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XTERRA Mountain Champs Preview
XTERRA MOUNTAIN CHAMPS PRO PREVIEW
The XTERRA Mountain Championship this Saturday at Snowbasin Resort in Utah is the last of four regionals in the U.S. before Nationals and the most important race of the season to date for elites chasing points in the Pro Series. The unforgiving course at Snowbasin Resort – home to the 2002 downhill races of the Winter Olympics – features roughly 3,500 feet of climbing and rewards only the fittest of athletes. There is a long list of legitimate contenders for the overall title on Saturday as the past two years on this course dictate that nothing can be taken for granite.
THE MEN'S RACE
Current and three-time XTERRA World Champ Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz from South Africa – winner of the first two pro series races this year in California and Alabama – is unquestionably the man to beat but in each of the last two years here at Snowbasin he’s held a comfortable lead on the bike then suffered a flat (last year an unfixable leak knocked him out of the race at mile 12 and in ’06 a flat caused him to finish 4th).
Seth Wealing, the defending champ, took advantage of Stoltz’ misfortune last year and came through the finish line victoriously performing a hilarious bus driver’s dance routine (click on the Mountain Champs video at www.xterra.tv to see it). Seth, along with all the boys from Colorado, is at home in these conditions. Last year the top five men all hailed from Colorado where they live and train year-round in mountain riding conditions and altitude’s similar to what’s here in Northern Utah (4,600-feet elevation at the swim start and 7,600-feet at the top of the bike course).
Josiah Middaugh, the most consistent American XTERRA racer over the past several years, has always done well in the Mountains (won the ’04 Mtn Champs, 3rd in ’05, 2nd last year) and is coming off a victory at the XTERRA East Championship in Richmond, VA.
Mike Vine, the inaugural Snowbasin champ in ’06 and Mountain Champ when it was held in Keystone in ‘05, has had a less than stellar season but you can throw that all out the window when he gets in the mountains. Last year a double-flat thwarted his attempt for a 3-peat in the Mountains, but rest assured if all goes well he’ll be in the mix at the front again this year (and he just won at Beaver Creek last weekend).
Craig Evans will be racing with the No. 1 on his bike plate for the first time in his career and carries the burden that comes with it proudly. After battling through injuries last year Evans is having a breakthrough season and is second overall in the points standings (points leader Dan Hugo from South Africa will not be racing in this one).
Don’t forget about Brian Smith, another mountain master and winner of the inaugural XTERRA Winter World Championship held on this same mountain back in March when it was covered in snow. Smith is a climbing freak. Last year at this race he came out of the water 55th overall and more than five minutes after race winner Wealing but answered with the fastest bike (1:39:36) and run (31:12) times of the day to finish third.
Looming in the shadows is a young and consistent Costa Rican named Rom Akerson, veteran Aussie Andrew Noble, and another Coloradoan in Cody Waite who posted a career-best 5th place finish here last year.
While the good money is on the Caveman, it’d be hard to bet against any of these other hard-chargers.
THE WOMEN'S RACE
Last year’s winner Jamie Whitmore (pictured) is battling cancer and we - the entire XTERRA global community – have not forgotten about “J-Dawg”. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jamie and her family now and forever. You can read the latest and send her your love at www.jamiewhitmore.com.
While three-time XTERRA World Champ Melanie McQuaid (winner of the West Champs in California and East Champs in Richmond) has been without her chief rival this season, an entire crop of newcomers have emerged and the competition for the top spot is strong. Every woman in the top 10 of the Pro Series is on the start list for this one, and through the first three championship races nine of them have finished in the top 5 at least once.
Shonny Vanlandingham – a 7-time member of the U.S. National Mountain Bike team and the most successful rider in NORBA history – is now a full-fledged XTERRA star and not only won the Southeast Championship in Alabama, but also edged McQuaid at the XTERRA Beaver Creek points series race in Colorado last weekend.
ITU standout Christine Jeffrey is powered by a strong swim that gets her out of the water well ahead of the pack and a fitness level that’s among the best in the business, attributes that play well on this course.
Lesley Paterson from Scotland (now living in San Diego, CA) and Marion Summerer from Germany (now living in Honolulu, HI) are very fast 27-year-olds, proof of which Summerer finished second in California and Paterson was the runner-up in Alabama.
Jenny Smith from New Zealand (living in Gunnison, CO) and Danelle Kabush from Canada are traditional powers in the sport and two of the best mountain bikers and runners in the game. Smith was third here last year (2nd at the last race in Richmond) and Kabush was 4th here in ’06 (took last year off to have a baby).
