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Duel In The Desert: Stoltz, McQuaid Headline Xterra West Championship

More than 30 professionals are headed to Henderson, Nev., for this Saturday’s Xterra West Championship off-road triathlon.

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More than 30 professionals—some of the best triathletes, mountain bikers and adventure racers in the world—are headed to Henderson, Nev., for this Saturday’s Xterra West Championship off-road triathlon—a one-mile swim in Lake Las Vegas, 18-mile mountain bike around the expansive and private desert surrounding the Aston MonteLago Village Resort, and a 6.2-mile trail run. Among them are two-time Olympian and four-time Xterra World Champ Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz from South Africa, and his chief rival in Vegas, Josiah Middaugh, who won this race last year. In the women’s race three-time Xterra world champion Melanie McQuaid from Canada will go head-to-head with reigning Xterra world champ Lesley Paterson from San Diego (via Scotland). The April 14 race is the first of four regional championship races in the nationwide Xterra America Tour that includes 70 races in 39 states. There is $15,000 in prize money for pros and 41 qualifying slots into the Xterra World Championship up for grabs to amateur racers. More than 300 athletes representing more than 20 states and several countries will race.

Men’s Race
Four of the top-five ranked men in last year’s 2011 Xterra U.S. Pro Series will start the race. Since the Xterra West Championship moved to the desert at Lake Las Vegas Resort in 2009 Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh have had some of the best battles the sport has ever scene. In three years of racing, a total of 12 seconds (advantage Stoltz) is the difference in their finish times. (In 2009 Stoltz edged Middaugh by 32 seconds, in 2010 Stoltz beat Middaugh by 39 seconds, and in 2011 Middaugh edged Stoltz by 59 seconds). Stoltz already has a 2012 championship win to his credit from Xterra South Africa in February.

Pro Branden Rakita (who days after this race heads to Mexico to for Triathlete’s annual swimsuit shoot, which last year starred fellow Xterra star Dan Hugo) was busy getting in race shape by competing in the Xterra Asia Pacific triple-crown with three consecutive weekends of championship races in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan last month. Dan Hugo, who fell just 33 seconds short of winning the Xterra World Championship in October, won another Totalsports Challenge back in South Africa.

An interesting late addition to the start list is Richard Stannard from the UK, a fast swimmer who was 6th at ITU Cross Tri Worlds last year.

Men’s Start List
1 – Conrad Stoltz – 38, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 – Josiah Middaugh – 33, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
3 – Branden Rakita – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado
4 – Dan Hugo – 26, Stellenbosch, South Africa
5 – Cody Waite – 33, Lakewood, Colorado
6 – Craig Evans – 34, Hendersonville, Tennessee
7 – Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho
8 – Patrick Valentine – 26, Colorado Springs, Colorado
9 – Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska
10 – Damian Gonzalez – 35, Stockton, California
11 – David Henestrosa – 35, Clearfield, Utah
12 – Chris Ganter – 33, Boise, Idaho
14 – Doug Hall – 24, Bath, United Kingdom
15 – Chris Legh – 39, Melbourne, Australia
16 – Richard Stannard – 37, Surrey, United Kingdom

Women’s Race
Three-time Xterra world champion Melanie McQuaid, who is coming off a convincing win at Ironman 70.3 California, will be shooting for her third win in four years at the Vegas venue. McQuaid is also the reigning Xterra U.S. Pro Series Champ, and will be looking for series crown No. 5 in addition to road tri glory this season. She’ll have to contend with the reigning Xterra world champion Lesley Paterson. 2010 Xterra World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham will miss the first race of the season while recovering from off-season ACL surgery, but has high hopes to be ready to race at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships / Xterra Southeast Championship on May 19. The “Swiss Miss” of Xterra, Renata Bucher, is coming in hot after sweeping the Xterra Asia-Pacific triple crown of races in Guam, the Philippines and Saipan last month. Several roadies are giving Xterra a try for the first time (or, the first time in awhile), with Ironman standout Kate Major, Courtenay Brown, Kathryn Ross, Rebecca Staynor and Jennifer Todd joining the fray. And, Tamara Donelson, the reigning amateur Xterra World Champ, will make her pro debut at Lake Las Vegas.

Women’s Start List
61 – Melanie McQuaid – 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada
62 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
63 – Suzie Snyder – 30, Fredericksburg, Virginia
64 – Caroline Colonna – 47, Taos, New Mexico
65 – Lesley Paterson – 31, San Diego, California
66 – Renata Bucher – 34, Lucerne, Switzerland
67 – Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
68 – Sara Tarkington – 31, Boulder, Colorado
69 – Courtenay Brown – 33, Boulder, Colorado
70 – Tamara Donelson – 36, Edwards, Colorado
71 – Kate Major – 34, San Rafael, California
72 – Kathryn Ross – 21, Boulder, Colorado
73 – Rebecca Staynor – 21, Victoria, B.C., Canada
74 – Jennifer Todd – 37, Newbury Park, California
75 – Beth Walsh – 32, Encinitas, California