Nissan Xterra Midwest Championship report
STOLTZ, WHITMORE WIN MIDWEST CHAMPIONSHIP
MILWAUKEE, WI (July 24, 2005) - Conrad Stoltz and Jamie Whitmore were pushed to extreme limits by the weather, the course, and their fellow competitors en route to winning the inaugural Nissan Xterra Midwest Championship pro titles this afternoon.
The XTERRA creed that "Mother Nature is your toughest competitor" has never been more evident. It was humid and sweltering hot with temperatures in the upper 90s. The temperature in Lake Michigan was a warm 75-degrees an hour before the 11am start, but then the cross wind kicked in and sent little pockets of bone-chilling water rushing past the athletes, not to mention a wind chop that put some serious motion in the ocean (err, Lake). Finally, the thunderstorms from yesterday muddied the ravine-heavy run course creating some comically slippery conditions that sent racers sliding all over.
For Conrad, his obstacles also included a broken chain on the bike, a hand still sore from a crash in Richmond, and a 'big-by-triathlon-standards' 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame that didn't want any part of the heat.
"Today I had to dig much deeper than I've had to before. The heat and humidity was astounding," said Stoltz, who's won three straight now in the Nissan Xterra Championship Series.
The race started predictably with Canadian Brent McMahon putting a minute-thirty on the field in the swim (Francisco Serrano, Andrew Noble, Michael Simpson, Olivier Marceau, and Conrad Stoltz were in the chase pack). Still, McMahon had no doubt that the "Caveman" was coming.
"There's no hiding the fact that Conrad is a machine. If his leg hasn't fallen off he's gonna outride everybody and just a minute and a half isn't enough. I knew he was coming, it was just a matter of how long it took," he said. It took about 20 minutes.
After Stoltz reeled in McMahon he started putting time into the field and was poised to run away with this one until he broke his chain a lap-and-a-hlf into the bike (the majority of which parallels the Milwaukee River on rolling twisty single track trails).
"I lost a ton of time, probably two minutes and the leaders came past me and the second guy came past me and third guy came past and when Olivier came past I managed to fix my chain and the two of us starting riding together for a while and caught some people," said Stoltz.
"When I saw Conrad in the bush with his bike flipped over fixing his chain I was thinking 'Oh, that's bad, but kinda good' but I knew he'd fix it and come storming back," said McMahon, who found himself in the lead again, this time alongside Mexico's Francisco Serrano.
Serrano? He finished eighth in two races in his first year in XTERRA last season, and had his best showing in Temecula in May placing sixth. But could he be the guy to break into the Olympian trio of Stoltz, McMahon, Marceau? Today, he was on fire - in a good way - and he did break in, and almost won.
"I'm used to this heat because a lot of races in Mexico are hot like this, just humid and really really hot. The national Mexican Championship was a month and a half ago and in weather just like this and I finished in fourth and that helped me a lot," said Serrano.
The 'ol 'practice makes perfect' helped Serrano as well. He came in early and on a mission to know the course and that was clear, being the only guy to ride faster than Stoltz this year.
"One of the key things was practicing. I was gliding through corners, and the conditions were worse earlier in the week when I was riding with Conrad and we did all the hard sections several times so we'd go back till we got it right," he said.
Serrano put a gap on McMahon and was the first racer out on the run, roughly 35 seconds ahead of Stoltz, who had overtaken McMahon just before T2. So it was Serrano, Stoltz, McMahon, Marceau, and Chalker out of the bike-to-run transition.
Only a stellar scramble by Stoltz, and just 47-seconds, prevented Serrano from victory.
"It was a slow run, all grass and mud and inside the forest I couldn't believe how slippery it was. I fell on the run into this huge big muddy pool and skidded down a hill and lost my glasses in the bushes somewhere. It was really funny," said Stoltz. "At the end I was really hurting, and I slowed down the last couple miles otherwise I would have blown, and when I finished I was really dehydrated."
Dehydration was the biggest demon of the day, not just for Conrad, but for everybody. It was met with a truly impressive team of medics. The Milwaukee Fire Department had five paramedics (three on stand-by and two on-course), two roving bike teams, five engines, a ladder company, battalion chief, mist tents and fire hoses on the run course and at the finish, and the Milwaukee Transit System sent a cool city bus for use as a recovery station. In addition to the ample aid stations serving Gatorade endurance formula and water on course, every athlete in the race left in good condition.
