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Off-road triathlon’s top pros battled for a piece of the $80,000 prize purse while amateurs vied for one of 41 qualifying spots into next month’s Xterra World Championship in Maui.
Written by: Julia Polloreno
Conrad Stoltz of South Africa and Canadian Melanie McQuaid dominated the competition today in a grueling championship race that included 3,000 feet of climbing at Snowbasin Resort, near Ogden, Utah. The course featured a 1.5K swim in the calm, clear waters of Pineview Reservoir, which sits at 4,500 feet above sea level; a 30K mountain bike through Wheeler Canyon and Snowbasin Resort, home to the downhill and super G races of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games; and a single-loop 9K singletrack run that cut through Aspen groves and wildflower fields awash in the colors of fall.
Pros Seth Wealing, Craig Evans, Branden Rakita and Dan Hugo and age-grouper Patrick Valentine led the race out of the swim, but a hard charging Stoltz quickly caught the leaders and, by mile 4 on the bike, he opened up a 45-second lead over Hugo and Rakita. By Mile 8, Stoltz had increased his lead to two-and-a-half minutes over Hugo, with Rakita and pro Felix Schumann 20 seconds behind Hugo. Heading into T2, Stoltz enjoyed a 3:45 lead over 2009 Xterra National Champion Nicolas Lebrun, who had worked his way into second. Hugo and top-ranked American Xterra racer Josiah Middaugh were close behind Hugo.
Stoltz ran alone for the 10K, which climbed for about 700 feet, and crossed the finish line more than five minutes ahead of Lebrun, whose 36:35 10K eclipsed Stoltz’s 37:18.
“I was worried about my run,” said Stoltz. “I had an injury and didn’t run at all in July and August. But because my swim and bike were in good shape today I didn’t have to push that hard on the run.”
Stoltz owned the fastest bike split of the day (1:25:11), more than three minutes faster than Frenchman Lebrun. “The course really suits my bike—a Specialized 29’er—it’s really bumpy, and I was able to make some good time on the downhills,” he said.
Lebrun, like Stoltz, didn’t arrive at the Championship event feeling 100 percent. “I hadn’t trained at altitude and was really sick in August so I didn’t know how I would do today,” said Lebrun. “I’m happy to be second, but I still have a lot of work to do before [the] Maui [Xterra World Championship]. Last year I won here and got second at Maui, so maybe my finish today is a good thing.”
On the women’s side, pro Christine Jeffrey had the fastest swim (21:42), followed by McQuaid, who came out of the water with a two-minute deficit. Lesley Paterson rounded out the top three entering T1. At Mile 4 on the bike, Jeffrey maintained a 20-second lead over McQuaid, who was trailed by Paterson and top-ranked Shonny Vanlandingham. By eight miles, Melanie had overtaken Jeffrey and opened up a two-minute lead. Vanlandingham passed both Paterson and Jeffrey , entering T2 less than four minutes behind McQuaid.
Paterson reclaimed her lead over Vanlandingham on the run, but couldn’t catch McQuaid, despite her 38:33 effort (McQuaid ran 43:09).
“My run wasn’t what I expected,” said McQuaid. “It was tough because I rolled my ankle pretty early on.” The altitude also posed a big challenge today for McQuaid, who lives and trains at sea level. “I’m much better at sea level than I am at altitude,” she said.
Still, McQuaid’s recent focus on her running and overall swim-bike-run strength makes her the one to beat in Maui.
Today’s race was a good indication of where the pros are in terms of fitness and readiness for the World Championship race later next month. “The climbing and terrain isn’t that different in Maui,” said McQuaid. Although she says that altitude happily won’t be an issue in Maui, today’s race still makes a strong statement to the competition, says McQuaid. “You don’t want to suck here.”
1. Conrad Stoltz 2:24:03
2. Nicolas Lebrun 2:29:02
3. Josiah Middaugh 2:29:38
4. Dan Hugo 2:29:44
5. Felix Schumann 2:30:03
1. Jason Michalak 2:40:20
2. Shiloh Mielke 2:43:34
3. Patrick Valentine 2:47:01
4. Nicholas Goodman 2:47:06
5. Luke Jay 2:47:35
1. Melanie McQuaid 2:49:57
2. Lesley Paterson 2:51:39
3. Shonny Vanlandingham 2:53:29
4. Jennifer Smith 2:57:23
5. Christine Jeffrey 2:58:00
1. Jessica Noyola 3:06:29
2. Jaime Brede 3:08:45
3. Luisa Bryce 3:15:07
4. Kim Baugh 3:17:55
5. Beverly Enslow 3:19:31