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The XTERRA Family Gathers in Richmond
THIS WEEK: The XTERRA family gathers in Richmond, Virginia - one of the most revered venues in the 10-year history of the sport - for the Nissan Xterra East Championship on Sunday. In this edition we look at the course, the pro start list and race preview, as well as other news from around the world of XTERRA including the Maui qualifiers list from Alabama, the inaugural XTERRA Mexico Championship, and this weekend's TV schedule.
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: The story was told today about the origins of the XTERRA East Championship (read Richmond Times Dispatch front-page article here) and how this major metropolitan city came to host the rugged off-road sport. Since that first race in 1999 (an instant classic) the James River Park System staff and countless numbers of volunteers have improved the trails to create an epic ride in Richmond. The mountain bike trails are world-class and connect the North and South side of the James River with a roller-coaster ride through the forest. The last section of the Northtrail has taken volunteers' years to complete and this weekend some 800 athletes representing 34 states and a handful of foreign countries will celebrate their hard work. Here is an overview of the ultimate urban adventure:
"It's been said that in Richmond the swim could be a run; the bike could be a hike; and the run could be a swim."
XTERRA Swim (1K)
The swim appears pretty straightforward. Start at the boat ramp at Brown's Island and swim around a mini-island in the middle of the James. But the James River simply isn't a very cooperative body of water. Sometimes the current runs at 6-7 knots, which makes going straight a very difficult job. Sometimes the level is low and you can walk a good deal of the swim. It has never been the same twice, but it is the same for everyone who does it and the James has become a poster for the XTERRA creed that "Mother Nature is your toughest competitor".
XTERRA Bike (30K)
The bike is just as crazy. You leave Brown's island and ride underneath the Lee Bridge on a suspended pedestrian walkway. Look out for fishermen and if you get enough competitors that bridge will start swinging like it was straight out of Indiana Jones. The first part is pretty straight forward until you find out you have to put your bike on your shoulder and run up a long flight of stairs. It gets worse. Lots of tough short climbs and downhills through Forest Hills Park and then you'll have to ride under Riverside Drive through a storm tunnel. The new section of this course heads west on Buttermilk Heights trail to Boulevard Bridge, around Maymont Park and onto the newly completed Northtrail. Competitors will ride over bridges completed by volunteers to connect the different sections of the ride - and some are pure engineering marvels.
XTERRA Run (10K)
The run starts easy enough. A pleasant jog along the canal walk, across the river and on top of the floodwall with a view of the city to die for. Then you turn into a dirt trail and suddenly an 80-foot vertical climb up railroad ties stares you in the face. They call it the Mayan ruins because it looks just as gnarly as a climb up a 2000-year-old temple. After that quad burner things get easy again, but never fear, all kinds of climbs and twists and turns await. The final piece de la resistance happens when you start heading back to Belle Isle just to find there is no path or trail. So what you do is take a particularly nasty Richmondesque thing called "the dry way". What that means is try and run and jump and find your way across a quarter mile of riverbed on rocks. Another bridge, a Belle Isle twister, back across the swaying footbridge, and your home.
THE START LIST: Race number is determined by position in the 2006 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, then alphabetically.
No. Name - Age, Hometown
1 Brent McMahon - 25, Victoria, B.C., Canada
2 Seth Wealing - 27, Boulder, Colorado
3 Andrew Noble - 40, Gold Coast, Australia
4 Justin Thomas - 31, Fairfax, Virginia
5 Brian Smith - 30, Gunnison, Colorado
6 Ryan Ignatz - 27, Boulder, Colorado
7 Dominic Gillen - 28, Washington, Connecticut
8 Brian Astell - 25, Gualala, CA
9 Will Kelsay - 25, Boulder, Colorado
10 Conrad Stoltz - 32, Stellenbosch, South Africa
11 Tyler Johnson - 25, Chester, Connecticut
12 Jim Vance - 29, San Diego, California
14 Jimmy Archer - 33, Boulder, Colorado
15 Ryan DeCook - 25, Rochester, Michigan
16 Nicolas Lebrun - 32, Digne, France
18 Amon Pease - 28, Cherry Valley, California
19 Tim Snow - Brockton, Massachusetts
No Women - Age, Hometown
61 Melanie McQuaid - 32, Victoria, B.C., Canada
62 Jamie Whitmore - 30, Somerset, California
63 Candy Angle - 36, Weymouth, Massachusetts
64 Danelle Kabush - 31, Canmore, Alberta, Canada
65 Monique Sawicki - 26, Mililani, Hawaii
66 Jen Tobin - 37, Boise, Idaho
67 Janae Pritchett - 29, Crested Butte, Colorado
68 Shae Rainer - 26, Austin, Texas
69 Ingrid Rolles 33, Cape Town, South Africa
70 Amber Monforte - 28, Reno, Nevada
71 Aracelly Clouse - 33, Cameron Park, California
72 Nicole Newton - 32, San Diego, California
73 Melissa Thomas - 36, Boulder, Colorado
74 Jennifer Perez - 21, San Antonio, Louisiana
75 Linda Gabor - 32, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
76 Katie Malone - Tryon, North Carolina
THE PRO RACE OUTLOOK: This Sunday in Richmond some of the world's best triathletes, mountain bikers, and trail runners will collide in the consummate individual challenge for outdoor athletes. It's the third of six races in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and a crucial race in the overall scheme of the points standings.