Despite admittedly "slowing down" Stoltz posted the fastest run split.
"I'm very happy and this was probably my best performance this year. I felt great in the swim - changed my stroke and it make a big difference - and I haven't run the fastest in an XTERRA in ages, probably four years. I really appreciate being on top again," said Stoltz, who added, "I'm ready for Eneko." Eneko Llanos, of course, has won the last two XTERRA World Championships. Conrad won the two before that.
Serrano was also happy with his run, and his runner-up performance. "This is my best XTERRA ever and one of my best triathlon's ever. Everything came together. I felt good, had a good swim, a good bike, and I was able to hold on the run, usually these guys fly past me."
Marceau managed to get past McMahon for his third straight third-place finish in the Series. When told that Conrad said he didn't have that fast of a run he showcased his great disposition and sense of humor...
"Yes, he didn't run very fast, his bike was not very good either, and his swim was crap too," smiled Marceau. "I'm wondering what he's doing on this series, he should go to the age groupers race."
On a more genuine note he said, "Since the beginning he has dominated. It's Conrad and us, and I don't know how to beat him. He had a bad season last year, so this year it is my turn. The wheel is turning. In sports, you can't always be on top."
Jason Chalker had his best race of the season and passed McMahon on the run for fourth place, which also moved him up into fourth in the pro series standings (Behind Stoltz, McMahon, and Marceau in that order).
McMahon's fifth place was due to a strong bit of practical thinking.
"I had to really balance the heat, because I've had trouble in the past. I can't push myself in the heat like I did in Richmond, because I'll put myself in a bad spot. I had to walk the uphills, walk the aid stations, walk a couple other times, and just make it to the end."
Josiah Middaugh had the third-fastest bike and was the top American, placing sixth despite coming out of the swim a full 6 minutes and 30 seconds behind the leader. He's now sixth in the Series as well, behind Mike Vine who finished 11th today.
In the end Jamie Whitmore edged past Melanie McQuaid by the slimmest of margins, this time 24 seconds, for the second straight race (it was 36 seconds in Richmond) and the two have now finished 1-2 in 13 of the last 14 races - with Jamie leading 8-to-5 during the stretch.
It was business as usual for the women - Jessica Harrison had the fastest swim for the third straight race, McQuaid had the fastest bike for the third straight race, and Whitmore had the fastest run for the second time this month.
And again, McQuaid lost - or more appropriately, Jamie won - on the run.
"I was pretty hot and didn't know what was going on and I missed a marshal and went the wrong way on the run," explained McQuaid, who went out onto the run with a seemingly commanding three-and-a-half minute lead. "After the third ravine I was supposed to go off to the left and instead went off to the right then I saw someone I passed earlier so I backtracked and probably lost over a minute and that was the end. I didn't have anything left and ran out of real estate to come home and Jamie took advantage."
Whitmore wasn't without problems of her own, starting with the swim.
"It was a brutal swim, really rough and there was a current and it was choppy so I got really seasick and came out disoriented and not feeling wheel," she said. "Three-quarters of the bike ride I was throwing up. I just kept losing time because I couldn't push as much as I wanted too, and I was dehydrated because I wasn't keeping down enough water."
McQuaid, who was third out of the water behind Harrison and Candy Angle and 1:44 ahead of Whitmore, concurred that is was a difficult swim.
"We were running into people going into the wrong direction, the wind created quite a chop, and little currents of really cold water would hit us, it was pretty crazy," she said. "They call it a roughwater swim, and this was definitely a roughwater swim."
Harrison said she loved the swim, and why wouldn't she having put more than three minutes on the next pro - the notably fast Angle.
"I was trying to ride as hard as I could to see how far I could get before they caught me and limit my losses on the run but I slid on one of the tree roots and knocked my derailleur out. So I had to do some improvised mechanics on it and lost a little time," said Harrison.
They say misery has company, and for Candy Angle it was a bee sting on the bottom of her foot suffered yesterday when walking around the XTERRA Village. Angle had an allergic reaction that caused a significant amount of swelling. She was able to fit in her shoes today, but it certainly didn't help her chances. Angle sat in second for most of the bike before Whitmore caught her on the second lap, and third is where she stayed thereafter.
