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There is a lot of XTERRA history to be found in Richmond – from wacky stories about the swim (walk, crawl, or run) in the James River, snakes and switchbacks in Forest Hills Park, hitting the wall at the Manchester stairs “aka Mayan Ruins”, taking the right (or wrong) route through the “Dry Way”, suffering on Belle Isle, and of course the thrill of victory – even just the thrill of finishing – on Brown’s Island.
This is year 11 for the storied event first held in 1999 – and a decade later thousands of locals and XTERRA fanatics alike have their own tales of racing in the most unique, most profound urban adventure XTERRA ever created.
South African greats Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz and “Bamm Bamm” Dan Hugo – however – are rolling into Richmond with one thing in mind…to make last year’s race memories disappear.
You see, Stoltz has won this race three times but last year he got flat after flat after flat on the bike and couldn’t finish. Hugo, meanwhile, was out in front and on his way to victory before America’s best, Josiah Middaugh, jolted past him in the last mile of the run to steal it away. This year, after four races in the XTERRA Cup Series, Stoltz has won three and Hugo won the other just this past Saturday in Idaho.
“This course is insane, certainly worthy of flying half way around the world to race here,” said Hugo after last year’s race.
Oh, Middaugh is in town to defend his crown too – fresh off the overall title at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, and Canadian Mike Vine (the 2001 Richmond winner) is flying in from Malaysia after winning the first XTERRA in Southeast Asia over the weekend.
There are another half-dozen guys that could make a difference, including Seth Wealing (2nd here in 2007), Dominic Gillen (top American here four times!), Craig Evans (who will most likely be the first swimmer out of the water), and Brian Smith (he can crush this bike course). High drama is guaranteed.
In the women’s race the winningest racer in NORBA mountain biking history – America’s own Shonny Vanlandingham – will lead the underdog charge against XTERRA phenom and 3x World Champ Melanie McQuaid. The Canadian has won 8 of her last 10, four straight in 2009, and the Richmond title twice (last year and 2004).
Kiwi Jenny Smith is back, and she was second here last year. This bike course suits her well, but the run course suits the crafty Danelle Kabush (a 1,500-meter finalist while at the University of Washington). One of the world’s greatest adventure racers – Sari Anderson (part of the ’06 Raid World Champs squad) – is giving Richmond a go for the first time and U.S. Olympic Skier/XTERRA Winter Worlds Champ Rebecca Dussault is bringing her extreme athleticism and endurance to the River City.
The XTERRA Atlantic Cup in Richmond is race number five of the eight-stop XTERRA Cup Series, and you can rest assured that blood, sweat, and beers will be flowing on Sunday.