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South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz and Canada’s Danelle Kabush won Saturday’s Xterra Mountain Championship in Beaver Creek, Colo.
See the race recap from Xterra below:
Conrad Stoltz, 38, of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Danelle Kabush, 36, of Calgary, Canada won the Xterra Mountain Championship at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado this morning.
For Stoltz, not altitude, not a bear, not even Josiah Middaugh – a mountain master on his home course – could disrupt his perfect 2012 season. Stoltz started the year with a win at the Xterra South Africa Championship, then swept through the Xterra regional championships in Nevada, Alabama, Virginia and now Colorado to bring his unprecedented Xterra all-time championship wins total to 47.
“I must admit it was a very pleasurable experience,” said Stoltz, who raced here at the Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek for the first time today. “I didn’t expect to come up here and have fun but it was a lot of fun. The course is beautiful, and I was amazed at all the spectators even out in the middle of the forest. I saw a black bear up there while I was racing. I heard some branches break and I could see it getting away and Josiah saw it too. So, it was very memorable. I was really surprised at my win. I thought Josiah was going to take it, because beating him on this course is really tough so I think I had a very special day. I have to thank Specialized who put a lot of time and effort into my bike.”
Stoltz came out of the mile-swim in the 66-degree waters of Nottingham Lake on the heels of leader Craig Evans and Branden Rakita, with Ben Hoffman directly behind him and David Henestrosa and Middaugh a minute back.
By the three-mile mark, and after the first of nearly four-thousand feet of climbing from the lake which sits at 7,400-feet, Stoltz led by a minute with Hoffman and Middaugh chasing together. At mile 10, Middaugh moved into second but hadn’t closed the gap and by the bike-to-run transition Stoltz, who had the fastest bike split of the day in 1:09:46, had more than a two-minute lead.
“When you put together a good race and get beat it’s not because something went wrong, it’s just that you’re not fit enough,” said Middaugh, who has now finished runner-up to the “Caveman” in three of the last four races. “Conrad had an awesome race and kudos to him for having that fitness and power that I’m going to be looking for in the next few months.”
Ben Hoffman had an incredible race in his first major Xterra, and by the looks of his post-race grin it seems certain not to be his last.
“It was awesome today, I’m fired up, had fun out there,” said Hoffman, who had quite the support crew with the Specialized team in full force. “I think most people hear Xterra has a little more laid back vibe and fun atmosphere and being here definitely confirmed that for me. Seeing it firsthand; the volunteers are psyched, it’s a well-run race, well-marked course, and super challenging but fair, an honest course. There’s no hiding here, it’s what you got on the day.”
David Henestrosa from Spain, who is now living and teaching in Clearfield, Utah with his wife and two girls, won Xterra Italy back in 2004 and last finished in the top 5 of a major Xterra in the U.S. that same year at the Mountain Championships in Keystone, Colorado. Today, he finished fourth.
“I feel OK in the altitude. I grew up just outside of Barcelona at a little over 4,000-feet and now in Utah its similar and its very comfortable. I had a wonderful race, and am having so much fun racing Xterra, it’s great to be here,” said Henestrosa.
Rounding out the top five podium was Cody Waite, posting his best finish of the season at one of the most grueling races in the Series.
Also of note, Ryan Ignatz – the overall amateur Xterra National Champion last year – is back in the pro ranks where he belongs as proof of his sixth place finish. Brian Smith is back as well, and posted the fastest run to finish in seventh, with Branden Rakita (his dad David won the 60-64 division today) in eighth, newcomer Travis Macy in ninth, and Will Kelsay 10th.
Since she started racing Xterra in 2004 Danelle Kabush has won Xterras in Canada, had two kids, finished 2nd at the Xterra World Championships twice (top five four times) but until today had never made it to the top step of the podium at a major Xterra in the U.S.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Kabush, who earned a doctorate degree in sports psychology. “It’s always a tough course going uphill all day but it’s so scenic and beautiful I really enjoyed myself. I had a really fun battle with Sara out there on the bike, congrats to her and everyone else who raced. The volunteers were awesome, and so was the crowd with so many cheers all along the course. It’s fun to be back here after three years away.”
The race started with Suzie Snyder out front, followed by Melanie McQuaid and Sara Tarkington. Kabush was fourth out of the water, got close to Tarkington early and played cat-and-mouse with her the rest of the day.
Up ahead McQuaid, who was second here last year, worked her way to the front and was riding strong until picking up what she thinks was a nail in her back tire on the first real downhill of the day. It turned out to be a game changer, requiring several stops, two tube changes, and a ton of time. McQuaid ended up riding into T2 on a flat and in fifth place, which was also where she finished.
Meanwhile, Kabush and Tarkington traded leads several times until the last descent where Kabush pulled away.
“Sara was really strong on the flats, and it wasn’t until the last descent I took the lead and got a bit of a gap. I saw here coming in as I was headed out so probably had about 30 seconds at transition,” said Kabush, who took part in the Mountain Champs for the first time since she finished 2nd back in 2009.
Tarkington, who has finished second, third and fourth at this race the last three years, was hoping to make it a straight.
“This climbing course really suits me and this time of year my fitness starts to show,” said Tarkington. “Today was fun because it was one of the first times I’ve had one of those real legit race feelings on the bike. We both pushed each other so hard, and if you’re coming off the bike with Danelle you know you’re in trouble, because she is fast. I had her in my sights for a mile and then she was gone.”
Kabush is indeed noted for being a great trail runner, and today she had the fastest split more than two minutes and came across the line with a comfortable cushion. Tarkington was second, Snyder third, and Renata Bucher – just a few days removed from a grueling Xterra in France – worked her way into fourth.
The Xterra pro women’s field right now is as diverse as it has ever been, with four different winners in each of the four regional championship races this year.
Of note today Tamara Donelson had her best race as a pro, placing sixth, with Heather Holmes, Kim Baugh, Caroline Colonna and Jennifer Gersbach rounding out the top 10.
Xterra Mountain Championship
Beaver Creek, Colo. – July 14, 2012
1 mile swim, 25km mountain bike, 9.3 km trail run
1. Conrad Stoltz 2:07:05
2. Josiah Middaugh 2:08:24
3. Ben Hoffman 2:10:40
4. David Henestrosa 2:10:50
5. Cody Waite 2:13:57
1. Danelle Kabush 2:29:35
2. Sara Tarkington 2:32:28
3. Suzie Snyder 2:35:19
4. Renata Bucher 2:36:36
5. Melanie Mcquaid 2:37:27