XTERRA New Zealand - Photo By John Cowpland

A Dozen Years in Rotorua

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour rolls into Rotorua this weekend where Ben Allen looks to join triathlon legend Hamish Carter as the only other man to three-peat at the XTERRA New Zealand Championship on Saturday.

It won’t be easy, as the adventure-inspired 7x World Champion Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz from South Africa has been ripping around on the trails for a week in anticipation of his first XTERRA race in the Blue Lakes area. Meanwhile, Allen has been traveling across the oceans to race and win at XTERRA Great Ocean Road in Australia two weeks ago and the XTERRA Saipan Championship in the Northern Marianas just last weekend.

“Great to be back in New Zealand, home of some wicked mountain bike trails,” said Allen.  “I absolutely love being involved here and racing the Kiwi’s on their turf. It’s great that Roger Serrano, Sam Gardner, and Conrad Stoltz (SA) have made the trip over to experience this one-of-a-kind race.”

Indeed, the beautiful Blue Lakes area in Rotorua has a reputation as being a well-organized race in one of the most scenic spots on the XTERRA World Tour.  This is year 12 for XTERRA in New Zealand, and more than 20,000 adventurous souls have taken part in the races in Rotorua.

“It really is one of the adventure capitals of the world,” added Allen.  “There are so many outdoors activities to do, it’s just a matter of picking one or a couple. I think it has to do with the adventurous spirit of the Kiwis, they love exploring and don’t mind getting dirty. It’s part of the fun. I am back for my fourth-time in Rotorua and I’m as excited as ever. The place thrives on mountain biking and has lots of cool little trendy cafés Jacqui and I love to visit, not to mention the natural hot springs perfect for that post race recovery session.”

For sure a first-class race is set for Saturday as some of the sports best mountain bikers tackle one of XTERRA’s best mountain bike courses.  Here’s a look at the elite men:

Ben Allen, AUS – 2x XTERRA NZ Champ, 2014 XTERRA Great Ocean Road and Saipan Champ

Conrad Stoltz, RSA – 4x XTERRA World Champ, 3x ITU Cross-Tri World Champ, 2x Olympian

Sam Gardner, GBR – Former XTERRA Japan, Guam, and Saipan Champion

Olly Shaw, NZL – 2012 XTERRA World Champion in 20-24 division, 3rd at 2014 XTERRA Guam

Roger Serrano, ESP – 2nd at 2014 XTERRA Great Ocean Road

Josh Kenyon, NZL – 5th at 2013 XTERRA New Zealand

Plus, Nick Moore, AUS, Clark Ellice, NZL, Andrew Small, NZL, and Noah Wright, AUS

Like the men’s field, the women’s elite line-up features some of the sports biggest stars, including ITU standout Barbara Riveros from Chile.  The Olympian has finished in the top four at XTERRA Worlds two years in-a-row, including a runner-up finish in 2012.

She’ll be joined by three past XTERRA New Zealand Champions, including three-time champ Sonia Foote (2004-2005/2008), two-time winner Nicola Leary (2009-10) and 2012 champ Jacqui Slack from the UK. Here’s a look at the women’s pro field:

Barbara Riveros, CHI – 2nd at XTERRA Worlds in 2012

Jacqui Slack, GBR – 2014 XTERRA Great Ocean Road Champ, 2012 NZ Champ

Lizzie Orchard, NZL – 2011 XTERRA World Champ (25-29 division)

Sarah Backler, NZL - 5th at 2013 XTERRA New Zealand

Sonia Foote, NZL – 3x XTERRA New Zealand Champion

Nic Leary, NZL – 2x XTERRA New Zealand Champion

Rachel Challis, NZL – Ranked 17th in 2013 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series

The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival is one of the single biggest multisport events in the world, with more than 2,000 racers taking part in a variety of challenges including a 5.5 km, 11km or 21km walk or run, a 26km mountain bike as well as a team or individual triathlon.

More information can be found at www.xterra.co.nz