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Stoltz, McQuaid Win XTERRA West Champs
TEMECULA, CA – On an incredibly hot day with temperatures in the upper 90’s Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz of South Africa powered through the grueling XTERRA West Championship course in Temecula Valley in two hours and 23 minutes to win the first of four regional championships on the XTERRA America Tour today.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Stoltz was in the first pack of racers to finish the 1-mile swim in the warm waters (roughly 72-degrees) of Vail Lake, absolutely crushed the 20-mile bike with the fastest split of the day in one-hour, 25 minutes, and stayed strong on the 6-mile up-and-down trail run to finish more than two minutes ahead of his protégé - runner-up Dan Hugo (also of South Africa).
Craig Evans was first out of the water but got chased down in a hurry by the South African duo that then pulled away from the chase pack during the initial series of climbs on the bike.
“Dan was right on my wheel and stuck with me to the very top of the course,” said Stoltz, the current and three-time XTERRA World Champion. “We dropped everyone pretty quickly but I couldn’t shake Dan, and had to fall bike on my technical skills. I don’t like to take big risks, but when it comes down to it, I will.”
Hugo, who first met Stoltz in their hometown of Stellenbosch when he was 11-years-old, has learned the tricks of the trade from his idol and fellow countrymen and is now using them against him.
“Over the years he’s taught me a lot, from guidance to equipment, he’s always helping me out. Half the reason I’m doing what I’m doing is because of him,” said Hugo.
Today Hugo was just seconds behind Stoltz in the swim, had the second best bike split, and finished in second place by more than three minutes.
“I taught him all my secrets when he was a kid but he’s not a kid anymore,” said Stoltz. “He’s not an up-and-comer either, he’s up here already, and I’m really happy to see him doing so well.”
Hugo showed great promise last year with a 6th place finish here in his very first U.S. XTERRA and even more potential after winning the XTERRA South Africa Championship last month (in that race, however, Stoltz had some mechanical issues on the bike). At 23-year-old Hugo is by far the youngest pro on tour and clearly his time will come, but not today.
“Conrad’s technical skills are so good, he’s just too fast and his cornering is amazing, you really have to see it to believe it,” said Hugo. “Someday there has to be a changing of the guard, but right now he’s still the man, still the King.”
America’s finest XTERRA athletes – Brian Smith, Josiah Middaugh, and Seth Wealing – rolled in third, fourth, and fifth – respectively. Smith, the top U.S. finisher at XTERRA Worlds last year (3rd) and recent winner of the XTERRA Winter World Championship, posted a very impressive 34:07 run split - best of the day by nearly two minutes - to jump past several racers into third. Middaugh came out of the water nearly three minutes behind the leaders and picked off more than 20 guys ahead of him, including at least five on the run, to move into fourth.
Costa Rican Rom Akerson – a former amateur XTERRA World Champ – posted his best-ever XTERRA result by finishing in sixth place. U.S. Olympian Victor Plata was the seventh man out of the water and had the second best run time but neither of those could make up for his 47th place bike split. Plata placed 17th overall by was clearly having a good time out on the course – evident by his smiles and sighs – and it was a treat for all involved to have him join in the fun.
She nearly got her arm taken off during the swim, was stung in the mouth by a bee on the bike, and just about cramped up on the run – but Melanie McQuaid “got ‘er done” just the same winning in impressive fashion in her brand new red racing suit.
“I was hanging on for dear life today. Someone scooped underneath my arm during the swim and pulled really hard and it felt like my arm was going to come out of the socket. I got a little freaked out and scared and swam by myself for the rest of the way,” said McQuaid.
The three-time XTERRA World Champ normally comes out of the water with or near the leaders but today she was more than a minute behind her main competitors and a full three minutes off the swim pace set by Christine Jeffrey. The deficit was short lived thanks to a punishing pace on the first half of the bike and she passed all the girls in front of her by mile nine.
