Weiss and Paterson both earned their first Xterra world champion titles today, complementing solid swim and bike efforts with a fast run to secure the wins in the most competitive pro fields ever assembled. Pre-race favorites and former world champions Conrad Stoltz and Melanie McQuaid both had a disappointing day, with Stoltz dropping out due to his asthma and McQuaid collapsing in exhaustion just before the finish line. Another major highlight of today’s race was Lance Armstrong’s participation. After racing among the leaders on the swim and bike, he was overcome by faster runners and finished 23rd.
The high surf that was forecasted for today’s race never materialized, and the capacity field of 650 racers enjoyed relatively calm waters for the 2-lap, 1.5K swim at D.T. Flemings beach in front of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua here in Maui. First men out of the water were Richard Stannard from Great Britain, German Olympic champion Jan Frodeno, Aussie Ben Allen and Spain’s Ivan Rana—all ITU racers. Lance Armstrong was also among the first men out of the water, and he was third leaving transition. On the women’s side, 2008 Olympian Erin Densham of Australia was the first out of the water with a healthy lead over Melanie McQuaid getting on the bike.
At mile 6 on the bike course, which was a 30K tour of the slopes of the western Maui mountainside, Armstrong led the race, followed less than a minute back by Olivier Marceau, then Rana, Frodeno, Dan Hugo, Weiss and Eneko Llanos. Stoltz was 1:45 back. On the women’s side, by mile 6 Melanie had overtaken Erin Densham, who was in second, followed by France’s Marion Lorblanchet, Renata Bucher of Switzerland and Paterson. But by mile 17, Weiss had opened up a 20-second gap over Armstrong, who was followed by Hugo, Stoltz, American Josiah Middaugh and Llanos. Melanie was riding alone at the front, but Lesley Paterson was gaining ground, riding in second place. Melanie entered T2 with a small lead over Lesley.
Weiss started the 6.1-mile run around Kapalua with nearly a 2 minute lead over the next competitor, Dan Hugo. Eneko Llanos was just behind Hugo, and Middaugh was running in 3rd at mile 2. Lance Armstrong rounded out the top 5 in the early miles. In the women’s race, McQuaid was still leading, but Paterson, known for her running strength—especially on downhills and technical terrain—and Lornblanchet were closing in. Weiss held his lead through the finish, with Hugo thirty seconds behind for second and Llanos running into third.
“I can’t believe it, my wildest dream came true,” Weiss said after the race. “I have to celebrate big time tonight! I think I deserve it after a second place and two thirds. Congrats to all the competitors—you’re all Xterra warriors.”
Armstrong ultimately finished 23rd after suffering a crash at the end of the bike.
“When they already have you on the ropes in the swim, then the first part of the bike seems to be even harder,” said Armstrong. “And it’s hard just because you’re transitioning from upper body work to lower body work, I was already in the red so it took me longer to get into a groove on the bike. That course starts hard and stays hard.”
Paterson passed McQuaid on the stretch of beach sand leading to the uphill finish to claim the win.
“After the [fast] swim I thought, ‘I don’t believe this,’ and then I got to transition and saw that my tire was flat,” Paterson explained. “I thought that was it—that my race was over. Then I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to let myself do that. I’ve come all this way and I’ve trained really hard.’ So I fixed it, and I think it just gave me the aggression I needed.”
Lornblanchet also passed McQuaid in the final stretch, and McQuaid had to be assisted by the medical team after collapsing just before the finish line. Helena Erbenova of the Czech Republic rounded out the top 3 women.
XTERRA World Championships
Maui, Hawaii – Oct. 23, 2011
1.5km swim, 29.5km mountain bike, 9.8km run
1. Michael Weiss (AUT) 2:27:00
2. Dan Hugo (RSA) 2:27:33
3. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 2:28:26
4. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:29:31
5. Ivan Rana 2:29:31 (ESP) 2:29:40
1. Lesley Paterson (SCO) 2:45:59
2. Marion Lorblanchet (FRA) 2:48:08
3. Helena Erbenová (CZE) 2:51:51
4. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:52:02
5. Danelle Kabush (CAN) 2:54:35