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Meet the Youngest XTERRA World Champion Ever

"My dad and I were not surprised with winning XTERRA worlds. I’ve worked for that since I can remember."

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Mauricio Mendez has the raw speed to be a top ITU pro, and already has three Ironman 70.3 wins to his credit (Cozumel and Los Cabos last year and Galveston this spring). Yet the Mexican decided to bypass both series (for the time being) in order to focus on his true love: racing in the dirt on the XTERRA circuit. The 21-year-old Mexico City resident confirmed his decision last year when he extended his coaching council beyond his father to include two-time XTERRA women’s world champ Lesley Paterson. Mendez used that experience to outrun defending champ Rubén Ruzafa of Spain on his way to an XTERRA World Championship crown last fall.

For the people really involved in the sport I am really supported. I’m amazed at how I’m never alone and there is always someone sending the best vibes to me. Mexico has a huge deficit in sports because everything is about soccer. But I want to change this. I want to be proof that Mexicans have the same capabilities to be at the top—we only need to work hard for it.

My dad and I were not surprised with winning XTERRA worlds. I’ve worked for that since I can remember. When I was 10 years old, someone asked me what my goals were. I said, ‘To be a world champion.’ 

We have always had a philosophy about chasing our passion. I’m a mountain guy. I love the freedom it provides in every sense, from training to choosing racing and experiences, based on what I like the most. I will never say no to an Olympic tri, but first I want to complete my dream, my time
in XTERRA.

I want to discover new places, new facilities, people and am open to traveling. Every year I have a period of time outside Mexico City in San Diego, and during my racing season in Europe last year I got to be really close to [former XTERRA world champ] Nico Lebrun. Maybe at some point I will be calling somewhere else home, but right now, there’s no place like home for training or anything else.

Lesley and [her husband] Simon [Marshall] will be always part of my team, my success and my life. They’re more like family to me. Their help and support is a huge reason for what I do and how much I love it. I have always loved what I do, but because of them I do what I love.

I want to defend my XTERRA world title for as long as possible. But I am looking at Ironman 70.3, and I want to be at the top of it. And for Ironman, the same; everything in its own time … but I have an eye on it!

Mendes’s Faves

Pre-race meal:
Waffles with berries and Nutella, no doubt!

Post-race meal:
Tacos al pastor with really hot salsa. I would also go for a good medium rare steak in the afternoon with a glass of wine.

Race other than Maui:
XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama. The forest, the speed you’re able to handle the whole race makes it like F1 in XTERRA!

Music:
Reggaeton (a Latino/Caribbean derivative of hip-hop). I like the feel of the whole vibe, of good Latin music. I do train with it, but not always in the mountains; I love it indoors.