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Big Weekend for the XTERRA Global Tour
TODAY: Race reports from the three XTERRA Global Tour Championship races held over the weekend where...
Nico Pfitzenmaier and Jamie Whitmore won the XTERRA Japan Championship.
Nicolas Lebrun and Anna Baylis-Shelderbauer won the XTERRA Austria Championship.
Mike Vine and Candy Angle won the XTERRA Brazil Championship.
XTERRA JAPAN REVIEW: By the president of XTERRA, Janet Clark…Pfitzenmaier and Whitmore Rule Marunuma
If you think “Japan” the images that come to mind are typically that of densely populated cities, high tech, the neon lights of the Ginza, and wall-to-wall people. But what is offered up at Marunuma, the site for the 4th annual XTERRA Japan Championship, could not be further from this vision…it is Mother Nature at her best – a privately owned nature preserve set high in the mountains of rural Japan. Wall to wall green – fir, ferns and birch, moss covered rocks, pristine lakes and streams, and some of the most technical single track in all of XTERRA. Add to that the host hotel which is an old-style Japanese inn, complete with onsen (hot spring baths) – and you have the perfect setting for the XTERRA Japan Championship.
While temperatures in Tokyo soared into the high 90’s, the air was cool and refreshing in the mountains of Marunuma and the early morning mist cleared from the lake to reveal sparkling blue skies. Championship competitors gathered on the shore to start the race with two 600-meter laps of swimming (you can literally roll out of bed to the swim start), a 25k mountain bike and a 10k trail run. Ten minutes later XTERRA Duathletes started their first run before heading out on the same bike and run course, followed by XTERRA Lite and XTERRA Kids who raced a 200 meters swim course, with a 4k mountain bike and 2k trail run. There was no shortage of action for spectators and media.
An international field gathered for the event and included defending 2006 XTERRA Japan champions Yasuo Takahashi (Japan), and Jamie Whitmore (USA). Also in the line-up was Japan’s favorite son, Yu Yumoto – returning to XTERRA racing after taking a year off to complete his medical degree, Aussie Jason Chalker in his second Japan appearance, 4th time repeater Courtney Cardenas (USA), Germany’s Nico Pfitzenmaier in his first Japan race – a seasoned professional of the XTERRA European Series (finished 2nd in the Series last year), and mountain bike specialists Takahiro Ogasawara and Kyousuke Takei. Ogasawara held Japan’s Under 23 Mountain Bike Champion title in 2004, and Takei is a pro mountain biker, who is hoping to make the Beijing Olympic team for Japan.
It turned out that the day belonged to Pfitzenmaier. Pfitzy was second out of the water to age grouper Takeshi Sueto, and once on the bike, he was unstoppable and literally blew away the field with his finish of 2:19:58 – almost 6-minutes ahead of second place. “It was very, very technical, but I felt I could take the lead and do everything on my own,” he said. “This is one of the most beautiful races I have ever done…I felt like I was in the middle of the jungle.”
Jamie Whitmore took her 4th XTERRA Japan title in 2:46:27 with no real competition from pro women. She finished the last 3-miles of the mountain bike with a broken shoe and said she was “just having fun.” Her finish was good for 5th place in the overall pro field.
The real race was for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place pro male. Second out of the water behind Pfitzy was Jason Chalker, who had picked up a cold on his flight from Australia and was forced to drop from the race after the first 4km bike loop. Cardenas was the 3rd pro out of the water, but with a sore hip from a fall in training he couldn’t keep up and was passed on the bike by Ogasawara, Yumoto, and Takahashi. Ogasawara’s mountain biking expertise shined and with a surprising 19:40 swim (good for 6th place pro), he was second off the bike, a position he was able to hang on to till the finish – a fabulous outcome for his first XTERRA race. 3rd off the bike was Yumoto with a 2 minute lead over Takahashi in 4th. Takahashi, who at 40 was the oldest pro in the field, showed he is a force to be reckoned with and put in the fastest run split of the day. He caught Yumoto on the run and was gunning for Ogasawara. It was a sprint to the finish and Takahashi took 3rd, only 10-seconds back from Ogasawara with Yumoto in 4th.
The following morning, the XTERRA “Scrambleg” 25k Trail Run was held and 180 endurance runners set off to conquer the steep mountain climbs of Marunuma. Twenty percent of the field attempted the Japan Double – racing both the XTERRA Japan Championship and the Trail Run event within 24 hours. Age grouper Taeywng Kim, known unofficially as Japan’s XTERRA ambassador and representing Japan at XTERRA events all over the world, was one of the many Double finishers. Kim was 3rd amateur overall in the XTERRA Japan Championship and with a broad grin, let out his traditional “wooooooo!” cry as he crossed the line.
