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Southeast Championship unfolds at Oak Mountain State Park
THIS WEEK: The XTERRA world turns its attention to the South and Shelby County in Pelham, Alabama where the inaugural Nissan Xterra Southeast Championship unfolds at Oak Mountain State Park. A look at the course, the pros competing and race preview is below, along with results from XTERRA Italy where Renata Bucher wins her second race in as many weeks and reigning XTERRA World Champ Nico Lebrun finds his way back to the top.
June 9 - XTERRA Oak Mountain Scramble 6pm (Pelham, AL)
June 10 - Eureka Springs Off-Road Triathlon (Eureka Springs, AR)
June 10 - Buffalo Creek Off-Road Triathlon (Buffalo Creek, CO)
June 11 - Nissan Xterra Southeast Championship (Pelham, AL)
June 17 - Solstice Triathlon (La Grande, OR)
June 17 - XTERRA James River Scramble (Richmond, VA)
June 18 - Nissan Xterra East Championship (Richmond, VA)
THE COURSE: Thanks in large part to BUMP - the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers, the mountain biking trails at Oak Mountain State Park have provided world-class fun for locals and visiting riders for years. Now, for the first-time ever in the heart of the South, XTERRA athletes from around the world will get the chance to experience these legendary paths for themselves. The largest park in the Yellowhammer State, Oak Mountain has 52 miles of trails spread among 9,900 lushly forested acres and includes rolling hills, stream crossings and the technical, pine-studded ridges of Double Oak Mountain. The race starts with a 1.5k swim in Double Oak Lake, a long narrow lake with wide sandy beaches. The bike course primarily on hard-packed singletrack, will consist of one large loop full of rollers, stream crossings, wooden bridges and a long but gradual climb to the 1,150-foot high point Johnson Mountain - named after former XTERRA competitor and tireless local trail volunteer Bill Johnson. It's nearly 20 miles worth of rooty and rocky sections… "a mountain bikers course". The 10k run meanders back into the woods on a separate set of singletrack routes and includes some super steep ups-and-downs before returning to the spectator-friendly start/finish area down by the lake.
THE START LIST: Race number is determined by position in the 2006 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, then alphabetically. In this case it's the same as where they finished at the first race in Temecula, CA last month. Subject to change.
# Name - Age, Hometown
1 Brent McMahon - 25, Victoria, B.C., Canada
2 Seth Wealing - 27, Boulder, Colorado
3 Josiah Middaugh - 27, Vail, Colorado
4 Andrew Noble - 40, Gold Coast, Australia
5 Justin Thomas - 31, Fairfax, Virginia
6 Mike Vine - 33, Victoria, B.C., Canada
7 Dominic Gillen - 28, Washington, Connecticut
8 Ryan Ignatz - 27, Boulder, Colorado
9 Brian Smith - 30, Gunnison, Colorado
10 Will Kelsay - 25, Boulder, Colorado
11 Brian Astell - 25, Gualala, CA
12 Tyler Johnson - 25, Chester, Connecticut
14 Amon Pease - 28, Cherry Valley, California
15 Jimmy Archer - 33, Boulder, Colorado
16 Ryan DeCook - 25, Rochester, Michigan
17 Francisco Serrano - 25, Garza Garcia, Mexico
18 Jim Vance - 29, San Diego, California
19 Conrad Stoltz - 32, Stellenbosch, South Africa
# Women - Age, Hometown
61 Jamie Whitmore - 30, Somerset, California
62 Melanie McQuaid - 32, Victoria, B.C., Canada
63 Candy Angle - 36, Weymouth, Massachusetts
64 Jennifer Smith - 33, Greymouth, New Zealand
65 Janae Pritchett - 29, Crested Butte, Colorado
66 Jen Tobin - 37, Boise, Idaho
67 Monique Sawicki - 26, Mililani, Hawaii
68 Danelle Kabush - 31, Canmore, Alberta, Canada
69 Shae Rainer - 26, Austin, Texas
70 Amber Monforte - 28, Reno, Nevada
71 Ingrid Rolles 33, Cape Town, South Africa
72 Aracelly Clouse - 33, Cameron Park, California
73 Nicole Newton - 32, San Diego, California
74 Jennifer Perez - 21, San Antonio, Louisiana
75 Linda Gabor - 32, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
76 Katie Malone - Tryon, North Carolina
77 Christy Murphy - 36, Novato, California
78 Melissa Thomas - 36, Boulder, Colorado
THE PRO RACE OUTLOOK: With the new venue at Oak Mountain State Park it's hard to tell if the course will favor any particular athlete, however, you can count on these guys and gals chasing for the title:
Canadian Olympic triathlete Brent McMahon won the first XTERRA championship of the season in California on May 21 in dominating fashion (posting the fastest swim and run, and ahead of Seth Wealing by more than three minutes). The 25-year-old is the fastest swimmer in the sport, is consistently in the top five off the bike, and runs like the wind - thus, the ultimate threat. The biggest XTERRA factor…Conrad Stoltz. There is no doubt that a healthy Caveman is capable of winning any race, but he's been hampered with injuries of late, particularly some nasty micro tears in both his achilles' that kept him on the sidelines for the first race. Regardless of injuries, last year's Pro Series champ and the two-time World Champ is a fierce competitor and all eyes will be on him. American Seth Wealing, the runner-up in Cali, has set his focus on XTERRA this season. A world cup regular, Wealing is always at the front of the pack during the swim and has the legs to go fast on the bike and run as well. It would not be surprising to see him finish on top. Josiah Middaugh - the USAT Long Course National Champion, North American Snowshoe Champion, and USAT Winter Triathlon National Champion, was third in California last month - the best low-altitude XTERRA finish of his career. A very fit, 40-year-young XTERRA vet Andrew Noble made a splash in the opener with a 5th place finish, and gave us every reason to believe he can do even better. Canadian Mike Vine - who won the XTERRA Mountain Championship last year and was second only to Conrad Stoltz in the US Pro Series standings, was slowed by rib injuries in Temecula but has gained strength since and should be much faster and in contention for the overall. Mexico's Francisco Serrano will be making his XTERRA season debut and don't count out Dominic Gillen or Justin Thomas.
