Pros dig in to So Cal dirt
THIS WEEK: The first of six races in the Nissan Xterra National Championship Series for pros takes place in Southern California. For the second straight season Vail Lake Resort in Temecula will host the Nissan Xterra West Championship and XTERRA sports festival. The main event - this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. PST, features some of the world's finest athletes challenging Mother Nature, and each other, in a 1.5-kilometer swim in Vail Lake, followed by a 30k mountain bike up-down-and-around the surrounding hills, and a 10k sandy, rocky, hilly trail run. The pros will be competing for fame and cash ($20,000 purse) while amateurs race for a berth into the Nissan Xterra World Championship, and national recognition in the Nissan Xterra USA Championship series.
The weekend schedule also includes an XTERRA Sport race (750m swim, 15k mtb, 5k run), XTERRA Duathlon (3k run, 15k mtb, 5k run), XTERRA Scramble 5k and 10k trail runs, the XTERRA Wake Jam pro/am wakeboarding competition, free XTERRA University clinics, an outdoor expo with music and demos, and the Nissan Kids Base Camp.
FAMILIAR FACE, NEW VOICE FOR XTERRA: Julie Moss, who captured the hearts and spirits of people from around the world when she staggered and crawled towards the finish line at the 1982 Hawaii Ironman, will make her debut as an XTERRA announcer in Temecula this weekend. Moss will join the consummate professional - Whit Raymond, and newcomer Kalei Waiwaiole.
PRO START LIST: XTERRA draws some of the world's best athletes from an array of backgrounds: mountain biking, cycling, triathlon, swimming, running, and adventure racing. Here's a look at this Sunday's pro field (tentative).
Men - Age, Hometown
Jimmy Archer - 33, Boulder, Colorado
Dominic Gillen - 28, Washington, Connecticut
Ryan Ignatz - 27, Boulder, Colorado
Tyler Johnson - 25, Chester, Connecticut
Will Kelsay - 25, Boulder, Colorado
Brent McMahon - 25, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Chann McRae - 34, Austin, Texas
Josiah Middaugh - 27, Vail, Colorado
Andrew Noble - 39, Gold Coast, Australia
Thaddeus Reichely - 31, Aspen, Colorado
Chris Stehula - 21, San Luis Obispo, California
Justin Thomas - 31, Fairfax, Virginia
Jim Vance - 29, San Diego, California
Mike Vine - 33, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Seth Wealing - 27, Boulder, Colorado
Yu Yumoto - 27, Chiba, Japan
Women - Age, Hometown
Candy Angle - 36, Weymouth, Massachusetts
Aracelly Clouse - 33, Cameron Park, California
Beth Hibbard - 33, Tell City, Indiana
Danelle Kabush - 31, Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Jari Kirkland - 30, Crested Butte, CO
Melanie McQuaid - 32, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Amber Monforte - 28, Reno, Nevada
Christy Murphy - 36, Novato, California
Nicole Newton - 32, San Diego, California
Janae Pritchett - 29, Crested Butte, Colorado
Ingrid Rolles 33, Cape Town, South Africa
Monique 'Pua" Sawicki - 26, Mililani, Hawaii
Jen Tobin - 37, Boise, Idaho
Jamie Whitmore - 30, Somerset, California
PRO PREVIEW: As this is the first major race of the XTERRA U.S. Series, there is no telling how the competition will unfold. Off-season training - or lack thereof - could make a huge difference on this day. And as always with XTERRA - where Mother Nature is your toughest competitor - anything can and usually does happen. All qualifications aside, here are those most likely to end up on the podium in California:
Conrad Stoltz won here last year and was the favorite coming in…until today when he didn't board his flight from South Africa to the U.S. so he could recover from micro tears in both his Achilles. He vows to be back healthy and strong for race No. 2 in Pelham, AL on June 11. Thus, Brent McMahon, an Olympic triathlete from Canada, moves to the top of the list. McMahon finished second to Stoltz last year, just 34 seconds back, in what was his first-ever XTERRA. McMahon went on to have a stellar season that included a runner-up performance in Richmond and third place finish at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. He's typically the first guy out of the water, has tremendous biking abilities, and runs like the wind. Mike Vine - another Canadian - was fourth hear a year ago, won the XTERRA Mountain Championship in Keystone, CO, and was second only to Stoltz in the US Pro Series standings. Seth Wealing is one of America's best chances at victory, having placed 4th at the USA Title race last season. Josiah Middaugh has been America's best XTERRA athlete for a couple years, and is also the USAT Long Course National Champion, North American Snowshoe Champion, and USAT Winter Triathlon National Champion. Don't count out Dominic Gillen - a perennial top 5 guy when he's hot, as are Justin Thomas and Aussie Andrew Noble. Perhaps the guy everybody will be watching is super cyclist Chann McRae, the 2002 US Pro Road Race Cycling Champion and veteran international competitor.
