Reports from XTERRA Mexico and Czech
NEW PRO: A 9th place overall finish at the recent Nissan Xterra Southeast Championship in Alabama was the last push Craig Evans needed to tip him over the top and into the XTERRA pro ranks. The 28-year-old pharmaceutical asthma and allergy rep from Spring Hill, Tennessee becomes the latest in a long line of XTERRA amateur national and world champions to go pro. In fact, Evans is the fifth this year alone, joining Jason Jablonski, Ryan DeCook, Amber Monforte and Aracelly Clouse as rookies on the pro circuit. He may, however, have the most tools and best chance for immediate success of anyone in the group.
At the inaugural Southeast Championship race a few weeks ago he actually held the overall lead (in front of studs like Stoltz, McMahon, Vine, Noble, Wealing, etc…) during the early portions of the bike and he'd eventually finish as the top amateur and in front of seven established XTERRA pros. He also won the Buster Britton road triathlon the DAY before. His roots in the sport date back to the 2001 Lock 4 Off-Road Tri - an XTERRA Points Series race in Tennessee. Since then the former Western Kentucky University swimmer (missed Olympic trials by two-tenths) has won the 25-29 XTERRA National Championship (2005), qualified for Maui four years running, posted the fastest bike split and won every points series race he's entered in '04 and '05.
It certainly seems that the time is right for Evans, who's married with a one-year-old daughter and a boy on the way. He definitely has a great attitude:
"It's unique in the world of competitive sports to race head-to-head with the same athletes year after year, and through it all become enduring friends with each other. XTERRA has created an environment in which racing can be competitive, fun, challenging, laid back, grueling, and relaxed all in the same breath. Having raced in multiple sporting events (road cycling, mountain biking, swimming, road triathlons, running, and duathlons), I've never felt like I belonged somewhere more than within the XTERRA family. In the past five years, I've developed long-lasting friendships throughout the country and look forward to meeting new ones."
Pros that were amateur XTERRA National Champions: Amber Monforte (2005, 25-29 and overall); Aracelly Clouse (2005, 30-34); Ryan DeCook (2005, 20-24); Jim Vance (2004, 25-29); Greg Krause (2003, 25-29 and overall); Shae Rainer (2003, 20-24); Janae Pritchett (2003, 25-29 and overall); Lisa Isom (2003, 30-34); Josiah Middaugh (2002, 20-24 and overall); Jari Kirkland (2001-02, 20-24).
Pros that were amateur XTERRA World Champions: Jason Jablonski (2005, 30-34 and overall); Ingrid Rolles (2004, 30-34 and overall); Jim Vance (2004, 25-29 and overall); Amber Monforte (2004, 25-29); Robert Latschen (2003, 30-34 and overall); Shae Rainer (2003, 20-24); Sonia Foote (2003, 25-29); Chad Seymour (2003, 20-24); Greg Krause (2003, 25-29); Josiah Middaugh (2002, 20-24 and overall); Erin McCarty (2000, 30-34).
XTERRA MEXICO: Francisco Serrano and Jamie Whitmore won the inaugural XTERRA Mexico Championship in Puerto Vallarta last Saturday. For Serrano, who was 5th in the U.S. Pro Series last season, it marks his return to XTERRA racing after some injuries and it was a milestone win for Whitmore = No. 30 of her career. She is XTERRA's all-time winningest athlete - male or female.
"It seemed pretty quick to get to 25, but very slow to get to 30," said Whitmore, who won on back-to-back weekends in Richmond, VA then Mexico. "I just hope it doesn't take too long to get to 50, because that's my goal."
For more about the race experience we turn to the injury-rittled Mike Vine, who suffered through Temecula and Alabama while recovering from a bruised kidney and cracked ribs, and missed Richmond because of "a 6-inch gaping chain ring slice" on his leg. The Canadian spins a pretty colorful story, ehh…
Just before the inaugural XTERRA Mexico this past weekend in Puerto Vallarta I had another odd crash and sliced my knee wide open on the chain ring only five days before it was time to leave for Mexico. Fortunately I still made the trip, along with 21 stitches. No way I was missing out on a trip to PV. With some quality TV time cocooned in the hotel room (not what you want to be doing at a highly rated all-inclusive resort) the gash healed surprisingly well and I pulled the stitches out 4 days before the race, just in time to allow me to preview the course before raceday.
Heading out to pre-ride it was readily apparent this venue is a perfect prep for Maui World's. The swim is in the warm and wavy Pacific, and the bike and run courses are laced with lava rock, steep popper hills, and copious silty dust and sand. Most importantly the stifling humidity and daily highs of 35 C had even the Hawaiian visitors complaining.
Attending this event was proven XTERRA ace Francisco Serrano (2nd at Milwaukee and 5th at USA champs last year), along with 7-time Mexican ITU champ Javier Rosas and American Ryan Ignats. When the race started I fought through the shore break and found myself on the tail of the 6-person lead pack. Wonderful! I eventually drifted off - no surprise b/c the swimming mileage has suffered badly of late - but to my delight I came out only 45 seconds off the lead.
Once on the bike I moved up to 2nd quickly and worked on catching Serrano over the abrupt and lava rock-laced poppers. My Rocky Mtn Element dually was perf on this course. At the halfway point on the beach I could see Serrano was near and soon caught him on the following uphill section, we worked together for the last part of the ride to hold off a 3-person chase pack w/ Rosas and Ignatz. Highlights included blasting through the cobblestone streets of a fishing village, weaving through a herd of cows, and pacelining off a terrified horse for 1 km at 35-40 kph on the wide open dirt roads. By T2 it was down to me and Serrano w/ the rest well back.
My lack of recent run mileage forced me to stop for socks and Serrano gapped me. The first part of the run is technical w/ a beach section followed by rugged jungle trails w/ numerous logs and steep hills. It was here while chasing hard my shin and knee raked over a barb wire fence and sliced open (same knee, different spot though) whoops. turns out I was the only one who managed to do that. but this time no stitches needed... yeehaw! The gap stretched to ~45 sec by 1 mile to go until I lost another minute going off course approaching the resort...Doh! heat stroke must have been setting in, no problem though, b/c 3rd place Rosas was well back. The final approach to the line routed us along the water's edge that was bordered by bluffs with high tide setting in this course was a challenge to the end, navigating over the rocks with thigh deep waves surging in. Crossing the line in 2nd position I was thinking what a great event this was...what XTERRA is all about. The trip to Vallarta was a highlight traveling experience w/ a fine race course and venue at the Palladium Resort with friendly people. Carlos, Enrique, and the crew pulled it out for a first time venue here. Now I'm back in Victoria and with summer arrived and with cuts healing fast I'm rejuvenated and ready to train...finally!!!
XTERRA CZECH: Nicolas Lebrun and Renata Bucher won the XTERRA Czech Championship in Hluboka nad Vltavou last Saturday.
It marked the third straight win for Bucher overseas (also won XTERRA Italy and France) and her fourth of the year including XTERRA Saipan. The reigning XTERRA European Tour Champion looks poised to defend her title but still has four races remaining (Spain, Denmark, UK, and Germany).
Reigning XTERRA World Champ Nicolas Lebrun won his second straight (also won in Italy) and sits atop the European Tour standings with two wins and a 2nd place finish at XTERRA France.
Lebrun was able to hold off local favorite Jan Kubicek (runner-up) and German standouts Claude Eksteen (3rd) and Nico Pfitzenmaier (4th).