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Stoltz, Whitmore Win in Alabama
Each earn $2,500 at the XTERRA Southeast Championship
PELHAM, AL (June 10, 2007) - Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz rode his mountain bike “on another level” to dominate the men’s race while Jamie Whitmore chased down Melanie McQuaid on the run as the two emerged victorious today at the second annual XTERRA Southeast Championship at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County.
It was a magnificent day for racing among the tall oak trees with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80’s for the 9:30am start warming up to the low-90’s in the afternoon with welcome breezes making their way through the park.
The first leg featured a 1.5-kilometer swim in the comfortable 75-degree water of Double Oak Lake. Amateur Bruce Gennari (who has long been one of the nation’s best triathletes) was the first racer out of the water but his hometown friend Craig Evans from Nashville, Tennessee was the first one out of the swim-to-bike transition. Evans, who won the amateur division here a year ago and is now racing pro, exited T1 in 19:26, thirty seconds ahead of Stoltz and the ensuing chase pack of Jamie Cleveland, Seth Wealing, Dan Hugo and Andrew Noble.
Evans held the lead through about the first five miles of the twisting, tree-lined single track before the powerful Stoltz made his presence felt. The two stayed close for a while before Stoltz shifted to a ferocious pace and put a huge gap on the rest of the field. Stoltz’ 1:03:19 bike split was fastest of the day by more than two-and-a-half minutes.
“My hats off to Craig, it took me ages to catch him and then when I did he stayed with me,” said Stoltz to the crowd gathered for the awards ceremony.
It was indeed Evans finest day as an XTERRA Pro, and it carried special meaning. Evans lost his father, Charles, in a motorcycle accident in January and has dedicated his season to his memory.
“This is a good day for me. My mom’s here, my baby’s here, that’s what it’s all about,” said Evans.
Behind Stoltz and Evans a flurry of great mountain bikers – Brian Smith, Mike Vine, Josiah Middaugh, Noble and Wealing - were in hot pursuit. The middle part of the highly acclaimed 17-mile Oak Mountain “red trail” bike course features a gradual 700-foot climb to the summit and you can imagine all of them in full attack mode pushing up the hill.
While the incredible fitness level of Andrew Noble resulted in big gains during the climbing stretch, the fearlessness of some of the other riders took hold during the last 3rd of the bike course – a fast, wild ride of a downhill highlighted by the notorious “blood rock” section that features a series of tricky to maneuver, uneven and jagged rocks.
Hugo, the 22-year-old young gun from South Africa, was sitting in third and crushing the downhill. He had a flawless passage through blood rock only to wipe out a half-mile down the trail heading into a turn. The aftermath left him with a broken hand, trip to the hospital, cast on his arm, and a prescription for pain pills. It was the day’s lone broken bone, and no one was significantly injured at blood rock.
At the bike-to-run transition Stoltz steamrolled his way out of his bike shoes and into his trail runners, and then it was quiet for the next three minutes until Evans came into T2. Behind Evans was Vine roughly a minute back, followed closely by Noble, then another 30 seconds to Wealing, and 40 seconds behind him was Middaugh…and the mad dash was on.
Vine had the fastest run in Temecula, Noble is crazy fast on down hills, and Middaugh is a mountain man/master runner in all seasons (think snowshoe national champion). Add that the 6.2 mile run course is pure off-road treachery with more than a couple sets of leg-burning hills, and it spelled trouble for Evans.
“Rabbits are always behind me, that’s the hard part of being a non-runner,” said Evans. “I was running really well, just had a misstep and cramped up really bad.”
That’s when Vine came dashing past, 45 seconds later it was Noble, and a minute after that was Middaugh. Evans held on for 5th place, however, for his best result as an XTERRA Pro.
Up ahead Stoltz turned the bend along the scenic lakeshore with a million-dollar grin and cruised into the camera-crowded finish line for his second straight win on the XTERRA America Tour (having won the West Champs in California three weeks ago).
“This is definitely one of my favorite courses,” said Stoltz, who seemed hardly winded after his two-hour jaunt around Oak Mountain. “It’s in the forest and in South Africa we don’t have forests like this, and it’s technical. We came here on Thursday and have been riding the course over and over and over learning all the turns and rocks and roots and it’s very different for us. We were in the Forest all week just saying, wow look at this, and look at this.”
Back on the run Vine couldn’t help but look at Noble, then Middaugh “blow by him.”
“I couldn’t run the downhills fast because my legs were just jelly towards the end. Any faster and I would’ve wiped out or rolled an ankle,” said Vine, who settled for 4th after finishing 2nd in Temecula.
Middaugh had the fastest run of the day with a 37:13 (three minutes faster than the elite trail runner who won the 10k on fresh legs, on the same course two days earlier). It wasn’t enough to catch Noble, who Stoltz’ describes best: “Andy is crazy on the downhills. I don’t know what he does back there but he comes down really, really, really fast.”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Noble, at 41-years-old, finished second because he’s a physical marvel and has been at the front of the pack for more than a year with six top 5 finishes last year and a 3rd place showing in Temecula.
“When I started sport I was 26 and everyone told me I was too old back then and I shouldn’t have left my job, that it was crazy. So I kind of didn’t listen then and it worked out, so I’m not listening now. I was 30 when I won the Duathlon World Champs and at the time that was considered old.” As for his secret on running downhill: “I think most people sort of slow down and lean back, and I try to run down the hills so I speed up and stride out, lean forward, let it all out, and just let go.”