Jamie Whitmore won the World Title in 2004 and came into Temecula last year as the favorite but fell to Canadian Melanie McQuaid. McQuaid won the XTERRA World Championship last year, and comes into this one as the favorite. McQuaid is the only female in XTERRA history to win the world title twice. She's still in search of her first XTERRA US Pro Series title, however, as Whitmore - the all-time winningest XTERRA athlete - has won the last four of those. These two are no doubt the dominating female forces in the sport. Over the past few years the duo have finished 1-2 in 15 of the last 17 races, with Whitmore holding a 9-7 advantage. The chase pack will include 2002 XTERRA World Champion Candy Angle, newcomer Monique "Pua" Sawicki - who has already won a 12-hours of Temecula competition earlier this year and is the current and two-time NORBA National Marathon Series Champion. Danelle Kabush has shown she can push the leaders, and Jenny Tobin has long been a force to be reckoned with out on the run. The dark horse could be first-timer Beth Hibbard, an established Olympic distance triathlete, and two amateur superstars making their first appearances as pros - Amber Monforte (the 2005 XTERRA US Amateur Champ) and Aracelly Clouse - the 30-34 national champion last year.
ABOUT THE PRO SERIES: The 2006 Nissan Xterra National Championship Series for pros consists of six events:
May 21 - Nissan Xterra West Championship (Temecula, CA
June 11 - Nissan Xterra Southeast Championship (Pelham, AL)
June 18 - Nissan Xterra East Championship (Richmond, VA)
August 6 - Nissan Xterra Midwest Championship (Milwaukee, WI)
August 19 - Nissan Xterra Mountain Championship (Ogden, UT)
October 1 - Nissan Xterra USA Championship (Lake Tahoe, NV)
The top 15 pros at each event are awarded points based on overall pro finish. Pros can drop one of their scores from the first five events, but must count the points they get (or don't get) in Nevada. Thus, the final point total combines athletes' best four scores in the first five races, plus the USA Championship race points. He/she with most points in the end is declared Series Champ. The U.S. Series will dish out $210,000 in prize money: $20,000 in Temecula, Pelham, Richmond, Milwaukee, and Ogden; $40,000 in Nevada, plus $70,000 will be distributed to the top overall points scorers in the Series. Note: The Nissan Xterra World Championship Oct. 29 in Makena, Maui is a stand-alone event worth a $130,000.
Gator Terra Off-Road Triathlon (5/6- Ruston, LA)
Top Three Complete Results
Men's Race (Hometown, Age Group, Time)
Rick Copley (Grand Island, FL, 30-34, 1:40:46)
Mike Carter (Austin, TX, 40-44, 1:46:19)
Brian LeJeune (Baton Rouge, LA, 20-24, 1:47:38)
Kristi Darby (Baton Rouge, LA, 30-34, 2:09:17)
Christiane Reetz (San Antonio, TX, 40-44, 2:12:20)
Martha Howe (Ruston, LA, 45-49, 2:36:10)
Note: Pro Jamie Cleveland won the overall in 1:38:47