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The two reigning XTERRA European Tour Champions, Frenchman Nicolas Lebrun and Swiss sensation Renata Bucher, won the inaugural XTERRA Northeast Cup on a muddy yet magnificent course at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont today.
For Lebrun, who has been in the U.S. since the Cup Series started with the ultimate goal of adding an American Series crown to his resume (which includes 3 XTERRA European Tour titles and the 2005 XTERRA World Championship), the victory is his first of the year, moves him into 3rd place in the standings, and keeps the mathematic possibility of taking the overall title alive.
It’s also a special victory for Bucher (pictured). Since 2005 she has won 18 XTERRA Championships in 10 countries – Saipan, Czech Republic, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Japan, earlier this season in Malaysia, and now – finally – America.
“Kahuna Dave” Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour, was in the Green Mountain mud today and brings us this race recap…
After nearly 30 days of rain and chilly weather the skies cleared for three days and the mudfest trails that could have been were finally dry, however, the weather Gods had more in store for the hardy souls that came to the Northeast Cup and a big thunderstorm hit Saturday evening just as the pasta party started. It was a big blow that left tents askew, the transition fencing knocked down, and general wreckage at the finish line but the crew had it in hand and all parties were ready for the 9am start. Well almost all the athletes were on hand (the bus taking down the last folks from T2/Finish to the start broke down and the start was delayed for 15 minutes to make sure everyone was ready to go).
A tidy two-lap swim had Christine Jeffrey out of the water first which brought raucous cheers from the gals present. Seth Wealing got a bit directionally challenged but was still able to come out with Brandon Rakita in 2nd and 3rd. With the fresh rain from the night before the trails up the Green Mountains were muddy, but not impossible. At the top, Nico Lebrun was a solid first with Conrad Stoltz 20 seconds behind.
“Today was my kind of course” said Lebrun. “With so many times having to come off the bike and carry and then get on and come off again I made lots of time on Conrad. It is easy for me because I am smaller.”
Lebrun is known for his mountain running ability and the smart money was on him to keep the lead. Conrad remember, was coming off a bad cut foot from Richmond, and while it was fairly well healed he was not 100% for running at all. The first pair were followed by Seth Wealing just slightly ahead of Dan Hugo, but both were about three minutes behind the leaders.
On the women’s side Mel McQuaid had passed Jeffrey early on and led into T2 but a fast closing Renata Bucher, in from Europe to compete in the last two Cup races, was under 30 seconds behind. You must understand the run here in Sugarbush is on a ski resort – it goes up and goes down, very little flat. Once that is known, you have to figure somebody from Switzerland probably has an advantage on that kind of terrain. And Renata did. At the end of the first lap she was within sight of Melanie and literally sprinted up the steep hill that started the second lap of the run. Reports came back from the top that Renata had caught Melanie and not long after the Swiss Red suit of Bucher came down the final slope to win her first race in the States.
Lebrun (pictured) kept his pace fast but in control and came in for his first victory this year but what followed was a duel even better than the Bucher-McQuaid battle. Sugarbush’s final 500-meters is straight downhill on a ski run. You can see the entire thing from the base and it takes an eternal minute from when you first see the athlete come out of the woods until they hit the bottom. Stoltz appeared out of the woods running at an even pace but clearly with a bit of a hitch to his stride. About 100-meters later out came a black suited runner – Wealing. Stoltz looked back and saw the black outfit and figured it was Brit Sam Gardner chasing him and made the judgment that with the distance left he would easily stay in front.
hird and Gardner 5th off the bike. Wealing was relentless. At first it did not appear as if he could catch the big Afrikaner, but as they got closer the hitch in Stoltz’ stride seemed to get worse and Wealing was completely out of control.
“It was a freefall for me the minute I realized I had a shot at Conrad” gasped Seth after the finish. Stoltz realized a fraction of a second too late that it was Wealing and not Gardner. They entered the final chute with Conrad only inches ahead – Wealing went left, Stoltz countered, but ever the gentleman gave Wealing some room and the lean to the tape went to the American. They literally finished with the same time. Sam Gardner did have a good run into 4th, displacing Hugo down to 5th place.
For the women, Shonny Vanlandingham was a distant 3rd after what she describes as the worst biking accident she’s had in 10 years of racing.
“The only thing that saved me was the mud – I hit hard” she said. “I figured I could ride it out when I went off the trail but hit something and went down a ravine. It’s amazing I didn’t break anything and barely got a scratch – but man, I am sore all over.”
The second Luna Chick, Danelle Kabush had a quiet race to fourth by passing a very quick Emma Garrard who ended up with a top five.
The course and area at Sugarbush are completely first-class all the way. The scenery is spectacular, the Green Mountains beautiful to behold. Dozens of places to eat, the resort has accommodations that could suit anyone’s tastes and pocketbook. This is simply one race athletes will need to put on their schedule.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Pts Purse
1 Nico Lebrun 35 Digne-les-Bains, France 2:24:18 100 $1,800
2 Seth Wealing 30 Boulder, Colorado 2:26:54 90 $1,250
3 Conrad Stoltz 35 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:26:54 82 $800
4 Sam Gardner 34 Surrey, Great Britain 2:28:38 75 $500
5 Dan Hugo 23 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:31:14 69 $400
6 Mark Leishman 30 Palmerston North, New Zealand 2:32:30 63 $300
7 Branden Rakita 28 Manitou Springs, Colorado 2:37:56 58 $200
8 Will Kelsay 27 Boulder, Colorado 2:45:09 53
9 Matt Boobar 36 Stratton Mountain, Vermont 2:51:45 49
10 Dominic Gillen 31 Milford, Connecticut 2:53:56 45
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Pts Purse
1 Renata Bucher 31 Lucerne, Switzerland 2:46:54 100 $1,800
2 Melanie McQuaid 35 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:51:16 90 $1,250
3 Shonny Vanlandingham 39 Durango, Colorado 3:02:15 82 $800
4 Christine Jeffrey 36 Guelph, Ontario, Canada 3:05:58 75 $500
5 Danelle Kabush 34 Canmore, Alberta, Canada 3:07:41 69 $400
6 Emma Garrard 27 Truckee, California 3:08:34 63 $300
7 Erin Kummer 24 Boulder, Colorado 3:26:46 58 $200