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Wealing, Whitmore Win XTERRA Mountain Championship
OGDEN/SNOWBASIN RESORT – This afternoon, on a course that featured more than 3,000-feet of climbing on rugged off-road mountain trails Seth Wealing and Jamie Whitmore showcased their astonishing level of fitness and skill to win the XTERRA Mountain Championship.
In an interesting twist, Mother Nature’s fury brought ideal racing conditions to Snowbasin Resort - a venue famous for hosting the downhill and Super G events of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Thunderstorms that ripped through the mountains last night dumped a ton of much-needed rain on the previously dry and dusty trails creating “perfect dirt” so riders could rail the turns and power the climbs. The storm also churned up Pineview Reservoir so much that the water temperature dropped nearly 10-degrees overnight, so what was to be a non-wetsuit, balmy 74-degree swim turned into a wetsuit optional 65-degree swim (and the entire field was happy to don their buoyant rubber suits). Most importantly, the race started this morning at 9am in cool and comfortable weather in the mid-60’s, as opposed to the steamy mid-90’s experienced during the week.
It all added up for Wealing, who notched his first career regional win following four second place finishes in regionals the last two years (including a runner-up performance here last year). The reigning XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Champ, who moved up from 5th to 2nd in the Series standings with the win, set the tone early on with a big lead heading out onto the bike.
“I was really surprised I was so far out on the swim, usually Conrad (Stoltz) is right on me and Craig Evans has been in front. I really don’t know what happened because I just swam at my own pace and was able to keep a nice gap for some cushion on the bike,” said Wealing.
Wealing headed out on the bike a minute ahead of Evans (who to his credit was the only notable not wearing a wetsuit), Michael Simpson, and Stoltz and that cushion morphed into an impenetrable bubble separating him from the rest of the field and he didn’t relinquish the lead all day long.
“I knew Mike (Vine) and Conrad and Josiah (Middaugh) ride really strong and my game plan was to start really conservative and keep winding it up and winding it up so if someone came up to me I’d still have power to go with them,” said Wealing. “It worked out well.”
In Wealing’s rearview mirror Vine, Stoltz, and Middaugh were indeed pushing the pace and closing the gap but Vine – the two-time defending XTERRA Mountain Champion - double-punctured his tires and withdrew at about mile eight and Stoltz had a rim strip wheel issue that caused an unfixable leak knocking him out of the race at around mile 12. Other victims of mechanicals included Andrew Noble (DNF), Jimmy Archer (DNF), Ryan Ignatz and Andrew Biglow.
Those misfortunes, however, were golden opportunities for the likes of Middaugh, Brian Smith, Greg Krause, and Cody Waite – and they all made the best of it. Middaugh placed 2nd, his best finish since winning the 2004 Mtn Champs, and Smith-Krause-and-Waite all secured their best career finishes in 3rd-4th-and-5th, respectively. It’s also interesting to note that the top five men all hail from Colorado where they live and train year-round in mountain riding conditions and altitude’s similar to what’s here in Northern Utah (4,600-feet elevation at the swim start and 7,600-feet at the top of the bike course).
“I felt pretty good but I am disappointed I came up short because this is the one I was shooting for,” said Middaugh, who was about a minute behind Wealing for most of the afternoon. “Today proved who was fit and Seth is definitely a little stronger than everyone else. I got close at the top of the bike climb, had him in sight, and I think I was climbing faster but he was crushing the downhills and putting some time on me there.”
When it comes to mountain climbing there may be nobody better in XTERRA than Brian Smith. He came out of the water 55th overall and more than five minutes after Wealing but answered with the fastest bike (1:39:36) and run (31:12) times of the day for third. Of the 53 people he passed on his way to the finish line, Waite and Krause were the final two.
“I wanted a podium so bad and I gave it everything on the swim. Everything finally worked and it feels good pulling it all together at the end of the season,” said Smith, whose wife Jennifer also finished third today. “Climbing is my forte and I’d say I’m a stronger climber than a technical rider so this is my style course.”
