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Emotions Power Mike Vine, Melanie McQuaid to victory at XTERRA USA Championship in Nevada
See the photo gallery from the XTERRA USA Championship weekend at www.xterraphotos.com
INCLINE VILLAGE, NV – Inspired by 5-time XTERRA USA Champ and now cancer-stricken athlete Jamie Whitmore - Canadians Mike Vine and Melanie McQuaid powered their way through a chilly morning and grueling course to win the eighth annual XTERRA USA Championship on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe this afternoon.
“I needed to win this race for Jamie,” said McQuaid. “Our most epic battles have been here and she has solidly whopped me at this race over the years. This is where our rivalry came to a head. This is where she has shown her consistency and excellence. This is her race, and I wanted to win it for her.”
Indeed the 32-year-old Whitmore, affectionately known as “J-Dawg”, dominated in Tahoe – winning five of the last six races including the first sub-3 hour performance by a female last year. Shortly after that race doctors discovered a tumor the size of a baseball near her pelvic area, and over the last several months she has had two invasive surgeries to remove the cancer, which also took nerves and a piece of her tailbone.
Last night at the pre-race dinner in front of literally 600 of her closest friends, Whitmore was honored with the XTERRA Warrior award for the incredible courage and faith she has shown through these tough times and the video tribute brought most everyone to tears.
“Last night was rough and today my emotions were running high and I was thinking about Jamie out there on the course,” said Vine, one of many athletes that have created a close bond with Whitmore and her family through the years.
Even though she couldn’t race, Whitmore was still a big part of this one. She shared her course knowledge at the XTERRA University clinic on Friday, shared her story – painful as it might be – with all of those in the XTERRA community that came to wish her well on Saturday – and served as the color commentator for today’s race, giving insightful and entertaining information to all in attendance.
Professional and amateur athletes, XTERRA sponsors and general supporters held a silent auction for Jamie on Friday and Saturday raising more than $12,500 to help with her ever-rising medical expenses and one athlete after another dedicated their race to Jamie, and thanked her for the inspiration, courage, and support she provided over the weekend. Keep up with Jamie at www.jamiewhitmore.com and www.supportjamiewhitmore.org.
THE MEN’S RACE
Coming in to this race all eyes were on Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz, the defending USA and three-time XTERRA World Champion. When he came out of the 1.5-kilometer swim in the crystal clear waters of 60-degree Lake Tahoe along with fellow South African Dan Hugo less than a minute off the lead pack of Seth Wealing, Craig Evans, and Branden Rakita and started charging hard on the bike it looked as if he was poised to cut loose and leave the field in his dust as he has so many times before … but that’s not what happened.
“It's the weirdest day I’ve ever had,” said Stoltz. “Once I started climbing my lower back got tight, and usually I can work it out and get going but today it got worse and worse. Mike Vine came by me so fast that I couldn’t go with him and just went slower and slower. I knew something was off, I had no power in my legs.”
Vine, who has historically been very fast at altitude races (evident in his three XTERRA Mountain Championship race titles and second-place finishes at this one the last two years), did have power in his legs. Vine also had a great swim, seventh-best among pro men and just a little over a minute behind the leaders.
“Usually I get blasted during the swim and something goes wrong but the lake was warmer this year so that helped and I didn’t have any problems,” said Vine.
Vine catapulted past Evans, Stoltz and Hugo in the first couple miles, then caught Seth Wealing and finally reeled in Branden Rakita about two-thirds of the way up the 1,600-foot climb on Tunnel Creek road to take the lead for good.
“I think I made up all my time on that climb because someone said I was a minute-30 up at the top and I went into the run just over a minute up,” said Vine, who had the fastest bike split at 1:31:32. “Once I had the lead I just rode within my limits. I knew I’d need something for the run because all the guys behind me can fly.”
Behind Vine on the bike there was quite a bit of jostling going on. Josiah Middaugh, with the second fastest bike in 1:32:44, jumped into the mix and passed everyone by the second big climb (there’s more than 2,500-feet of climbing in this race). Wealing had faded on the climb and the relatively flat Flume Trail section but got back into the mix by the Marlette Lake Overlook (the highest point on the course at 8,700 feet). Hugo and Rakita, who had the best race of his young career, were right there as well.
On the incredibly fast descent just before the bike-to-run transition Wealing overtook Middaugh for second, Hugo was in fourth, Rakita in fifth, and Stoltz in sixth. Vine, however, was already well into his run.
With Vine’s victory a sure thing, the race was on for second – and won by Wealing who out-split Middaugh by a minute on the twisty trail run. Hugo and Rakita held their fourth and fifth slots, but Stoltz dropped two to finish in 8th place after getting chased down by Brian Smith and Chris Legh (fastest run in 35:48).
In the end, Vine turned in the fastest time ever in 2:32:38, more than a minute ahead of Wealing (2:34:03), and took home $5,000 for the race and $2,000 for placing 5th in the five-stop XTERRA U.S. Pro Series.
By the slimmest of margins, Stoltz – who came into this race with 300 points, 30 ahead of Hugo – held on to win the Pro Series for the sixth time and walked away with the $14,000 check that goes with it. Had Stoltz finished two places lower or Hugo two places higher, the crown would have gone to the young gun.
