the end it always boils down to who has “IT” on the day.  There will not be the flat tire or bike carnage on this course as in Makena. The trails are much more forgiving and mechanicals will not play so important a factor.  For the women I have to go with the threesome, in no particular order, of Dibens, Lorblanchet and McQuaid.  My pick for the upset is Lesley Paterson.

The men’s field is more difficult because we don’t know what to expect from Lance and Frodeno. Stoltz, Lebrun, and Llanos have a combined eight world championships.   Marceau, Weiss and Middaugh all have experience on Maui that should help – but we can’t forget there is no experience for this new course.

Hugo is strong, Dietz can win on any given day and so can Morales; and those two supermen of Armstrong and Frodeno make it darn near impossible.

Ultimately, I see Dan Hugo as finally breaking through and winning the Big One, and Lorblanchet doing the same for the women.

WHAT IS XTERRA: The world’s premier off-road triathlon, combining a 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) swim that starts in front of the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua … a 30-kilometer (18.3-miles) mountain bike that climbs more than 4,000 feet up and down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, and a 10-kilometer (6.1-miles) trail run that traverses forest trails, and beach sand.  Top pros finish in roughly two-and-a-half hours.

WHO RACES IN MAUI: A capacity field of 675 racers including 75 professionals and 600 amateurs representing 28 countries & 42 U.S. states, ages 15 (Erin Quinn from Littleton, CO) to 74 (Ron Hill from Hayden, ID).  96% of the field is from out of town.

WHEN: The XTERRA World Championship starts at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 23.  The XTERRA Kapalua 5km and 10km trail runs are on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: At the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui’s northwest coast.

WHY: The XTERRA World Championship race is the last in a series of more than 100 off-road triathlon races held in 15 countries and 38 U.S. States.  The concept is to provide a bona-fide world championship for amateur and pro off-road triathletes. For pros there is $100,000 in prize money at stake.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED: Amateurs enter the World Championship through one of two means:
1. Earn a slot by qualifying as one of the top finishers in their age group at an XTERRA Championship race in Brazil, Canada, Philippines, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Saipan, South Africa, Switzerland and Alabama, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Utah,  and Virginia in the United States.  For those “lucky-you-live-Hawaii-guys” there were two local qualifying races at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.
2. Enter through the at large drawing – a limited number of slots were offered on a first-come first-serve basis in January.

XTERRA BACKGROUND: This is year 16 for the XTERRA World Championship on Maui – the birthplace of off-road triathlon.  The first XTERRA race was held here on November 3, 1996 with just 123 participants and was televised on Fox Sports Net.  The demand for the sport of XTERRA exploded thereafter and there are now more than 30,000 competitors from all 50 states and more than 40 countries worldwide.

TELEVISION: This will be the 16th straight year a nationally broadcast one-hour show will be produced on the event, which showcases Maui’s natural beauty. The 2010 XTERRA World Championship one-hour TV show has been seen by 7.3 million viewers via national syndication (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) and Fox Sports Network. There have been 248 airings of the show since January 2010 and it is still being broadcast on NBC/Universal Sports nationwide.  This year’s show will start its run in national syndication in mid-January 2012.

ECONOMIC IMPACT: Direct visitor expenditures from the 2010 XTERRA World Championship were $4.29 million.  According to the economic impact study conducted by Professor Bob Case of Old Dominion University, the average length of stay on Maui is 6.8 nights (9 nights in Hawaii), the average party size is 2.95, and 70% of the field had a household income of more than $75,000 (40% over $150,000 and 18% over $250,000).