Stoltz, Whitmore win Richmond
Driven by his heart, Stoltz was unstoppable. Seconds after he crossed the finish line he dedicated the race to his Dad.
"It's Fathers Day today and my Dad has colon cancer. He was operated on a couple weeks ago and Tuesday he's going for his first chemo so I thought if I could be strong then he could be strong because if you're strong then you can overcome anything," said Stoltz.
Today the reigning XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Champion overcame a lack of fitness (for him anyways) due to a string of injuries that forced him to miss the first race in California last month and a ton of training. He made up for it with a big swim that kept McMahon close, the big ring on his bike that he used to power through the flat sections, and a big heart on the run that kept his legs churning when everything else was screaming to stop.
Stoltz also knew that if he didn't win today it would be tough to defend his Series' title. McMahon, with two wins in his pocket already, could have put a stranglehold on that title with a win here. So, Stoltz pulled out all the stops from the get-go.
"I had some secret tactics going on in the swim," smiled Stoltz. "This river swim is different. You have to know the currents and to take different angles and when it's shallow you have to dolphin dive. In South Africa we do a lot of beach ocean swimming so there you learn about currents and dolphining and that kind of tactic."
McMahon explained it a little differently. "Conrad had an awesome swim. It might have been a mistake he and I training together this week (smile). He was right there on my hip in the pool, so I'm sure he was thinking he was going to go out with me today. Sure enough, he sat on my hip and I couldn't shake him and through the first two buoys he was right there on me. I started to pull away after but I had to use a lot of energy to swim with him on my hip. He swam really well and really smart so I have to give that to him."
For everybody the James River swim is unusual. There was a lot of walking in shallow sections, several mud bog sections, and a ton of zigzag angles through buoys the course designers put in so they could get the distance they were looking for within the narrow channel.
After a good long run to the transition area McMahon went out on the bike first, followed by Stoltz (-30 seconds), Seth Wealing (-32 sec), Andrew Noble (-1:28), and Dominic Gillen (-1:40).
McMahon was able to hold off Stoltz through all of the early singletrack sections.
"Brent is pretty good technically because we had rode the course together a couple of times this week and he has some really good skills, but on the flats I was quite strong and that's where I made most of the time," said Stoltz.
"You can't get too much time on a short swim so I knew it was going to be a tough race right from the start because I'm not going to have much of a gap," said McMahon. "So I felt I rode very well and when he caught me I tried to go with him. We hit the singletrack and I tried to keep him in sight and through all the switchbacks I kept catching him and held pretty well until the second flat section where his power really started to come in. He can just lay it down and push a couple gears bigger. He's got that extra gear because he's got bigger legs."
The Caveman crushed the bike, as evident in his bike split (1:10:56) that was 1:35 faster than Brian Smith's, 2:22 better than Brian Astell, and 3:08 quicker than McMahon.
Among the other leaders Wealing dropped back, Gillen moved up from fifth to third, and reigning XTERRA World Champ Nicolas Lebrun jumped up from seventh to share the fourth-and-fifth spot with Noble.
"I had good power with my legs on the bike but the guys are stronger than me - that's it," said Lebrun. "This race I wasn't strong enough on the technical parts so I will work on this for Maui."
"I was fourth out of the water and held that for a long time and stuck in their and rode with Nico for awhile," explained Noble, who was struck with a cold this week and "didn't expect to do all that well." But he did.
Stoltz entered the bike-to-run transition first, followed by McMahon about two minutes back, Gillen with Nico hot on his heels, then Noble.
Lebrun passed Gillen in the first couple hundred yards on the run, and Noble caught Gillen with just under two miles to go and that's how the top five shaped up (Stoltz, McMahon, Lebrun, Noble, Gillen). It's the third time in four years that Gillen has been the top American here in Richmond (best was 3rd in 2003). The last, and only American to win here was Michael Tobin from Boise, Idaho - the victor in 1999 and 2000.
"What happened?! I'm the World Champion, this is not normal, I must win," joked a jovial Lebrun, the current leader on the XTERRA European Tour. "I was here to enjoy the race, the place, and I'm not focused on the U.S. Series so it's O.K., because I have the XTERRA Czech Republic race next Saturday. The bike course here is very fun. It's XTERRA, and with the sun and friendly people I have a great time here. It's my fifth time in Richmond and three times I've been 3rd and twice first, so I can't complain."
Astell, who posted his first top 10 at No. 10 in Alabama last Sunday, had a magnificent race and placed 6th. Wealing used the day's fastest run to jump a couple of spots into seventh, followed by Justin Thomas (who grew up in nearby Fairfax, VA), Brian Smith, and Ryan Ignatz.
"I was happy with my race and really happy for Conrad because he's getting right back in it now and that's what I wanted to do is race him when he's fit," said McMahon. "Come Milwaukee I'll have a bit more speed and strength and he'll be more fit so I think it'll be a good showdown."
McMahon also praised the ever-improving, world-class trails in Richmond. "The bike course is fantastic. They added trails and this awesome ramp that takes you up from the river to the higher trail. They've really done a remarkable job," - referring to the work of many volunteers and the James River Park System staff.
For the second week in a row Candy Angle came out of the water first, Melanie McQuaid and Jamie Whitmore passed her on the bike, McQuaid had the fastest bike and went out on the run first, and Whitmore caught her for the win. It's the fourth straight year those three (all XTERRA World Champs) have finished in the top three here at Richmond.
The top two - Whitmore and McQuaid - have taken it to another level finishing 1-2 in 17 of the last 20 races (10 wins for Jamie, and 8 for Melanie during the stretch).
Angle, the strongest swimmer of the three, got the early jump and held off McQuaid until about the midway point on the bike and Whitmore quickly followed. McQuaid was able to put about a minute on Whitmore heading into the run but never felt great.
"I did my best today but I'm disappointed with where my form is so far this year," she said. "I'm just not fast enough and Jamie was faster and everything was really average for me so that's why I didn't win."
Whitmore seems at home in chase mode going out on to the run.
"For me it was about not giving up too much time on the bike and having a clean ride. Don't get hurt, don't break anything and have fun. I would have preferred coming into t2 with her but I had a few problems, had an endo and little things were happening.and I know that happens to everybody. You have to overcome that stuff because I don't think anybody here has a clean ride," said Whitmore. "I was about 50 seconds down heading out of T2 and I knew I was in a good running position so I just put my head down and ran hard. The whole time on the run I could see her and it took me awhile to catch her because she was running very strong."
When she did catch her she never looked back and had the fastest run split - finishing 1:23 ahead of McQuaid.
"I really enjoy these races," said Whitmore. "I look at them as having fun. I used to kinda spaz out in races and get overexcited and crash. This year, I decided to have fun out on the bike course and enjoy the ride so I really had a great time out there."
Despite the result, McQuaid too had a great time. "It's awesome. This course is one of my favorites, I love it. I had so much fun out there. My body just didn't cooperate."
Angle stayed clean in the third spot. Janae Pritchett, who came out of the water in 2nd, was only passed by the dynamic duo and remained in fourth all day through to the finish. It's her best placing since coming in 3rd at Keystone in 2004. Danelle Kabush had a good bike and a great run (second-best) to move up six places after the swim and finish 5th.
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