For Waite, who won the amateur race and finished 10th overall on this course last year, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“This was my priority race so I put everything on the line for it. I knew I had to have a really good day and some of the big guys had to have not-so-great days and that’s what happened,” said Waite. “This is by far my favorite course with the altitude and climbing. Plus, I think it’s cool how the whole town gets into it, there’s a ton of people out here.”
Simpson came in 6th, Ignatz persevered through a series of flats and setbacks for 7th, and Will Kelsay placed 8th for the best race of his career – in get this – his 11th XTERRA race since June 3! Will’s XTERRA Adventure (check out willkelsay.com) “with one RV, two bikes, and over 10,000 miles of zig-zagging across the country” ends next weekend at the XTERRA Wild Ride points series race in McCall, Idaho.
If there weren’t enough great individual accomplishments and story lines today – add first-year pro Luke Way’s career-best 9th, and Craig Evans heroic effort racing with a broken bone in his foot and still finishing 10th to the list.
Halfway through the bike it looked like Déjà vu all over again in the women’s pro race. Melanie McQuaid was more than two minutes out in front, riding fast, and poised to defend her XTERRA Mountain Champs title. She had an insurmountable lead on everyone…except Jamie Whitmore - the other half of the most compelling, back-and-forth rivalry in the multisport world (In the previous 26 XTERRA Championship races both McQuaid and Whitmore entered, Jamie had won 13 and Melanie 12).
McQuaid struck first today by posting the fastest swim – a minute-30 ahead of Whitmore. She hit the bike just as strong and quickly added another minute to her lead and although that seems typical of McQuaid’s race strategy – it was even more important today as she revealed a nagging injury had prevented her from run training.
“I knew today that I needed a lead coming off the bike because I’ve had a stress fracture for a month so I haven’t been able to run,” said McQuaid.
Whitmore, fully aware of McQuaid’s plan, had one of her own that involved pacing. “The hardest thing for me was to be patient in the beginning and race smart but I did,” said Whitmore.
Although playing it conservative, Whitmore still turned on the jets, ended up with the fastest bike split and caught McQuaid before the bike-to-run transition. McQuaid had a better in-and-out and was on the run first but Whitmore reeled her in almost immediately and sealed the victory with cat-like quickness up the mountain and the best run time of the afternoon. It’s her third straight regional win following victories at the East Championship in Richmond, VA and Southeast Championship in Pelham, AL.
“I’ve not had success in the last two mountain champs but I prepared for this one and came in here not wanting to lose,” said Whitmore, who with the win took a 300-280 point lead over McQuaid in the XTERRA U.S. Points Series. The net effect is that she can now win the Series with a 3rd place finish at the USA Championship in Nevada on Sept. 30.
I did everything I could to try and prepare and have the best day I could given the challenges I’ve had coming into this race and I’m happy with the effort I put in and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” said McQuaid, who held on to finish second. “It’s far from over, but I am disappointed because I really wanted it.”
Jennifer Smith, who like her husband was more than five minutes off the swim leaders pace, rallied with a speedy bike (10 seconds off Whitmore’s time) and run (third best among females) to place third. The strong showing put Smith in a tie for third in the Series with Candy Angle who did not finish today’s race.
“The swim was really hard for me because I’m back in the pack and getting pounded and I was freakin’,” said Smith. “Otherwise I felt awesome, had a great bike and a really good run. I’m going to get swim lessons on Friday because I’ve had enough of this.”
Despite suffering a stage one separated shoulder after a front-tire-wheelie-crash Dara Marks-Marino finished 4th and Shonny Vanlandingham, a six-time U.S. National Mountain Bike team member, placed 5th. Both had nothing but great things to say about the course and the venue.
“It’s beautiful up here and a fantastic course. I have to admit I was quite surprised at just how beautiful it is, I’m very impressed,” said Marks-Marino.
“I thought the bike course was awesome, just a big point-to-point epic loop with great single track and enough double track so you could pass people or people could pass you. Then you get up here in the mountains and you can see for miles…the view is just amazing,” added Vanlandingham.
