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The First-Ever XTERRA - XTERRA Louisiana
THE FIRST-EVER XTERRA
It’s well documented that the first-ever XTERRA was the 1996 World Champs in Maui, but that race wasn’t actually called XTERRA, it was “AquaTerra”.
That race turned out to be such an off-the-charts success that TEAM Unlimited founder and CEO Tom Kiely changed the name to XTERRA so that a lifestyle could be built around it. Considering XTERRA now boasts 160+ off-road tris and trail runs in 16 countries, a dozen TV shows, and a full line of apparel and footwear at XTERRAGear.com, guess you could say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
So, the first true “XTERRA” branded event in history happened not on the shores of Maui, but on the banks of a small lake in Louisiana. On June 1, 1997 in Ruston, the XTERRA Gator Terra (aka XTERRA Louisiana) truly became the first-ever XTERRA.
The race in Ruston came about as a result of John Cobb - the bike guru and Bicycle Sports shop owner from Shreveport, LA. Cobb was at that first AquaTerra in Maui and after the race “He came to me and said with his strong southern accent ‘boy, I got the perfect place to hold one of these and I'll sponsor it,” remembers Dave Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA Global Tour.
That place was Lincoln Parish Park and roughly eight months after Maui, it was on.
“James Ramsaur, an avid mountain biker, had taken over the building of this park and had created a fantastic trail system,” said Nicholas. “When we got there we found a gem of a park, but the lake was a bit too small for a 1500m swim and we only had 4 lifeguards, so James and I came up with the idea to swim two 750m laps and bring the swimmers up on the beach for a short run. That idea worked so well, it has been a staple in the XTERRA diet ever since.”
What Ramsaur created at Lincoln Parish Park is a work of art. He had barely 250 acres to work with and created over nine miles of twisty, turning fantastic riding including berms and jumps that attracted lots of spectators.
“The bike course has remained basically unchanged through all these years,” said race director Fred Phillips, who has been producing both the XTERRA Gator Terra and XTERRA Dawg Dayz races for seven years now.
“This park has possibly the BEST spectator viewing scenario of any XTERRA race course we have ever had the pleasure of racing at,” said XTERRA President Janet Clark. “The trails twisted and turned in a relatively small total area - so that at any one place you could watch the race go by 2-3 times. The top spot was called "Tomacs" - a steep downhill single track drop of 20-30 feet - that went over a small bridge with a jump at the bottom. The fast guys would fly 20' before landing, so it was pretty important to land it square so you could immediately turn right or you’d hit the tree. This tree, in fact, became legendary when Scott Schumaker hit it at full tilt and removed most of his skin!”
As a spin-off of the name AquaTerra, the race was dubbed “GatorTerra” and that had some of the visiting racers asking about Alligators.
“Ramsaur (being a good ol' Louisiana boy) came up with some cherry bombs and told everyone not to worry because he'd explode the fireworks off an hour or so before the start and scare the Gator's down to the other side of the lake. And we did blow them off and everyone freaked that the Gator's might come back,” said Nicholas. “Truthfully, there aren't any alligators within 200 miles, but as far as I know - Ramsaur still blows off the firecrackers at 8am.”
In subsequent years, just to perpetuate the alligator myth, Nicholas placed plastic blow-up gators as obstacles on the course.
Ask the old guard of XTERRA about their experiences in Ruston and you’ll hear some classic stories ranging from water moccasins on the lake shore scaring the s..t out of the TV shooters to great zydeco bands like “Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band” playing at the expo. Clark remembers sampling the craw daddies and catfish and that “the drive through Daiquiri Bar was nothing short of amazing.”
Some of the legends in multisport raced in Ruston including mountain biking and XTERRA phenom Ned Overend, who said Lincoln Parish Park had “one of the most challenging mountain bike courses I’ve ever done”. Other notables included past XTERRA World Champs like Michael Tobin, Kerstin Weule, Jimmy Riccitello, and Mike Pigg. “Big John” Koenig smoked the field to win the first one in Ruston, along with Lorraine Barrows.
The roots of XTERRA can certainly be found in Ruston, along with a great racing experience and some true Southern hospitality. It’s just three hours east of Dallas and minutes from Interstate 20 – the major thoroughfare across northern Louisiana.
On May 3, 2008, the XTERRA Gator Terra (combining an 800-yard swim with a 10-mile mountain bike and 3.5 mile trail run) will be on again for the 12th time offering seasoned vets and XTERRA newcomers alike the chance to make some of their own history.
NOBLE, BUCHER WIN TAGAMAN TOO
A week after winning the XTERRA Saipan Championship Andrew Noble and Renata Bucher swept the top honors at the Tagaman Triathlon on Saipan. The road race featured a 2k swim, 60k bike and 15k run. Noble won in 2:54:25, more than two minutes ahead of Masayuki Matsumaru from Japan. Bucher’s winning time of 3:25:34 was five minutes better than runner-up Maimi Shimizu of Saipan. By virtue of posting the fastest combined times in the XTERRA and Tagaman events both Noble and Bucher earned roundtrip airfare and a week’s accommodations at the Pacific Islands Club hotel in Saipan for the 2009 events.
HAWAIIAN STYLE XTERRA WORLDS VIEWING PARTY
The XTERRA World Championship show makes its debut in Honolulu on Saturday night (March 22) at 8pm on CBS affiliate KGMB9 and Amy Bennett (Honolulu local who gets some big-time love in the show for racing despite breaking her arm just days before the race) is rallying the troops to a viewing part at the Shack Bar and Grill in Hawaii Kai. The party is on starting at 7pm as the XTERRA USA Championship show from Lake Tahoe, NV airs between 7-8p directly before the Maui broadcast at 8 p.m.
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