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Epic Finish Highlights XTERRA Winter World Championship
Brian Smith, 32, of Gunnison, Colorado jolted past Josiah Middaugh, 29, of Vail, CO, less than 20 meters from the finish line to win the inaugural XTERRA Winter World Championship in dramatic fashion at Snowbasin Resort this afternoon.
After nearly two hours of grueling racing action that included mountain biking, snowshoeing, running and ski mountaineering in snow flurries at 6,000+ feet elevation, Smith pulled off a jaw-dropping come-from-behind victory by a little more than one-second in 1:58:29.92 (with Middaugh right behind in 1:58:31.21).
“I didn’t think I could do it until four gates before the finish and I saw Josiah snow plowing,” said an exuberant Smith. “I’ve been alpine racing since the third grade so that last stretch was my cup of tea.”
Spectators at the finish line remarked that it was the most unbelievable 13 seconds of racing – in any sport – they had ever seen.
“I had goose bumps, it was unreal,” said Mike Caldwell of Ogden, UT. “That’s about as pure and epic a sporting moment as I’ve ever witnessed.”
It went something like this – 200 yards of downhill skiing through eight gates – all viewable from the main plaza at Snowbasin. Middaugh comes into sight of the spectators and falls rounding the first gate. At this point all he needs to do is stay upright and the race is his. He picks himself up and slowly rounds the next two gates only to fall on his back again, this time sliding down the hill. As Middaugh gets up and going again Smith, fueled by years of alpine racing and a natural competitive fire, emerges from the tree line like a man possessed. Seconds later and with just two gates to go Smith zooms past Middaugh on the inside and speeds across the finish line arms raised high.
‘I did everything I could do,” said Middaugh. “I thought if I could make all those gates without falling then maybe I’d be ok but I was lying on my back up there half way down.”
Middaugh, who is one of the most decorated winter athletes in the U.S. - went out onto the fourth and final stage – the ski mountaineering leg featuring 2,200 feet of climbing – with a two minute lead by virtue of crushing the first three stages (he had the fastest run, second best snowshoe, and third best bike split).
Alas, it came down to equipment. Middaugh was using Nordic skis (aka skate skis) that are not suited for steep downhills while behind him Smith slipped into a randonnee ski set-up better suited for both the climbing and descending.
“If it wasn’t about equipment, Josiah would’ve blown away the whole field,” said Smith. “Even on nordic skis I didn’t catch him until the end. The guy is so strong, just a machine.”
Even more amazing is that two-time Winter Triathlon World Champ and 2005 XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon World Champ Nicolas Lebrun almost made the whole Brian-Josiah moment a mute point. Lebrun was in the lead just minutes away from his own crowning moment when he took one of the final turns too fast, lost control, one of his skis, and went tumbling 30 feet down the mountain. He still finished in third just 11 seconds behind Smith.
“It was my fault,” said Lebrun. “All I needed to do was just hang on and race safe but I caught an edge and went down.”
Mike Kloser and Michael Tobin of the world’s winningest adventure racing team came in fourth and fifth, respectively. “Even when I was suffering I was thinking this was a cool event,” said Tobin.
“The snowshoe was fabulous, running through the woods like that was really neat and then at the top of the skinning, the wind was blowing and you were in a blizzard, it felt like you were way up there.”
At the beginning of the race Smith and Kloser used their winter tri experience biking on the snow to pull into the early lead. Once on the snowshoe, Greg Krause (the 2004 U.S. Snowshoe National Champ) and Middaugh put the hurt on the field and pulled ahead. The pair did more of the same on the run and headed into the ski more than two minutes up. Kloser and Lebrun had the fastest times up-and-down the mountain to get back into the race, but ultimately it was Smith that put all the pieces together.
“It was a blast, just tons of fun,” smiled Smith. “This mountain is incredible and the course is great, perfect for summer and winter XTERRA.”
Kloser, who at 48-years-young just won the Winter Triathlon U.S. Championship and has traveled across the world winning races for the better part of two decades, echoed that sentiment.
“Snowbasin and XTERRA Winter is a fantastic fit. Great venue, and the guys figured out a great course.”
ANDERSON LEADS THE MOM-SQUAD
Talk about Mommy power - the top four women across the finish line all gave birth in the last year-and-a-half, and Sari Anderson, 29, of Glenwood Springs, CO – with an eight-month-old in tow – led the charge.
Anderson staged perhaps the most unlikely comeback of the afternoon by making up more than two minutes in the final stage to jump from third-to-first with a winning time of 2:29:47.
“I can’t think of much that I’ve done individually that’s better than this,” said Anderson.
What made the move so remarkable was who she caught – none other than 8-time U.S. National XC Ski Champion and 2006 Winter Olympian Rebecca Dussault (who has a 13-month old and 6-year-old).
“It was really a pleasure racing here today and the crowd really kept me going. Each time I came into transition they made me feel like I could do another leg, the fans were great,” said Dussault.
Just like in the men’s race, however, it was all about the skis. Anderson, who is a member of that same phenomenal Team Nike adventure racing squad with Tobin and Kloser, was on the same “rando rig” that Smith was using while Dussault pulled a much heavier telemark set up the mountain.
The race started with Dussault way out front, putting four minutes on Anderson in the bike leg and 10 minutes on Keri Nelson. Nelson, the North American Snowshoe and Winter Triathlon National Champ last year, worked her way back into the race and all the way up to the front with the fastest snowshoe and run splits. She headed out on the ski leg in second place behind Dussault but couldn’t muster enough leg strength to pull her heavy rig up the hill and eventually finished 7th among pro women.
