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Stoltz, Whitmore win XTERRA USA Race & Pro Series
INCLINE VILLAGE, NV (September 30, 2007) – Conrad Stoltz from South Africa and Jamie Whitmore from California won the XTERRA USA Championship race and the XTERRA America Tour Pro Series titles with dominating performances on an incredibly crisp and clear day on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada this afternoon.
Just yesterday this rustic mountain town was freezing, covered in snow, and the bike course high in the Sierra Nevada range looked like it was comfortably in the middle of winter. In sharp contrast, after the 9am swim start this morning in the 58-degree crystal clear and calm waters fronting the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, a sunny 70-degree day smiled on the competition.
For Stoltz and Whitmore, the warm weather brought a dose of redemption as both reclaimed the XTERRA titles that slipped away from them a year ago. Last season Stoltz (who won this race in 2001, ’02 and ’03) broke his back and wrist pre-riding while Whitmore (who won four straight from 2002-05) suffered through a series of flats that left her out of the title chase. This year both Stoltz and Whitmore finished with perfect 400-point scores in the five-stop XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and thus earned $19,000 for their efforts today ($14,000 for winning the Series and $5,000 for winning the race).
“Today went as smooth as it could have gone on the bike, no hiccups, no accidents, no close calls, no nothing,” said Stoltz, who set a new course record in 2:34:08. “I’m really more thankful than anything else after the big accident I had last year. Some seasons are tough and some are good and I think the tough seasons help you appreciate the good ones because I definitely appreciate this now.”
Whitmore echoed that sentiment… “Last year’s struggles here and in Maui were probably the best thing for me because I was able to refocus, recommit, and find that drive that I think I had lost.”
The race began predictably on the men’s side with amateur swim star Bruce Gennari leading the pack out of the water, followed closely by last year’s XTERRA USA Champ Seth Wealing (whose head was ringing after getting knocked by a kayak when a swim course marshal tried unsuccessfully to maneuver out of his way).
Stoltz and Bucky Schafer (5th last year) were the next two pros to scramble out of the water and up a quarter-mile to the swim-to-bike transition. The pair were on their mountain bikes 38 seconds after Wealing, with Andrew Noble (1:30 back), Greg Krause (-1:56), Mike Vine (-2:13), and Josiah Middaugh (-2:22) forming the heart of the chase pack.
Last year when Wealing became the first American to win the USA Championship he was first out of the water and nobody in the field ever saw him again. This time, with the target on his back and men on missions behind him, Wealing wasn’t so fortunate. Stoltz used his 6-foot-3 frame to power along the short paved section along Lakeshore Boulevard to get closer, and then turned on the jets to start the grueling 1,600-foot climb up Tunnel Creek road. Less than three miles later Stoltz caught and passed Wealing, and the rest was history.
“When I got on the bike I knew today was going to happen. I felt really good and pretty confident I was going to take this race,” said Stoltz.
In the defending champs corner the outlook wasn’t as bright. “I was shattered from the start. I felt horrible in the swim, horrible on the bike and horrible on the run. When I’m feeling good it’s like I’m floating but when I’m off it’s just so hard and feels like I’m not going anywhere,” said Wealing, who has the unenviable task of juggling a full-time career as an architect with the ambition to train and race to be the world’s best XTERRA athlete.
At 42 years-old Aussie Andrew Noble is a physical marvel and as proof he erased the gap Wealing put on him in the swim by the top of the climb. Vine, second here last year, said Noble “was just hammering the climb” and he kept up with his pace to catapult himself to the front of the chase.
Stoltz was out of sight but Vine persisted and after riding with Noble for a while took off up the second leg-burning climb on Hobart road towards the Tahoe Rim Trail in pursuit of the Caveman. Behind him, Noble was holding off a hard-charging Josiah Middaugh and further ahead, on the same stretch of downhill where Stoltz stumbled last year, the fearless wonder went frighteningly fast yet again.
“Tunnel Creek is my place and I just let go and went down there pretty fast,” said Stoltz, who had the fastest bike of the day in 1:32:17 (Vine had second-best split at 1:33:52, then Ryan Ignatz’ at 1:35:50). “When my tires hit the pavement at the bottom of the hill, it was like, whew!”
The top five overall was settled on the bike. Vine made up a minute-and-a-half on the run (which is shaped like the Candyland game and includes a dozen creek crossings over wooden planks, logs that you have to duck under and trees you have to balance across) but couldn’t catch Conrad and was happy with his second straight runner-up performance here. Middaugh, who entered the bike-to-run transition in fourth, had the fastest 10k trail run (35:52) but it wasn’t enough to catch Noble who headed out 30 seconds ahead of him in third. Wealing fell to 5th off the bike and held on to finish in 5th overall.
“I was riding as hard as I could and had the exact same time as last year but everyone else is just flying this year,” said Wealing.
