Whitmore, McMahon win So Cal Shootout
TEMECULA, CA - Among the vineyards on a cool and breezy Sunday afternoon in Southern California Brent McMahon and Jamie Whitmore shined, winning their respective pro divisions at the Nissan Xterra West Championship at Vail Lake Resort in Temecula.
It's the first-ever XTERRA win for McMahon and the 27th for Whitmore - XTERRA's all-time career leader in victories.
McMahon took control from the start and never looked back. He posted the fastest swim, a blazing 19:28 for the 1.5k loop, then put up the third-best bike split (1:17:16 on the 31k course) and finished with the fastest run (a 37:06 9k).
"I had a small goal for myself to lead from start to finish and Tom (Evans) was hard on my heels the whole way. He really kept me going," said McMahon, an Olympic triathlete from Canada.
Evans, also a Canadian and an accomplished road triathlete with wins at Ironman Canada and Florida, clearly proved that he's comfortable on a mountain bike by staying with McMahon and finishing with the fourth-fastest bike. While McMahon was being interviewed after the race, Evans leaned over and said "Be sure to mention how Canadians are consistently the best mountain bikers in the world."
Hard to argue with that, and McMahon added to it: "In the off-season I was training with guys like Geoff Kabush and Kris Snedden, some of the best mountain bikers in Canada and the world. So when you train with the best you only get better."
Americans Seth Wealing and Josiah Middaugh were doing some great mountain biking of their own, evident in their times (2nd and 5th fastest rides of the day, respectively). Neither time, however, was fast enough to reel in either of the Canadians before the bike-to-run transition.
The up-and-down run course suited McMahon's fleet feet to a tee, and he even had time to enjoy the sights.
"Once you get to those peaks and get to see the whole area it's pretty awesome," said McMahon. "I wanted to come back here and get the win. It's not as sweet without Conrad Stoltz here though (last year's West Champ who had to sit out with injuries), but I'm looking forward to racing against him for the rest of the season."
The run was not as kind to Evans, who was caught and passed by Wealing and Middaugh before crossing the finish line in fourth.
"I didn't have the gear that I needed today but still felt pretty good," said Evans, who was racing in his second XTERRA. "I've been doing a lot of base miles in training so I felt fine at the end. I could've done a couple more laps, I just couldn't go any faster. That's the reality of Ironman training. These guys (XTERRA pros) are speedsters and I'm not. Maybe we need a four-hour XTERRA."
Wealing, who started his pro career with XTERRA four years ago before World Cup racing pulled him away, made it clear today that he'll be a force to be reckoned with in the Pro Series. He was right behind Evans and McMahon on the swim and had the fourth-best run of the day.
"This year I've decided that XTERRA is my main focus, so I was trying to start out a little conservative. Obviously the end of the year is when you want to be on your game," said Wealing. "I took it steady on the bike and kept them in sight, and they kind of pulled away a little on the second lap. I wound it up on the run to catch Tom. My goal for this one was top four. I'm happy, but I just want to keep winding it up. I want to win the series and podium at all the races. The thing about XTERRA is it's fun. It's emotionally charging."
Charging hard as always Middaugh made up the time he lost to the leaders in the swim (3 minutes+) to pick off everybody but McMahon and Wealing for his first top-three finish since Keystone (Mountain Championship) last year.
"I felt good about it ... it was a good first race," said Middaugh. "I've been working on my swim a lot. I thought I could catch up to Brent (McMahon) a little bit on the bike, but I didn't catch up much. And there's no way I could catch him on the run. I did my best, this race just wasn't long enough."
New year. Same story. Jamie and Melanie are at it again. Every race for the last several years Jamie Whitmore and Melanie McQuaid have pushed each other to new heights, and it's really something to see.
Today was another classic battle. McQuaid, the two-time and current XTERRA world champion, went out strong and had a great swim. She put a two-minute cushion over Whitmore during the first lap of the bike. Then the wheels came off (not literally).
"My legs weren't there, and I started going backwards on the second lap," said McQuaid.
At about the same time Whitmore, the four-time and current XTERRA U.S. champion, started to get her groove going.
"My legs weren't firing on the first lap, but then Candy (Angle) and I were riding together, working real well together. My legs started coming around before the finish of the second lap, and I just started slowly chasing her down."
It is, in fact, the chase position heading out on the run that Whitmore relishes.
"I've learned to really have patience. I tend to not like being in the lead, because the bulls-eye's on you. You're setting the pace, whereas if you're behind you can chase and feel out how the person's doing in front of you. So generally I love to come from the back ... not too far from the back though."
McQuaid's lead was cut to under a minute as the two headed out on the run and vanished completely by the summit of the first big hill.
"It's the first race of the year and sometimes it takes a race or two to get up to speed. Today was a great result for me, and I'm happy with that. But there's room to improve this year for sure. I didn't have that top gear yet for riding and running so I suffered pretty bad today."
Candy Angle, the 2002 XTERRA world champ, did her best to crack into the top two but fell 40 seconds short.
"Not a bad way to start off the season," said Angle. "It was a tough race. Jamie had a great race, and Melanie had a solid race. I just have to work harder to get in there."
Jennifer Smith, originally from New Zealand now living in Gunnison, CO, had the best XTERRA performance of her career. She posted the fastest bike split and finished fourth overall. Janae Pritchett had her best showing since nationals two years ago to finish fifth.
RACE DAY CONDITIONS: 70's and 80's with cloud cover and light breeze. Water temperature, 72 degrees.
NOTES: More than 600 competitors representing 11 countries and 25 states across the U.S. participated in the championship and sport-distance races. The championship consisted of a 1.5-kilometer swim in Vail Lake, a 31k hilly and twisty mountain bike, and a 9k up-and-down trail run.
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