The highlight of the XTERRA Japan Championship was Saturday night’s party – a fabulous outdoor feast accompanied with traditional taiko drumming, a live jazz band, awards ceremonies, and a group of Japanese African drummers and dancers that it was impossible not to join (with the help of a few beers….)
This is an event not to be missed – authentic Japanese culture, friendly people, and a technical course that will challenge and delight all comers. It is a must for those wishing to experience the true LIVE MORE spirit of XTERRA, where “Mother Nature is truly your greatest challenge”.
XTERRA AUSTRIA REVIEW: By the managing director of the XTERRA Global Tour, Kahuna Dave Nicholas… There’s a New Sheriff In Town:
The first XTERRA in Carinthia is now history and there is a new name at the top of the pro women’s list. Anna Baylis-Shelderbauer is the name, but you may recognize her as the Aussie pro cyclist Anna Baylis who represented Oz at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and at the duathlon world champs. What some do not know is her first sport was triathlon and she was a wiz as a junior. Well, you will certainly hear her name again before this season is done.
For the men it was not good news as Nico Lebrun is showing superb form and played cat and mouse with the rest of the field winning easily by nearly 5 minutes.
The biggest story must be Robert Latschen and the Klopeinersee team he has put together. Superb organization, a beautifully designed course all in a setting that simply begs for you to visit. Klopeinersee is in the very south of Austria. Klagenfurt is just 30 minutes away and it is an easy drive from Salzburg, Graz or Vienna. A complete holiday village, Klopeinersee is the 3rd biggest tourist town in the whole nation. And it deserves the popularity. Hotels range from deluxe to pensions, dozens of restaurants to choose from and quiet parts of town to counter several great nightspots. Combine this with the warmest lake in Europe and the Alps dominating the horizon and it simply is terrific.
But back to the race. A very strong entry from a dozen countries took a water start in the see (German for lake) in the middle of town. German athlete Felix Schumann chased Denmark champ Ronnie Dietz and Franck Borgia (France) on a 500m (1/2 kilometer) uphill run to transition. Sybille Matter gained a solid 5 minutes on her two main competitors Baylis and Austrian Carina Wasle. Championship leader Eszter Erdelyi had a strong swim behind Matter, but was not feeling well and withdrew after the first bike lap. Newcomer Baylis and Wasle, who was on her home course, were flying on the bike and Baylis came into T2 ahead, having made up 7 minutes. Poor Carina still is not back to fitness after working and not training for 10 weeks and she gave her all on the bike. Sybille and Carina were close on the run after the first lap, but the Swiss had too much left and finished in a comfortable second place.
What does this portend for the final two races of the season? We know Eszter is very fast and a 2 time winner. We know Sybille is always a danger and once the petite Wasle gets her power back she is a proven winner. Now we have a 4th woman in Baylis and we are still waiting for Brit Julie Dibens who will be back in XTERRA in Wales. If all 5 women show up in Great Britain it will be one great race.
Lebrun may be the smartest athlete in XTERRA. Nico knows his body and what is available to him on any given day. He also knows his competition and knows how and when to show his strength. Nico put out enough to catch Borgia and Schumann on the first lap making up the 2 minutes he gave on the swim. In the process, he caught and passed Austrian Martin Zois. Martin lives in Carinthia and decided he was feeling strong enough to get on Nico’s wheel and stay with him. After the race a very disappointed Zois said it was a big mistake and totally drained him. The same was also said from young Schumann, fresh from winning the German federation championship and from Frenchman Borgia. Starting the first big climb on the 2nd lap, Nico decided it was time to go. Borgia and Schumann responded with Borgia dropping back early knowing he was outclassed on this day. Schumann, who is fast but young, forced it to stay with Lebrun and paid the price. “I was destroyed and could not stay with him… after that I had nothing left”. Schumann finished 6th but learned an important lesson from the master. The great story had to be Czech Jan Kubicek. Kubicek has shown signs of potential over the past few seasons, but hard luck has always seemed to follow him. Flat tires, broken bits and pieces have stopped good races for him. But today was his day for a career best 2nd place. A decent swim and a double 4th fastest bike and run put him past Borgia (4th), Sam Gardner (GB-5th) who posted the fastest bike of the day and Ronnie Dietz who podium’d with a fine 3rd and now leads the Euro points.