WHITMORE WINS 5TH USA TITLE IN SIX YEARS
Melanie McQuaid had everyone fooled except for her own body. The three-time XTERRA World Champ and defending USA Champ had an amazing swim, fastest of all the females - almost a minute in front of Candy Angle and more than two minutes better than Whitmore. Then that sick feeling in her gut, literally, started to steal every ounce of energy she had.
“I just had a good ‘ol fashion shocker, I had nothing,” said McQuaid. “In the morning I thought I was just nervous because I couldn’t eat breakfast but then I started getting sick on the Flume Trail, couldn’t get anything down, couldn’t drink, was puking all over my bike, uggh.”
By the end of the 4.5-mile Flume Trail section - without question one of the most epic stretches of single track in the world - Jenny Smith and Jamie Whitmore had erased McQuaid’s lead. Smith, who made a name for herself by finishing second here last year, made up five minutes in the first eight miles of the bike and took the women’s lead halfway through the ride.
“It was a surprise because going up my legs felt awful,” said Smith. “But because it’s a middle ring climb with a bit of big ring that first climb really suites me and I live at altitude so that helped too I think.”
The altitude for this course starts with the swim at 6,200 feet and climbs up to the Marlette Lake overlook on the bike at about 8,700 feet. Whitmore, who lives an easy drive away in northern California, considers this course to be in her backyard and is also comfortable in the thin air. Her race strategy “an absolute secret” might have been to head out onto the run with the freshest legs so when Smith started pulling away Whitmore resisted the urge to attack in order to conserve.
"I was so careful on the bike. I've flown down this hill before but this year I was taking corners slower than I ever have before. It was going to come down to the run and I'm always on the verge of cramping and that's a scary feeling so I just had to be patient on the bike so I could be solid on the run," said Whitmore.
As the afternoon unfolded Smith (with the fastest bike split in 1:47:17, a minute better than Dara Marks Marino and two minutes quicker than Whitmore) ended up side-by-side with Whitmore with a mile left till the bike-to-run transition. Rather than trade drafting positions with Whitmore (legal in XTERRA racing) Smith went all out to get to T2 first.
“I wanted to come into transition first because I knew I wasn’t going to win the race,” smiled the incredibly humble Smith. “She (Whitmore) has got such a good run it’s a little intimidating. I mean, she’s beaten me by five minutes on some runs. I was more worried about staving off Dara and Melanie and Candy because I wanted to finish third in the Series.”
Turns out Smith had it figured out as Whitmore turned over a 40:56 run split, best of the day, for a winning time of 2:59:18. It’s the first time in the seven-year history of the race that a female has broken the three-hour mark.
"I really think it had a lot to do with Neal Henderson's coaching. His workouts are harder than the race itself," said Whitmore, who is the all-time winningest XTERRA pro with 37 career victories.
Smith had the fourth-best run, two minutes behind Whitmore, and held everyone off to finish 2nd in the race and 3rd in the Series behind Whitmore and McQuaid.
On the strength of a great bike Marks Marino finished 3rd, her best XTERRA result in this, her rookie season. Candy Angle passed McQuaid in the last half-mile to place 4th and McQuaid gutted it out to finish 5th and hold on to the second spot in the Series.
More than 350 qualified athletes representing 46 states and 8 countries made their way to Incline Village for a shot at the XTERRA National Championship. The race consisted of a 1-mile swim in Lake Tahoe, a 21.7 mile mountain bike that traversed the Flume and Tahoe Rim Trails, and a 6.1 mile forest trail run.