Dussault held off everyone but Anderson for second while Lisa Isom (who has an 18-month-old and 6-year-old) was steady throughout and worked her way into third by the end of the day. Jenny Tobin, who has the youngest of the kids (a 7-month old along with a three-year-old), used a pair of stellar runs and a solid ski to finish in fourth.
SULLIVAN, COLONNA WIN AMATEUR XTERRA WINTER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Eric Sullivan (Gunnison, CO) won the men’s amateur race (placing 7th overall in 2:10:51) and Caroline Colonna (Taos, NM) won the women’s amateur overall (placing 5th overall in 2:52:56). Drew Casselberry of Ogden, UT - a Snowbasin Resort staffer - was the top local finisher placing 9th overall (2nd amateur) in 2:21:23. Rachel Cieslewicz of Salt Lake City was the fastest local female, winning the 20-29 division (11th overall female) in 3:39:56.
FIRE AND ICE AWARD
Brian Smith made it clear today that there is both fire and ice running through his veins. Back in October of 2007 Smith was the top American (third overall) at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. Coupled with his winning time today in Utah he set the standard for all future Fire and Ice competitors to strive for. The award is given to the men’s and women’s pro and amateur racers with the fastest combined times from XTERRA Worlds in Maui and XTERRA Winter Worlds in Utah. Lisa Isom won the women’s pro division, while Ross McMahan and Caroline Colonna won the amateur awards.
Athletes representing 14 different states and four countries competed in the inaugural event. After a perfect sunny day of competition on Friday, racers were treated to two inches of fresh snow and consistent snow showers throughout the day. The cooler weather (in the 30’s) was actually welcome by competitors – who say it kept them from overheating.
Snowbasin Resort, with nearly 3,000-feet of vertical rise and 104 runs to play on, was the ultimate host for the first-ever XTERRA Winter World Championship. A huge base of volunteers spearheaded by the Greater Ogden Athletic Legacy Foundation helped pull off a magnificent event and the Utah Sports Commission took another great step forward in its mission to “foster national and international amateur sports competitions to be held in the state of Utah, which will enhance the quality of life of all Utah citizens and strengthen Utah's presence in the worldwide sports community.”
The award-winning TEAM Unlimited TV crew was on-site filming all the action for a nationally broadcast sports special that will expose the epic beauty of northern Utah to millions of viewers across the U.S. starting this May. Race participants were treated to some of the highlights from the day’s race, including the epic finish that will be remembered for years to come, at a post-race party in downtown Ogden on Saturday night.
The XTERRA Winter World Championship is presented by the Utah Sports Commission, Paul Mitchell, and XTERRA Gear. Participating sponsors include Snowbasin Resort, GOAL Foundation, Ogden/Weber Convention and Visitors Bureau, GU Energy Gel, Gatorade, PowderRush.com, Zorrel, and Breeder’s Choice.
TEAM Unlimited, a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, owns and produces XTERRA events including more than 60 XTERRA off-road triathlons and 50 XTERRA Trail Runs in the U.S. this year. Over the past 20 years "TEAM" has produced more than 265 television shows resulting in two national Emmy nominations, three regional Emmy's and 35 Telly Awards for production excellence.
For more info visit www.xterrawinter.com or call Trey at 808.216.8606
XTERRA WINTER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PRO RESULTS
Pl Name Age - Hometown Final Time Purse
1 Brian Smith 32 – Gunnison, CO 1:58:29 $1,800
2 Josiah Middaugh 29 – Vail, CO 1:58:31 $1,250
3 Nicolas Lebrun 34 – Digne, France 1:58:40 $800
4 Mike Kloser 48 – Vail, CO 1:59:56 $500
5 Michael Tobin 44 – Boise, ID 2:01:26 $400
6 Greg Krause 30 – Denver, CO 2:09:35 $300
7 Justin Hurd 26 – Ft. Collins, CO 2:19:09 $200
8 Leo Hansen 27 – Englewood, CO 3:37:52 -
9 Chris Bell 34 - Mountain Green, UT 4:16:15 -
Pl Name Age - Hometown Final Time Purse
1 Sari Anderson 29 – Glenwood Springs, CO 2:29:47 $1,800
2 Rebecca Dussault 27 – Gunnison, CO 2:31:43 $1,250
3 Lisa Isom 36 – Vail, CO 2:45:19 $800
4 Jenny Tobin 39 – Boise, ID 2:49:09 $500
5 Emma Garrard 26 – Truckee, CA 2:58:15 $400
6 Kate Chapman 21 – Breckenridge, CO 2:59:09 -
7 Keri Nelson 26 – Gunnison, CO 3:02:46 -
8 Jolene Wilkinson 33 - Layton, UT 3:55:56 -
2008 XTERRA Winter World Champions - The Inaugural Class
15 - 19 Erika Sweigert Victor, ID 3:23:03
20 - 29 Rachel Cieslewicz Salt Lake City, UT 3:39:56
30 - 39 Lisa Lieb Durango, CO 3:05:17
40 - 49 Caroline Colonna Taos, NM 2:52:56
50 - 59 Beverly Watson Alberta, Canada 3:47:37
20 - 29 Eric Sullivan Gunnison, CO 2:10:51
30 - 39 Jan Eitel Moscow, ID 2:27:34
40 - 49 Peter Hanson Minneapolis, MN 2:50:58
50 - 59 Dan Norton Ogden, UT 3:15:03
60 - 69 Michael Malloy Birmingham, MI 6:02:05
70 - 79 Armin Beyrich Eresing, Germany 4:47:27
TOMORROW - SUNDAY, MARCH 9 - PowerSox U.S. National Snowshoe Championship races and XTERRA Citizen's Snowshoe Races at Snowbasin Resort starting at 9 a.m.
A complete gallery of photos from the XTERRA Winter World Championship will be available soon at...
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