More than 600 racers representing 26 states and six countries ascended upon today’s race - the last of four regionals on the XTERRA America Tour. The challenge consisted of a 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) swim in Pineview Reservoir, a 30k (18.9-miles) mountain bike, and 8.5k (5.2-miles) trail run. There was also a half-distance XTERRA Sport course (see results).
Also receiving points: Jolene Wilkinson (41)
Fastest 1.5k Swim (0.9 Miles): Seth Wealing (19:30), Melanie McQuaid (21:25)
Fastest 30k Bike (18.9 Miles): Brian Smith (1:39:26), Jamie Whitmore (1:51:02)
Fastest 8.5k Run (5.2 Miles): Anthony Fleming, amateur (31:06), Brian Smith (31:12), Jamie Whitmore (36:48)
XTERRA PRO RACING: Today’s race was the fourth of five stops in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series. The top 15 at each event are awarded points. Pros can drop one of their scores from the first four events, but must count the points they get (or don't get) at the USA Championship in Nevada. Thus, the final point total combines an 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, Alabama, Richmond, and Utah, $40,000 in Nevada, plus $70,000 will be distributed to the top points scorers in the Series. The XTERRA World Championship Oct. 28 in Makena, Maui is a stand-alone event worth a $125,000. Next stop is the XTERRA USA Championship at Incline Village, NV on Sept. 30.
AMATEUR RACE: Mike Champigny from Canada crushed the bike course and finished 10th overall to win the men’s amateur division (and the 25-29 age group). Jill Sorensen from Breckenridge won the women’s overall (30-34). Karl Jarvis from Provo was the top Utah resident finisher placing 32nd overall and 6th in the 25-29 division. Local Brian Stromberg from Ogden became the first and only Utah racer to win his age group (40-44) since the Mountain Championship moved to Snowbasin.
XTERRA MTN CHAMPS (FEMALE BY DIV.)
15 - 19 Jaquelyn Wilds 5:27:00 Lakewood, CO
20 - 24 Molly Hummel 3:32:19 Durango, CO
25 - 29 Emma Garrard 3:19:03 Truckee, CA
30 - 34 Jill Sorensen 3:17:04 Breckenridge, CO
35 - 39 Mary Hearn 3:26:18 Durango, CO
40 - 44 Louisa Jenkins 3:20:46 Boulder, CO
45 - 49 Meiling Yee 3:40:33 Sunnyvale, CA
50 - 54 Barbara Peterson 3:49:18 Berkeley, CA
55 - 59 Cindi Toepel 4:02:11 Littleton, CO
15 - 19 Kyle Kennedy 3:00:07 Vancouver, Canada
20 - 24 Matthew Eberly 3:00:55 Centennial, CO
25 - 29 Mike Champigny 2:44:44 Vernon, Canada
30 - 34 Damian Gonzalez 2:55:00 Stockton, CA
35 - 39 David Cloninger 2:49:52 Bend, OR
40 - 44 Brian Stromberg 3:06:49 Ogden, UT
45 - 49 Brad Myers 3:14:24 Salem, IN
50 - 54 John Royson 3:14:19 Albany, CA
55 - 59 James Lewis 3:14:41 Broomfield, CO
60 - 64 Lee Cannon 3:44:45 Crested Butte, CO
65+ Art Gardenswartz 4:10:58 Albuquerque, NM
* TOP AMATEURS
WINTER WORLDS: XTERRA returns to Ogden and Snowbasin March 8-9, 2008 for the inaugural XTERRA Winter World Championship - a weekend-long, multi-event sports extravaganza. The main event is a first-of-its-kind, uniquely XTERRA multisport race combining the four disciplines of randonnee skiing, mountain biking, running and snowshoeing. A special “Fire and Ice” award will be presented to the men’s and women’s pro and amateur racers with the fastest combined times in the XTERRA World Championship in Maui (Oct. 28) and the XTERRA Winter World Championship in Utah.
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