“I don’t want to say I was lucky, but I am really thankful to win the Series. Six years with the U.S. title is quite significant for me. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d finish 8th today, but the level of competition in XTERRA has improved a lot and you just can’t have bad days and expect to contend,” said Stoltz.
Hugo finished second in the Series, Middaugh placed third and was the top American for the second year in a row and fourth time in five years, and Brian Smith was fourth.
A $19,000 DAY FOR MCQUAID
The women’s race started out as expected with super strong swimmers Christine Jeffrey and Linda Gallo taking an early lead, followed a minute-40 later by Susan Williams - the only American to win a medal in triathlon at the Olympics (bronze in Athens), then McQuaid and Mexico’s Olympian Fabiola Corona.
Williams, in just her second-ever XTERRA, caught Jeffrey and Gallo and had the lead by the top of the big climb up Tunnel Creek road. It wouldn’t last long, however, as McQuaid patiently hunted her down and passed by just a couple miles into the Flume trail.
“My race today started with a big bundle of nerves because I put a lot of pressure on myself. I was afraid of not performing, of not doing well and letting Jamie down,” said McQuaid. “So my swim wasn’t great, but I just put my head down and did the best I could and as the race went on I felt better and better.”
It’s clear as the race went on McQuaid got faster and faster and she turned the fourth-best swim, third-best bike, and sixth-best run into a three-minute 17-second margin of victory over runner-up Renata Bucher from Switzerland. With the win, her fourth in the Series, McQuaid claimed the U.S. title for the second time (also won in ’06) and took home $19,000 in prize money - $5,000 for the race and $14,000 for the Series.
“Winning in Tahoe is the ultimate, because it represents what I’m not good at. It’s never been my best race, and it’s a huge challenge for me so I’m really stoked, what an awesome day,” said McQuaid, who after crossing the finish line gave a big emotional hug to her long-time rival Jamie Whitmore, who was holding the finish line tape along with her father Biff. “This one is so emotional. Jamie formed me as an athlete by pushing me so hard and the speed I have now is because of the rivalry we shared. I miss her.”
The top two women in the XTERRA European Tour – Bucher (current and three-time Euro Tour Champ) and Carina Wasle from Austria put on quite a show for the regulars in the America Tour. Bucher had the fastest bike split, but couldn’t make up for the four minutes she fronted McQuaid in the swim (not to mention the two minutes she lost to McQuaid on the run).
Wasle had the fifth best bike and third fastest run for a very impressive third place overall. Lesley Paterson finished off a fine first season of racing XTERRA with the second quickest run to move into 4th place and Jenny Smith held on for fifth.
Danelle Kabush had the fastest run of the day to move up four spots from 10th to 6th and held off Paterson for the fourth spot in the U.S. Pro Series by just one point. Despite placing 7th today, Shonny Vanlandingham was still the top American in the race and held on to 2nd in the pro series where she was also the top American. The top four in the Series coming into this race all held position with McQuaid, Vanlandingham, Smith, and Kabush – while Paterson, Jenny Tobin and Jeffrey leapfrogged past Marion Summerer (who was 16th today) for the 5th, 6th, and 7th spots.
A bunch of rain in the days leading up to the race hardened the soft sandy sections and made the course less technical and as fast as it’s ever been, and McQuaid set a course record for the women with a time of 2:56:17.
TOP 10 PRO MEN
Fastest Swim (0.93 Miles) Seth Wealing (23:16), Christine Jeffrey (23:45)
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.
2008 XTERRA America Tour Pro Series
Erin Kummer from Boulder, CO won her third XTERRA Championship race of the season – and biggest of her career – placing 17th overall and more than eight minutes ahead of runner-up Keri Grosse to win the overall amateur national title. On the men’s side the very young and very fast Joshua Olmstead from Sacramento (who dedicated his race to mentor Jamie Whitmore) edged Tim Menoher by 30-seconds to win the amateur crown.
Reno native Tom Lyons won his unprecedented 7th straight XTERRA USA Championship, Cindi Toepel – who was named “Mrs. XTERRA” along with her husband Circ at the Night of Champions dinner – earned her fourth title, as did Suzie Snyder. Kathy Frank and Beverly Enslow each captured their third national championship, and Kathy Eckert, Olmstead, and Menoher notched their second each.
Ross McMahan was the top local amateur, placing 20th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 division. His wife Sarah McMahan was the top local female amateur placing 25th overall and winning the 35-39 division. Truckee resident Emma Garrard was the top local female, placing 12th among pro women.
2008 XTERRA National Champions – Amateur Women
Division Name Hometown Time
2008 XTERRA National Champions – Amateur Men
Division Name Hometown Time
UP NEXT: The 13th XTERRA World Championship at the Maui Prince Hotel at Makena Resorts in Maui, on Sunday, October 26.
TEAM Unlimited, a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, owns and produces XTERRA. The award-winning TEAM TV crew was at the race filming all the action for a nationally broadcast one-hour sports special which will start airing in November. Check your local listings for air times or visit xterraplanet.com.
The XTERRA USA Championship is presented by the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Paul Mitchell and XTERRA Gear. Sponsors include GU, Zorrel, Breeder’s Choice, Rodale, Gatorade, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe and Nevada State Parks.
© 2014 TEAM Unlimited LLC