1 Conrad Stoltz 33 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:34:08 $5,000/$14,000
2 Mike Vine 33 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:35:40 $4,000/$7,000
3 Andrew Noble 41 Gold Coast, Australia 2:37:18 $3,000/$2,000
4 Josiah Middaugh 28 Vail, Colorado 2:37:47 $2,400/$4,500
5 Seth Wealing 28 Boulder, Colorado 2:39:55 $1,800/$3,000
6 Ryan Ignatz 28 Boulder, Colorado 2:40:27 $1,400/$450
7 Greg Krause 30 Littleton, Colorado 2:40:51 $1,000/$700
8 Brian Smith 31 Gunnison, Colorado 2:42:15 $700/$1,200
9 Bucky Schafer 25 Englewood, Colorado 2:44:24 $500/NA
10 Andrew Biglow 36 Boulder, Colorado 2:46:55 $400/$200
Also: Jimmy Archer ($300/$400), Luke Way ($200/$300), Will Kelsay (/$350), Sam Gardner, Cody Waite (/$900)
1 Jamie Whitmore 31 Somerset, California 2:59:18 $5,000/$14,000
2 Jennifer Smith 34 Westport, New Zealand 3:01:26 $4,000/$4,500
3 Dara Marks Marino 31 Flagstaff, Arizona 3:04:42 $3,000/$1,200
4 Candy Angle 37 Weymouth, Massachusetts 3:10:01 $2,400/$3,000
5 Melanie McQuaid 34 Victoria, B.C., Canada 3:10:25 $1,800/$7,000
6 Amber Monforte 29 Reno, Nevada 3:12:41 $1,400/$2,000
7 Shonny Vanlandingham 38 Durango, Colorado 3:13:44 $1,000/$900
8 Erin Ford 31 The Dalles, Oregon 3:14:58 $700/NA
9 Sara Tarkington 26 Boulder, Colorado 3:15:10 /$500
10 Sabra Davison 21 Jericho, Vermont 3:36:12 /$450
Also: Kim Jennings
Fastest Swim (0.93 Miles): Seth Wealing (24:17), Melanie McQuaid (26:29)
Fastest Bike (21.7 Miles): Conrad Stoltz (1:32:17), Jennifer Smith (1:47:17)
Fastest Run (6.1 Miles): Josiah Middaugh (35:52), Jamie Whitmore (40:56)
PRO SERIES FINALE: Today’s race was the fifth of five stops in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series. The top 15 at each event were awarded points. Pros could drop one of their scores from the first four events, but had to count the points they got (or didn't get) here at the USA Championship. Thus, the final point total combines athletes’ best three scores in the first four races, plus today’s race points. The U.S. Series dished out $190,000 in prize money. $20,000 in Temecula, Alabama, Richmond, and Utah, $40,000 for today’s race, plus $70,000 to the top points scorers in the Series.
Both Stoltz and Whitmore finished with perfect 400 scores by winning three regionals and the USA Championship. Mike Vine jumped two spots from 4th to 2nd with his performance today while Wealing dropped from 2nd to 4th. Middaugh finished tied with Wealing at 322 points but won the tiebreaker by finishing ahead of him today. The women’s top six spots stayed the same as it was entering the race.
AMATEUR RACE: Matt Boobar, a 35-year-old from Plymouth, New Hampshire won the XTERRA men’s amateur national title for the second straight year in a time of 2:49:02 (12th overall), just 13 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Smith. Emma Garrard from Truckee, CA, a 26-year-old photographer for the Tahoe World, won the women’s amateur division in 3:15:57 (she was the 10th overall female). Reno natives Kent Robison and Tom Lyons, and elder-statesman Hans Dieben from Chula Vista, CA, won their sixth XTERRA National Championship crowns. Beverly Enslow from Metamora, IL moved up an age group this year into Barbara Peterson’s 50-54 division and became the first woman to beat Peterson in the seven-year history of the race. At just 13-years-old Shayna Powless of Roseville, CA became the youngest racer in event history, finishing in 2nd place in 4:15:37 and ahead of 63 other racers. On the other end of the spectrum Errol Lassiter, at 71, became the “oldest” to tackle the challenge and crossed the finish line in 5:22:02.
15 - 19 Becca Finley Johnston, IA 3:44:04
20 - 24 2 Sara Hanson Blacksburg, VA 3:31:25
25 - 29 Emma Garrard Truckee, CA 3:15:57
30 - 34 Kelly Hovland Portland, OR 3:22:28
35 - 39 Lisa Lieb Durango, CO 3:33:26
40 - 44 Caroline Colonna Taos, NM 3:28:43
45 - 49 2 Katrin Tobin Santa Cruz, CA 3:19:10
50 - 54 2 Beverly Enslow Metamora, IL 3:40:41
55 - 59 3 Cindi Toepel Littleton, CO 4:04:57
60+ 2 Katherine Frank Bend, OR 5:10:32
15 - 19 Joshua Olmstead Elk Grove, CA 3:07:17
20 - 24 Chris Pickerell Harrisonburg, VA 2:55:05
25 - 29 Jeff Smith Sandpoint, ID 2:49:15
30 - 34 Damian Gonzalez Stockton, CA 2:57:01
35 - 39 4 Matt Boobar Plymouth, NH 2:49:02
40 - 44 Scott Zavack Los Gatos, CA 3:04:39
45 - 49 6 Tom Lyons Reno, NV 3:04:10
50 - 54 2 Tom Monica Walnut Creek, CA 3:11:57
55 - 59 Don Morrison West Brandywine, PA 3:29:07
60 - 64 6 Kent Robinson Reno, NV 3:24:40
65 + 6 Hans Dieben Chula Vista, CA 4:40:47
Challenged 2 Willie Stewart Redlands, CA 3:32:03
# denotes national championships won
COMING UP: The 12th XTERRA World Championship, held at the Maui Prince Hotel at Makena Resorts in
Maui, on Sunday, October 28. The World Championship is the final stop on the XTERRA Global Tour - the culmination of a worldwide series of races held in Argentina, Saipan, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, Brazil, Japan, Austria, Germany, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, and the U.S.
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