The season has two races left in Germany and Wales with tight battles all over the board. But without doubt the star of this weekend has to be Carinthia and Klopeinersee and the new Austrian XTERRA team. Now we have another “must do” on the Euro schedule. Oh, and did I mention the very, very tasty and cold Austrian bier? Or the two great live performance concerts? Well now I did.
XTERRA BRAZIL REVIEW: Accounts from the pro winners – Mike Vine and Candy Angle…
Mike Vine is currently in a tie for 3rd place in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings and is one of the favorites to win the XTERRA USA Championship on Sept. 30. Here’s what he had to say about the big race in the jungles of Brazil:
It was the hardest of any, ever! and we had decent conditions w/ cooler temps and a dry course that means it easily could’ve been a lot worse! The finishing times tell the story... many took 5,6, and even 7 hours. The swim was the easy part...a little choppy but an ocean swim in balmy water with wetsuits is never too bad. In the middle we had some excitement with a run over a pier and a jump or dive back in off a 10-foot drop (which can be exciting when you don’t know it’s coming!)
The race started to get tough on the bike, which was long and must have gone over every hill in the area. The trails here seem to always take the straightest, steepest line over the top. Some of the descents were crazy steep and made for some great footage with the less experienced riders doing the Superman or headplants. The whole way along the bike there were people cheering and it was a relief for me to see there were hundreds of volunteers along this single loop course to make sure nobody got lost. I was climbing and descending well and finished the bike with a 5-minute lead at T2. The run, which I went into sight unseen, had one of the worst uphills I’ve ever experienced - only 1 km long and paved/cobbled, but incredibly steep. Approaching the top I blew up and my legs gave out (first my hamstrings cramped then staggering over the top I couldn’t even follow the well marked course).
Entering the jungle the trail started to descend - which was treacherous as can be - and the quads seized also. It was survival the rest of the way with a bunch of steep hills that were so steep and rugged it was all I could do to stay upright and power hike them.
There was a band playing bongo drums/jungle music at the 3 km mark on top of another incredibly steep hill which helped us on our way... as the trail weaved through the greenery the racers could hear the upbeat music echoing through the woods.
Reaching the finish was never more welcome for me with my rubberized legs and the run speedster Alexander Manzan coming up quick. Was a surprise at the finish to see more media and hype than any other events I’ve been too (and not just because I won).
The post race party was the topper with an elaborate stage setup next to the beach and live Brazilian dance music with open bar. Brazilians sure know how to party! Vineman-Z
Candy Angle, like the Vineman, is currently in a tie for 3rd place in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings and won this race in Brazil last year. Here’s her race story…
First of all this is absolutely the toughest XTERRA race I have ever done. I said that last year, but this year was even tougher. I have done my fair share of XTERRA races around the world and cannot imagine any tougher than this one.
The race started in usual fashion being first out of the water (at least I did not pass any other women on the bike). The water was quite choppy and interesting. We didn’t do the typical triangular swim, it was more like the speedo logo swim jumping off a pier to swim back towards the start (It was a good jump off the pier too, probably about 10-15 feet).
The bike is very hilly and XTERRA races always have stories of misfortune and as usual - I have one to tell. Firmly in control of the race and feeling good considering all the hill climbing, I managed to wedge my chain behind the cog. It was a good wedge as I spent about 5-10 minutes trying to pull it out and during this mishap a woman rode pass me. All I could think was the distance I have come for something like this to happen. Well, someone must have been looking over me because I jumped on my bike and viola, it was fixed. I was able to pedal my way back to the lead (hoping nothing else bad would happen).
Of all the XTERRA run courses that have gone uphill, this one takes the cake. It was changed from last year to include more ups and downs...straight up and straight down through the jungle (once you make it up the steep pavement that is more than a mile until you get to the jungle). They even had a band playing at the top of one nice vertical. They have each kilometer marked and I was happy to see the 7k mark meaning not much more to go and it has to start going down.
The crowd at the finish was wonderful, many remembering me from last year and new friends being made on my way to my second XTERRA Brazil Championship.
For anyone looking for the hardest XTERRA race you have ever done, this is it. Combine that with a beautiful island and lots of great people this is a must-do race. Brazilians are very friendly! Aside from winning the part, what I liked most about the course was going through the small villages on the island where they cheer for you and hand out water.
Now I’m off to the post race party (and they throw a great party). This will probably be an early night though and I will be one sore puppy in the morning...from the race, not the party!
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