“I had a fantastic first lap, I was ripping, then a bee stung me on my mouth and the second lap felt kind of weird.” Not weird enough to slow McQuaid down too much as she was able to take a comfortable lead onto the run and cruise in to the winner’s circle a minute-and-a-half ahead of the surprising performance by Marion Summerer. “You're only as good as your last race, and last year doesn’t count so I needed to come out with something and I’m looking forward to building on this performance,” said McQuaid.
Summerer, a two-time overall amateur XTERRA World Champion, had an amazing first race as a pro by posting the 8th best swim, second-best bike (just three minutes off McQuaid’s time), and fastest run of the day.
“I didn’t know I was in second until I came into transition and heard the announcer say I was the second woman. I was like, really! I can’t believe it,” exclaimed Summerer, who’s from Germany but living in Honolulu, HI. “I actually had a hard time on the swim, was swallowing a lot of water, got kicked in the face, and one guy swam over me but I just kept going. Then I was borderline cramping on the run, and really glad that didn’t kick in.”
Mommy-power was in full affect for the third and fourth place finishers. Long-time pro Jenny Tobin, at 39-yearsyoung and fresh off having her second child last season, posted her best XTERRA finish since 2003 with a thirdplace showing today. Danelle Kabush, with 8-month-old Zoe on hand, turned in her best race in the heat of Southern California by placing fourth.
Amber Monforte tied her career-best XTERRA finish by placing 5th. Newcomer to XTERRA Christine Jeffrey placed sixth, Emma Garrard - the amateur XTERRA National Champion last year – finished seventh in her first race as a pro, Lesley Paterson (former Scotland national triathlon champion) had a brilliant bike up with the leaders and ultimately finished ninth, and 2006 Ironman World Champ/Olympic silver medalist Michellie Jones from Calsbad, CA (via Sydney Australia) finished 10th.
The women’s field was missing the sport’s all-time winningest athlete Jamie Whitmore, who suffered through a battle with a gigantic tumor that had to be surgically removed in the off-season. Whitmore was on hand for the race and taught the Paul Mitchell XTERRA University mountain bike clinic yesterday. Both race winners – Stoltz and McQuaid – sent out their prayers and best wishes to Whitmore on a speedy recovery and great things to come.
In all, despite the heat, it was a magnificent day of racing in Temecula Valley – sunny and clear with panoramic views that stretched for miles over the wine country. Some 600 athletes from 10 countries and more than 20 states across the U.S. competed in the off-road multisport events which included a half-distance XTERRA and a duathlon.
Up Next: XTERRA Southeast Championship at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama on June 8.
2008 XTERRA West Championship Results ($20,000 Pro Purse)
TOP 15 PRO MEN
TOP 12 PRO WOMEN
XTERRA U.S. PRO SERIES: The 2008 XTERRA National Championship Series for pros consists of five events:
The top 15 pros at each event are awarded points based on overall pro finish. Pros can drop one of their scores from the first four events, but must count the points they get (or don’t get) in Nevada. Thus, the final point total combines 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. $20,000in Temecula, Pelham, Richmond, and Ogden, $40,000 in Nevada, plus $70,000 will be distributed to the top overall
Note: The XTERRA World Championship Oct. 26 in Makena, Maui is a stand-alone event worth a $125,000.
THE AMATEUR RACE: Trevor Glavin was the top overall amateur here in Temecula for the second straight year, placing 16th overall in 2:41:59. Julie Bruckman finished five minutes ahead of runner-up Sara Mista to win the women’s amateur crown. Jonathan Bik from Sacramento, California became the first above knee amputee to ever complete an XTERRA Championship race – conquering all odds to finish in 5:17:30.
XTERRA WEST CHAMPIONS (FEMALE AGE GROUP)
* TOP AMATEURS
XTERRA WEST CHAMPIONS (MALE AGE GROUP)
The XTERRA West Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell and XTERRA Gear.com. Sponsors include Breeder’s Choice, GU, Gatorade, Rodale, Zorrel, the Nevada Commission on Tourism, and Temecula Convention & Visitors Bureau.
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