Conrad Stoltz, 36, from South Africa and Renata Bucher, 33, of Switzerland captured the Xterra East Championship off-road triathlon pro titles in Richmond, Va. this afternoon.
It was a characteristically hot mid 90’s summer day in the River City, and that didn’t seem to bother Stoltz one bit. The “Caveman” had the second-best swim time with a 12:42 (just 20 seconds off Seth Wealing), the fastest 24km bike split by far (a blazing 52:11), and even turned in the quickest 10km run of the day in 40:24. It all added up to yet another win for the tall South African – his fourth straight on the Xterra America Tour this year, and fifth win in six years here in Richmond.
“Since I finished high school in 1991 I’ve been racing professionally so I’ve had basically 18 summers back-to-back, so I’m familiar with the heat,” said Stoltz. “I’m not great in the heat, though, so I have to prepare for it, which mean’s pacing and never going too hard in the swim, bike or run. The whole race I had to pull back a little bit, pull back a little, and make sure I had some energy left for the run.”
By midway through the bike Stoltz’ biggest threat was coming from his hometown of Stellenbosch in the form of 25-year-old Dan Hugo. Hugo, making his 2010 U.S. debut (he won Xterra South Africa back in February), was riding and running strong and all by himself in second place for most of the day.
“I didn’t get splits until the very end so I had no idea what was going on behind me so I was racing more against the heat and myself, but it’s really good to see Dan back,” said Stoltz about Hugo, who was just 15-years-old when the Caveman did his first-ever Xterra here in Richmond back in 2001. “Obviously he had a good race, and I’m excited to see him healthy and back, and racing. That should be good for Xterra.”
Indeed it is good to have Hugo, who graced the cover of the July issue of Triathlete Magazine, back in the mix.
Of course, always in the mix is Josiah Middaugh, who worked his way into third when he passed Craig Evans at the gnarly 80-foot vertical climb up the “Mayan Ruins” during the early part of the run. That is where Middaugh is at his best, on long brutal climbs, and through the first four races of this season those have been few and far between.
Seth Wealing was solid all around and ran past Craig Evans by the finish line to take fourth, with Evans in 5th (his third straight top 5).
Renata Bucher grabbed the tape as she crossed the finish, then dropped to her knees and clasped her hands over her face in a gripping display of emotion that told a story of triumph in the face of adversity.
Just last Sunday while cooling down on the bike after the Xterra Southeast Championship where she finished fourth, Bucher’s left foot slipped off the pedal and got jammed into the bike causing a painful toe injury. As a result, she scratched her original plans to race in the ETU Cross Triathlon European Championships in Slovakia yesterday, opting instead to see if she might be able to rest and race in Richmond.
“Today I had a lot of emotion because it was such a tough week,” said Bucher. “I had so much trouble with my toe, and I wasn’t sure if I should go home, and I didn’t do much physically at all. I didn’t think I could win, but the doctor here helped me so much. I’m just very grateful for all the help and support I received.”
Christine Jeffrey got the early jump out of the swim, but not with as much time as usual because of the relatively short swim across the James River to Belle Isle and back. Melanie McQuaid gained control of the lead early on the twisty bike course but Vanlandingham – who was just a minute 30 back of McQuaid out of the water – surged to the front, until she blew through a turn and went off course losing precious seconds, and allowing Bucher to jump in the lead.
At Hodson’s ramp with roughly four miles left in the bike Vanlandingham, Bucher, and McQuaid were riding single file as close as you can get in a colorful display of beautiful blue, black, and red racing kits. At the bike-to-run transition they were still tight, but Bucher had about 15 seconds on the others and posted the fastest run split to take the win in 1:59:27.
“I can smile again,” said Bucher, who won her fourth Xterra Championship of the year (also Saipan, Portugal, and the South Central Championship in Waco, TX).
Vanlandingham had the best bike split despite missing that turn to finish in 2nd, and said Renata was running so strong she would have likely won regardless. McQuaid, who won the first five races in the U.S. Series last year, had to settle for third.
“Shonny and Renata are taking turns kicking my butt, they are really fast right now,” gasped McQuaid, who is experimenting with a whole new training program this year with the ultimate goal to win Xterra Worlds in Maui. The three-time World Champ is hoping that what she is missing now, will come around when it counts.
Emma Garrard continues to impress, matching her career best finish in 4th place with Jeffrey in 5th.
|1||Conrad Stoltz||36||Stellenbosch, South Africa||1:46:28||100||$1,800|
|2||Dan Hugo||25||Stellenbosch, South Africa||1:47:39||90||$1,250|
|3||Josiah Middaugh||31||Vail, Colorado||1:50:40||82||$800|
|4||Seth Wealing||31||Boulder, Colorado||1:52:16||75||$500|
|5||Craig Evans||32||Hendersonville, Tennessee||1:55:40||69||$400|
|6||Brandon Rakita||29||Manitou Springs, Colorado||1:55:49||63||$300|
|7||Will Kelsay||28||Boulder, Colorado||1:56:20||58||$200|
|8||Trevor Glavin||30||San Diego, California||1:57:29||53|
|9||Cody Waite||31||Lakewood, Colorado||1:58:33||49|
|10||Kevin Carter||36||College Park, Maryland||1:58:55||45|
|1||Renata Bucher||32||Lucerne, Switzerland||1:59:27||100||$1,800|
|2||Shonny Vanlandingham||40||Durango, Colorado||2:00:35||90||$1,250|
|3||Melanie McQuaid||36||Victoria, B.C., Canada||2:03:42||82||$800|
|4||Emma Garrard||28||Truckee, California||2:07:28||75||$500|
|5||Christine Jeffrey||37||Guelph, Ontario, Canada||2:08:59||69||$400|
|6||Fabiola Corona||30||Mexico City, Mexico||2:11:16||63||$300|
|7||Kristy Lanier||39||Marlinton, West Virginia||2:18:53||58||$200|
Race recap provided by Xterra.