Brent McMahon shows up on the start line wearing his red jersey with the confidence of a matador waving his red cape in front of a charging bull. Except for in McMahon's case there are more than a dozen bulls chasing after him. Through the first two championships this year nobody's touched the young XTERRA star. He won in California by a large margin and ran his way to a comfortable victory in Alabama last week. McMahon, a 25-year-old Canadian Olympic triathlete, is the fastest swimmer in the sport, consistently in the top five off the bike, and runs like the wind. Sunday will be without a doubt his toughest challenge to date. Current XTERRA World Champ and two-time Richmond winner Nicolas Lebrun from France makes his U.S. debut, fresh off a win at XTERRA Italy two weeks ago. Conrad "the Caveman" Stoltz powered through the bike in Alabama and headed out onto the run in first before slowing with some injury/fitness related symptoms as a result of recent achilles' tears. He's in better shape now, and he knows that to win the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series again (he's won four of the last five) he'll have to earn first-place points soon. Seth Wealing, America's best chance for victory, has been runner-up to McMahon in the last two races, and he's got speed on the run to chase down anyone. His bike riding abilities are clearly among the best and it's only a matter of time before his last push on the run finds him in front. The Aussie Andrew Noble was 5th in California, 3rd in Alabama and seemingly getting faster and more comfortable as the races progress. Dominic Gillen has two top 4 finishes in Richmond and this East Coast style of track is to his advantage. Same thing can be said for Fairfax, VA native Justin Thomas. Pro mountain biker Brian Smith had the best bike split in California and was only 8 seconds off the clip set by the Caveman in Alabama, and could put the hurt on the field on this course that is considered quite technical. Perhaps the dark horse is Tyler Johnson, who in 2003 held the lead through the first couple miles of the run. He's got a feel for this one.
Injury update: Josiah Middaugh is out with a cracked kneecap. Mike Vine is out with a "6 inch gaping chain ring slice" on the inside of his leg that required 21 stitches. It happened on Monday upon returning from Alabama and going for a ride in his hometown in Victoria. He should be 100% by Milwaukee. Francisco Serrano is out with injuries incurred at the Panamerican Triathlon Championship in Brazil a few weeks ago.
Jamie Whitmore won here last year...by 36 seconds over Melanie McQuaid. McQuaid won in 2004 (two minutes ahead of Whitmore) and Whitmore won in '03 (two minutes before McQuaid). Expect the Jamie Whitmore vs. Melanie McQuaid rivalry to be in full force in Richmond once again. These two are worth the price of admission (which is actually free, but you get the point). No doubt that Candy Angle has been knocking on the door and finishing third consistently for some time and at some point she will slip past the dynamic duo. Danelle Kabush, who is currently fourth in the series, is also capable. She's a great biker and showed how fast she can run in Alabama last week. Those two skill sets could work for her Sunday.
MAUI QUALIFIERS FROM ALABAMA: By virtue of their performance at the Nissan Xterra Southeast Championship in Pelham, Alabama the following 31 athletes earned their spot on the starting line of the 2006 Nissan Xterra World Championship on October 29 in Makena, Maui.
Note: Christiane Reetz, the 40-44 winner, and Brian Grasky, who was 2nd in the 30-34 division, previously qualified at Temecula.
XTERRA MEXICO: The first-ever XTERRA Mexico Championship is right around the corner on June 24 in Puerto Vallarta. Dave Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA Global Tour, is anticipating a tropical adventure not to be missed.
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