"It was a good course, I love the twisty turny stuff," she said. "But the key is to minimize your mistakes, and I didn't minimize them enough. Today not only were we competing against each other, we were also competing against the heat. It's who can survive the best in this atmosphere."
Melissa Thomas survived quite nicely, posting the second-best bike and fourth-best run to finish in fourth (despite coming out of the water 10 minutes after Harrison). Her key to success. "I sat in my car with the air conditioning on until 20 minutes before the race started and didn't warm up, it was part of my strategy. I felt great. I was in fourth heading onto the run and it stayed that way. Best run I've had."
Ultimately, it came down to the last mile of the run. That's when Whitmore caught sight of McQuaid on the beach.
"I was coming down the stairs a mile away and saw her on the beach and I thought I could catch her so went into a full on sprint going after her, like a 100 yard dash, and I thought I was either going to pass out, cramp up or start barfing."
None of the three happened, just her second win in a row to put her in the Series lead.
2 Francisco Serrano 24 Garza Garcia, Mexico 2:27:44 $2,000 90
3 Olivier Marceau 32 Cannes, France 2:29:16 $1,500 82
4 Jason Chalker 30 Canberra, Australia 2:33:41 $1,200 75
5 Brent McMahon 24 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:34:48 $900 69
6 Josiah Middaugh 25 Vail, Colorado 2:35:32 $700 63
7 Andrew Noble 37 Gold Coast, Australia 2:37:02 $500 58
8 Justin Thomas 30 Reno, Nevada 2:38:00 $350 53
9 John Koenig 35 Phoenix, Arizona 2:38:33 $250 49
10 Jimmy Archer 32 Boulder, Colorado 2:39:27 $200 45
Also receiving points: Mike Vine (41), Ryan Ignatz (37), Greg Krause (34), Will Kelsay (31), Jim Vance (28).
2 Melanie McQuaid 31 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:49:56 $2,000 90
3 Candy Angle 35 Weymouth, Massachusetts 2:52:54 $1,500 82
4 Melissa Thomas 35 Boulder, Colorado 2:53:43 $1,200 75
5 Jessica Harrison 27 Perpignan, France 2:55:35 $900 69
6 Ingrid Rolles 32 Cape Town, South Africa 3:00:19 $700 63
7 Danelle Kabush 30 Canmore, Alberta, Canada 3:01:53 $500 58
8 Jen Tobin 35 Boise, Idaho 3:01:59 $350 53
9 Fabiola Corona Guadalajara, Mexico 3:02:46 49
10 Janae Pritchett 29 Crested Butte, Colorado 3:09:22 45
Also receiving points: Linda Gabor (41), Nicole Newton (37).
Fastest 9k Run (5.6 Miles): Conrad Stoltz (37:24), Jamie Whitmore (42:49)
Nissan Xterra Midwest Champions (Age Group Women)
25 - 29 *Cathy Yndestad 3:28:16 Apple Valley, MN
30 - 34 Ingrid Melander 3:54:39 Ramsey, MN
35 - 39 Cindy Schlafmann 3:47:38 Champlin, MN
40 - 44 Jodi Ruby 3:42:09 La Verne, CA
45 - 49 Beverly Enslow 4:04:57 Peoria, IL
50 - 54 Cindi Toepel 3:57:54 Littleton, CO
* TOP AMATEURS
Nissan Xterra Midwest Champions (Age Group Men)
20 - 24 Tomas Petricko 3:07:36 Encinitas, CA
25 - 29 *Andrew Feeney 2:47:18 Boulder, CO
30 - 34 Tim Menoher 2:50:06 Erlanger, KY
35 - 39 Mark Junkermann 2:52:48 Richmond, VA
40 - 44 Arcadio Ramirez 3:01:25 Ann Arbor, MI
45 - 49 Dave Ruby 3:12:49 La Verne, CA
50 - 54 Pavel Lavdakopulos 3:37:12 Palm Springs, CA
55 - 59 Kent Robison 3:20:11 Reno, NV
60 - 64 GL Brown 5:18:18 Ada, Michigan
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