Wealing, McQuaid win XTERRA USA Race & Series
Sunday - October 1, 2006
INCLINE VILLAGE, NV - On an incredibly beautiful crisp and clear day on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe Seth Wealing became the first American male to win the Nissan Xterra USA Championship in the six-year history of the event, edging Mike Vine from Canada by just over a minute with a winning time of 2:34:41.
In the women's pro race Melanie McQuaid from Canada snapped American Jamie Whitmore's four-year run to become the first non-U.S. female to win the race since Anke Erlank (South Africa) in 2001.
Both Wealing and McQuaid also finished as the top points scorers in the six-stop XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and thus earned $19,000 for their efforts today ($14,000 for winning the Series and $5,000 for winning the race).
"We've been wanting a USA guy to win this race for a long-time and I really wanted to win this race," said Wealing, who also became the first American since Michael Tobin in 2000 to win the Series. Olympians Eneko Llanos from Spain won here in 2004 and '05, and Conrad Stoltz from South Africa won from 2001-2003.
The course, arguably the toughest and most scenic in the 50-race Nissan Xterra USA Championship Series, combined a 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) swim in Lake Tahoe with a 32-kilometer (20-mile) mountain bike ride that climbed 2,500 feet along the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) trail run.
For Wealing it was a pleasurable, lonely day. He was the first guy out of the 60-degree clear blue water, took off by himself up the sandy 1,600-foot climb to the Flume Trail, entered the bike-to-run transition with about a one-minute lead over Vine and simply never looked back.
"I didn't see anybody out there on the course today except the TV guy on the motorbike in front of me," said Wealing, who won the XTERRA UK Championship three weeks ago. "The crowd here today was awesome, screaming so loud when I passed through the compound on the run it was totally deafening and that really helped."
"I felt on form three weeks ago when I won in England and I just carried that form into today," said Wealing, who had the fastest swim, the second-best bike time behind Vine, and the third quickest run. "It was perfect racing conditions out there, nice and cool and really beautiful."
Coming into the race Wealing was on the short-list of race favorites but was a long-shot to win the Series because he trailed by 44 points so not only did he need to have a great race and beat Andrew Noble, but he also had to count on seven other guys finishing in front of leader Brent McMahon.
McMahon, who had won the first two races of the Series and finished second and third in the last two, suffered a knee-injury in Milwaukee that put his training on the shelf for several weeks leading up to this race. He overcame that and was with the leaders (Andy Noble and Mike Vine who were 2nd and 3rd at the time) on the bike when his worst nightmare happened - a Flume Trail nail went clear through his tire. In last year's race here he had a flat that cost him six minutes, several places, and several thousand dollars of Series money (the difference between 2nd and 4th). This was even worse.
"Went through the top and out the side and there was nothing I could do," said McMahon, who ended up 11th (four-spots shy of where he needed to be to win the Series). "First I pumped air into the tire and left the nail in so hopefully it would seal up. Rode the rest of the Flume and got out by the Lake and it was dead flat again so I pulled the nail out, pulled the tube out, put the new tube in, then ran out of air and had to wait for people to come by and give me air, so I probably lost, I don't know, 13 minutes."
That was the difference, as his combined swim and run times matched Wealing's. In a season that was defined by injuries and mechanicals, this was the topper. As proof that misery loves company, another race favorite - Conrad "the Caveman" Stoltz, a three-time champion in Tahoe, broke his wrist pre-riding the course on Friday so didn't even make it to the start line.
Runner-up Mike Vine had his share of physical mishaps early in the season and is just now getting back on top of his game. Today he out-rode the entire field and was a minute better than Wealing on the bike but couldn't make up for the 1:45 he lost to him out of the water.
"I had a solid day, rode well and had a good run," said Vine. "I was happy to hold off Chris Legh on the run because he was bearing down on me and I was pretty terrified at that point." As for Wealing, "I never saw him. I think he smoked the swim and was solid all around."
In his first XTERRA of the season after finishing 5th at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui last year, Chris Legh was simply on fire. In a field filled with incredible mountain bikers, he posted the fourth-best split and turned on the jets during the run to nearly finish second. It's the second-straight year he's had the fastest run time here.
The smooth and steady elder statesman of XTERRA, 41-year-young Andrew Noble, had another clean and impressive race to finish in 4th. Bucky Schafer, a 24-year-old young gun and no doubt overlooked competitor in today's field, was dazzling. His fifth place finish surprised a lot of people.
Ryan Ignatz finished sixth and Josiah Middaugh completed his long-road to recovery since an injury in June with a 7th place performance.
For the last four years this race has been all Jamie Whitmore . she'd won the race, won the Series, and celebrated with her friends and family that live in nearby Northern California every year. And in the previous four years, actually five, McQuaid has been in the shadows (having finished 9th in 2001, 4th in 2002, and second the last three years).