It will be the Jamie Whitmore vs. Melanie McQuaid show until someone else can come in and break through consistently. Over the past few years the duo have finished 1-2 in 15 of the last 17 races they've both entered, with Whitmore holding a 9-6 advantage (but that doesn't include Melanie's Maui win when Jamie was 3rd). Whitmore - the four-time XTERRA US Pro Series Champ - won the first race of the year in California. McQuaid led the race until the first mile of the run - a steep uphill - and held on for second. Candy Angle, the 2002 XTERRA World Champion, finished 3rd in Temecula and will be a contender as always. Jennifer Smith - a Kiwi now living in Colorado - opened some eyes by posting the fastest bike split in Temecula to finish fourth.
XTERRA ITALY REPORT: Dave "Kahuna" Nicholas - the managing director of the XTERRA Global Tour, files this report from June 4th's XTERRA Italy Championship:
After five days of high winds and cold weather, Sardinia proved to be a wonderful host and gave us a sunny, warm and calm day for the race. The start was wonderfully Italian. The federation demanded all the athletes check-in with them manually, despite the fact everyone had walked over timing mats...and they would not let athletes into the water until everyone had raised their hands. You had to be there.
So slightly behind time, the 3rd annual XTERRA Italy race started. Young and fast German pro Andi Boecherer was far ahead in the swim and led the field by over a minute coming into swim-bike. German Ronnie Dietz was just 1.5 minutes behind and favorite Nico Lebrun about 3.
Lebrun looked very confident wearing his fantastic XTERRA World Champ uniform, and Nico knows this Italian course well. Boecherer has been close to winning for years. Extremely fast in the water and on the bike, his talents have been split between road and XTERRA. The biggest surprise of the day was when Renata Bucher came out of the water as the 3rd woman. Italian Champion Stefania Bonnazi was 2d and Maria Luisa Tavernini first.
Lebrun and Boecherer came off the bike literally side-by-side. Andi put his bike on the rack seconds before Nico, but Nico beat the youngster out onto the run by 50 feet and immediately pushed hard and had 100 yards on him within the first 1/2 K. Nico Pfitzenmaier was 3rd off the bike and it was great to see Dietz and Luca Bonazzi in the top 5 and not far behind.
The run in Italy is 2 laps and loops itself back past transition and a thousand spectators. Nico was very comfortable passing in first place, Dietz was pressuring Boecherer, Phitzy looked tired and Luca got huge cheers urging him on to the ultimate giro. At the end, Nico slowed down and enjoyed the 300-meter finishing straight, slapping hands and high fiving the boisterous crowd. Dietz grinned like Christmas morning in second, Andi was happy with third and the crowd went wild when Bonazzi showed up 4th. Frenchman Steve Laurent had his best XTERRA ever and posted a phenomenal run that moved him into the top 5 just a few seconds in front of the fading Phitzenmaier.
The women's race was predictably Buchers. She posted the fastest bike and had nobody in site going out on the run. Melissa Thomas, still healing from injuries she received while training a few weeks ago, had a great swim/bike and came into bike-run together with Stefania. But Thomas' back precluded any challenge and Stefania cruised to a terrific 2nd place. This was her first race since the summer of 2005 when she was hit by a car in an accident that nearly ended her career. Still showing some remains of surgery on her knee, her finish was loudly applauded by everyone.
Claudia Frank put in a great bike ride, and she needed it to hold off Hungary's Esther Erderley (Eszter Erderlyi) by under 10 seconds. Eszter is an unknown to the XTERRA European tour but had a solid race and we hope to see more of her. Thomas soldiered on to a courageous 5th.
As always, the whole day ended up as "hey, the Sardinians had this great party and an XTERRA race broke out". The food, wine, beer, music and awards were fantastic. The hospitality from Commune Villacidro and the folks of Sardinia are truly second to none. And even the weather Gods were kind giving us a great day for some great racing.
To see some great scenes and results to www.xterraitaly.it and convince yourself you need to go here next year.
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