Americans Kristy Lanier, Amber Monforte, and Jenny Tobin consistently finish near the top, first-year pro Emma Garrard gets stronger ever race, Lisa Isom has the Colorado mountain trails/altitude thing going for her, and Linda Gallo just won the Sandman triathlon.
McQuaid has got to be considered the favorite, but she’ll be up against arguably the most exciting women’s field ever assembled for an XTERRA regional championship race.
XTERRA WHEELER CANYON XDURO TRAIL RUN
In addition to the full distance XTERRA Mountain Championship race (1.5km swim, 30km bike, 8km run) and half-distance XTERRA Sport race (750m swim, 18km bike, 5km run), a hearty few trail runners will also take on the spectacular Wheeler slot canyon in an 11.34 mile race that climbs 2,300 feet from Pineview Reservoir to Snowbasin Resort on Saturday. The "Xduro" endurance trail run will start at roughly 10 a.m. after all the racers in the XTERRA off-road triathlons have hit the trails. Note that registration for all events is still open and interested athletes can sign up at Amphitheater Park in downtown Ogden on Friday, Aug. 15 from 12 noon - 8pm.
"GET OUT AND LIVE" - THE COMMUNITY RALLY'S
It's long been said that XTERRA is more than just a race, it's a lifestyle. Perhaps nowhere on the planet is that more evident than in Ogden, Utah. The locals in Ogden - who rallied the entire community from the Mayor's office to the bike shop to bring the championship to their hometown three years ago - are everyday XTERRA people. They mountain bike and run in the mountains, eat well, laugh, and unpretentiously perpetuate the sports' motto - "Live More".
For the past several months they've been talking to their neighbors, co-workers, friends, fans at the Ogden Raptors baseball games, and anyone who will listen to "Get Out and Live", and on Friday at Amphitheater Park in downtown that's exactly what they'll be doing - with free kids running and bicycle races, a charity bike ride to benefit Weber Pathways, the K9 Challenge for owners and their dogs, live music, a hair cut-a-thon for charity, and great food. Then, on Saturday, after all the races up at Snowbasin, they'll gather again at the Amphitheater for the Biker's Edge "After Party" featuring the Sundogs in concert, a "Taste of Ogden" dining celebration with local restaurants including Roosters Brewing Company, Bistro 258, Union Grill, Peddler's, Artisan Grill and Rickenbacker's Bistro serving-up award-winning food, highlight videos from the day's race, and an awards celebration.
In Ogden, XTERRA is not just for the hardcore endurance athlete - its for the entire community and all about living the healthy, active, outdoors lifestyle.
LAST WEEKEND'S XTERRA RACE WINNERS
Two-time XTERRA amateur National Champ Matt Boobar won the XTERRA STOAKED off-road tri in his home state of New Hampshire (Jen Rybeck Houde won for the women), reigning XTERRA amateur World Champ Alexander Eiler won the Mountainman on Oahu (Rani Tanimoto won the women's race), Mike Vine and Shonny Vanlandingham won the inaugural XTERRA Beaver Creek race in Avon, CO, John Close and Jocelyn Woods won Iron Will in Arkansas, David Herr and Sophie Stapley won the 16k in New Hampshire, Alex Sutphen and Jean Marinangeli won the 12k in Illinois, and Chris Chattin and Orla Walsh won the Boordy Vineyards 5k in Maryland.
MEDIA DAY AT SNOWBASIN
Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey will join an all-star cast of executives and professional athletes including Conrad Stoltz and Shonny Vanlandingham at the press briefing for the XTERRA Mountain Championship tomorrow, Thursday, August 14, at 12 noon at Snowbasin Resort. To confirm attendance or learn more contact Trey at 808-216-8606.
The Mountain Champs is a prime example of successful collaborative efforts by the Utah Sports Commission, City of Ogden, Weber County, Greater Ogden Athletic Legacy Foundation, Snowbasin Resort, and the local community in creating an effective and entertaining way for Ogden and Snowbasin to continue to build the area’s brand as a top destination for outdoor enthusiast and adventure travelers (note Ogden was just called the "Disneyland for adrenalized adults" in making National Geographic Adventure's top 12 picks for the next great adventure town).
Nearly 700 athletes representing 30 states and 11 countries are on the start list for this Saturday's XTERRA off-road tris and trail run. A half-hour TV show featuring the race and other adventures in Utah will be produced and broadcast via national syndication reaching two million viewers starting in May 2009.
PRO START LIST FOR SAT.
# - Name - Age, State or Country
61 - Melanie McQuaid - 34, Canada
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