Wealing, the reigning XTERRA USA Champion, finished in sixth – his second sub-par result of the season after a wrong turn and some mechanicals left him 12th in Temecula.
“Better than Temecula but I’m still feeling pretty flat and don’t really have the power so am trying to work my way back into the season. That’s not to take anything away from the other guys, because it’s not necessarily that I’m racing not great, it’s everyone is on this year, everybody is on fire,” said Wealing. “I love this course. Every single part of it is fun, I would’ve rode out there longer today, and even though I was suffering on the run its still really fun…a great, great course.”
Brian Smith, who came out of the water more than five minutes behind the leaders, had the second-fastest bike split and third best run to finish in 7th.
In all, it was a brilliant day of racing and the unanimous chatter was that this course is killer, Oak Mountain State Park is beautiful, and that thing called Southern hospitality is legit.
“Alabama is always a very interesting cultural experience for me,” smiled Stoltz. “I had hush puppies, fried catfish, prawns, cornbread, and grits. We went to the Cracker Barrel and I thought that it was a mom and pop store and someone said ‘No, there’s thousands of them’. We got to meet a lot of the locals, talk to the people, enjoy the Southern hospitality and the Southern food which was really pretty cool.”
WHITMORE BACK ON TOP
Boosted by a renewed sense of confidence Jamie Whitmore, the XTERRA career-leader in wins, picked up her 33rd overall and first since XTERRA Japan last August by combining a smooth swim and bike with a blistering run.
The victory snapped McQuaid’s four-race win streak (Utah, Tahoe, Maui & Temecula) and re-kindled the sports most captivating rivalry.
“It was a rough start this year with a new coach and coming back from an injury, but I fully trusted him and when I came off that bike I’ve never felt so good on a run, I’ve never run that fast, and I just had this great confidence in me, a confidence that I haven’t had in a couple years,” said Whitmore.
Whitmore ran a 43:54, the fastest of the day and more than two minutes quicker than McQuaid, who had the second best run in 46:12.
The race started in familiar fashion with Candy Angle setting the pace in the swim and heading out onto the bike with a minute lead on McQuaid and almost two minutes on Whitmore. McQuaid went out strong on the bike, caught Angle and carried the lead through the rest of the ride.
“Melanie likes to go out hard, it’s what she did in the race last year and so I was pretty confident she was going to do that today – go out hard – and very rarely can you hang on,” said Whitmore. “I knew that as long as I just don’t go too hard or too easy, it was a matter of me just being very consistent and I figured I’d reel here in at some point in the race and that’s what I did.”
She reeled in the three-time XTERRA World Champ somewhere around the middle of the run course on one of the last climbs.
“I had a bad day and opened the door of opportunity,” said McQuaid, who blacked out and collapsed a split-second after crossing the finish line. “Not exactly sure where I went wrong this week but I went in depleted and just didn’t have enough. This is a fun, interesting, short race and if you don’t have the speed there’s nowhere to hide.”
Noted strong mountain biker Jennifer Smith had the fastest split of the day at 1:13:06, but only seconds quicker than McQuaid (1:13:19) and Whitmore (1:13:22).
“I felt awesome,” said Smith, who came out of the water last, passed Shae Rainer and Amber Monforte, and “never saw Candy, Melanie or Jamie.”
Angle finished in third, a couple minutes behind McQuaid, followed by Smith, Rainer, and Monforte. For everyone involved, it was a fun course, but maybe nobody had more fun than Whitmore.
“This course is my absolute favorite mountain bike course on the XTERRA circuit and of all the mountain bike courses I’ve done throughout the U.S. and Worlds. I just love being here and it’s a great State, great Southern hospitality. I encourage people to come down and do this because it’s worth the money; it’s worth the trip. This race is going to blow-up like Richmond.”
A week earlier Whitmore won the BUMP and Grind mountain bike race on this same course. The course was created and is maintained by BUMP (Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers) and the organization deserves a big round of applause for a job brilliantly done.
2007 XTERRA Southeast Championship Results ($20,000 Pro Purse)
Fastest 0.9-mile lake swim (out of transition time): Craig Evans (19:26), Candy Angle (21:29)
XTERRA U.S. PRO SERIES:
The 2007 XTERRA National Championship Series for pros consists of five events:
May 20 - XTERRA West Championship (Temecula, CA)
June 10 - XTERRA Southeast Championship (Pelham, AL)
June 17- XTERRA East Championship (Richmond, VA)
August 18 - XTERRA Mountain Championship (Ogden/Snowbasin, UT)
Sept. 30 - 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 four events, but must count the points they get (or don’t get) in Nevada. Thus, the final point total combines athletes’ best three scores in the first four 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 $190,000 in prize money. $20,000 in Temecula, Pelham, Richmond, and Ogden, $40,000 in Nevada, plus $70,000 will be distributed to the top overall points scorers in the Series after the USA Championship. Note: The XTERRA World Championship Oct. 28 in Makena, Maui is a stand-alone event worth a $130,000.
Damian Gonzales won the men’s amateur title, placing 14th overall, and Tina Eakin (the 2002 XTERRA Amateur World Champion) won the women’s race. Local XTERRA standout Casey Fannin from Birmingham finished 2nd overall amateur & won the 45-49 age group, while Lori Goldweber from Homewood, AL won the 40-44 age group division.
XTERRA SOUTHEAST CHAMPS (FEMALE BY DIV.)
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