This time McQuaid came out on top, with a fistful of cash and the elusive USA race and Series title that she's been dreaming about.
"This is six years in the making and it's a wonderful moment for me," said McQuaid, who set-up the Series showdown by winning the Mountain Championship in Utah last month. "I worked hard to get to the point where I could win on a course that doesn't really suit me because of the altitude and its super satisfying."
Not as sweet as it could've been, she said, because her rival took a Flume Trail nail in her back tire that cost her five minutes to fix.
"I would have preferred to beat her fair and square so it puts a little bit of a damper on my win today, but I had a lot of confidence coming into this race that I had what it took and I had a strong day so I would've been tough to beat flat or no flat," said the two-time XTERRA World Champ, who finished the Series tied with Whitmore (each with three wins) but took the overall based on finishing first here.
"It's one thing to lose in a dog-fight but to lose to a mechanical really hurts, especially on this course where it's so effortless for me," said Whitmore, who has logged hours-upon-hours on the course through the years. "What was harder is normally I am in the lead on the bike so I don't have anyone in my way because the only riders that are with me are really good age groupers, but because of the flat I was stuck behind some guys on the Tahoe Rim trail and that's where I usually really gain time on others but I couldn't."
The mishap opened the door for mountain bike extraordinaire Jennifer Smith. She started the day with a miserable swim "Water in my eyes, freaked out, couldn't breath, too many people, I didn't want to do it," but then more than made up for it with the best bike split of the day - more than four minutes faster than the next best time put up by McQuaid. She caught Jamie, then the strong swimming Janae Pritchett, then Danelle Kabush, then Candy Angle to move into second chasing McQuaid down the hill.
"It was unexpected. I was really surprised because I was thinking Tahoe might not come around for me," said Smith, who's training this year was more geared towards mountain bike worlds in her homeland of New Zealand than the swimming and running time required for XTERRA. "It was a good time today, I loved the bike and the run went by really fast because it was so interesting."
It's the first time in the U.S. Series this season that someone other than McQuaid or Whitmore has finished in the top two.
Just like last year Danelle Kabush saved her best race for this one, placing third after exiting onto the run in fourth and then passing Angle.
Angle came in a strong 4th and was followed across the finish by Whitmore in fifth. Melissa Thomas placed sixth, Pritchett 7th, and first-timer Erin Ford placed 8th. Mountain bike star Shonny Vanlandingham was 9th.
Note: A "Flume Trail Nail" refers to a long 4-inch square nail that was used to build the 19th century water flume that was rigged to move timber efficiently from the upper slopes of the Sierra Nevada range down to the valley floor. Back in the late 1800's, 56,000 pounds of nails were used to build the flume, and those same nails are still being unearthed along this famous section of mountain bike trail, wreaking havoc on tires.
PRO SERIES FINALE: The Nissan Xterra USA Championship was the sixth of six races for professionals competing in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Points Series. Pros were awarded points for their finish at each of the six events and could drop one of their scores from the first five events, but not Tahoe. Thus, they counted their best four scores in addition to their finish today. The Series dished out $70,000 to the top scorers, and in addition $20,000 was given away at Temecula, Pelham, Richmond, Milwaukee and Ogden, and $40,000 for today's race. The Nissan Xterra World Championship on Oct. 29 in Maui is a stand-alone event with a $130,000 purse.
Matt Boobar and Laura Home win amateur championships
THE AMATEUR RACE: Athletes representing 42 states made their way to the north shore of Lake Tahoe for their shot at the national championship of off-road multisport. Matt Boobar, a 34-year-old from Plymouth, New Hampshire won the XTERRA men's amateur national title in a time of 2:51:35 (he was 18th overall). Laura Home, a 33-year-old sixth-grade science teacher from Santa Cruz, California won the women's amateur division in 3:18:51 (she was the 11th overall female). Barbara Peterson won her unprecedented sixth consecutive national title, while Hans Dieben, Kent Robison and Tom Lyons all won their fifth.
COMING UP: The 11th Nissan Xterra World Championship, held at the Maui Prince Hotel at Makena Resorts in Maui, on Sunday, October 29. The World Championship is the final stop on the XTERRA Global Tour - the culmination of a national and international series of 100+ events held in the Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Saipan, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Denmark, France, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, England, and the United States. COMING UP: The 11th Nissan Xterra World Championship, held at the Maui Prince Hotel at Makena Resorts in Maui, on Sunday, October 29. The World Championship is the final stop on the XTERRA Global Tour - the culmination of a national and international series of 100+ events held in the Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Saipan, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Denmark, France, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, England, and the United States.
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