Press and Media Center
Notes From The Pro Press Briefing
A panel of extraordinarily talented, yet incredibly humble professional athletes gathered for the annual pre-race press conference at the Maui Prince hotel in Makena on Thursday evening.
Pictured above are defending XTERRA World Champions Julie Dibens and Conrad Stoltz, and to the right are current XTERRA European Tour Champions Renata Bucher and Nico Lebrun.
Here’s a look at the pre-race favorites, and some of their thoughts heading into the XTERRA World Championship on Sunday:
Nicolas Lebrun from France (2005 XTERRA World Champion) – Nico was 7th last year, and placed in the top 8 here for the last six years. He won his third straight XTERRA European Tour title by virtue of winning XTERRA UK, Czech, France-Auron, and France-Mondelieu races this season. Nico finished ahead of Stoltz three times in Europe and also defeated Olivier Marceau in Mondelieu. This year he did his first Ironman World Championship race in Kona, where he placed 45th among male pros in 9:16:51. He was asked how that will affect his performance on Sunday:
“I don’t know. 10 days ago I did the Ironman and I don’t know if I can recover. After Ironman, I don’t think I can be as strong, but I feel good now with my muscles, but I don’t know if I’m recovered on the inside. Still, I feel pretty good.”
Eneko Llanos from Spain (2003/04 XTERRA World Champion) – Eneko won this race twice and finished second twice before he started doing the Ironman three years ago. In 2006 he managed a 5th place at XTERRA Worlds after Ironman (where he placed 5th) but that was when the races were just eight days apart. Last year, with two weeks between races, he finished 13th, but he attributes that more to having flat tires than to being tired. He was asked if having two weeks between races is actually harder on the body:
“No, it’s much better to have two weeks to rest. For the first five days after Ironman (where he just finished second in 8:20:50) I did nothing but vacation, eat well, sleep a lot, and not train at all. I think I’ll be able to race here with good strength.”
Conrad Stoltz from South Africa (2001/02 & 2007 XTERRA World Champion) – Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz is the only man to win the world title three times. He was just 27-years-old back when he won his first world title in 2001, and on Thursday he turned 35. He was asked if he thought he could beat the 27-year-old Caveman if the younger version of himself was racing on Sunday.
“I don’t know, but I do know the title of World Champion is quite a responsibility. That first year I was just happy to be here on a new island, enjoying this new sport, and I had just got a new bike from Specialized and Ned Overend. It all seemed so easy back then. I’m still racing with reckless abandon like I did back then, but the field is more staked, there are more contenders.”
Brian Smith from Colorado, USA – Brian was the top American and third overall last year after passing 110 others on the bike. He was asked if his swim has improved, and if he can repeat his performance from a year ago.
“I get asked that question a lot, and I’m not sure that I’ve gotten that much faster on the swim, but I am feeling better coming out of the water. Everything is going well, and if I can get out of the water and feel good I think I’ll do just fine. I’ve got the same game plan as last year, just charge the bike and keep the momentum going on the run and hope I can get up there with Conrad and the leaders.”
Mike Vine from Canada (2008 XTERRA USA Champion) – This will be Mike’s ninth race here in Maui, and his best finish was runner-up in 2000. Having finished 2nd at the Mountain Champs and pulling perhaps his biggest XTERRA win ever off at the USA Champs on Oct. 5, it appears he’s peaking at the right time:
“Yeah, I’m definitely hitting my peak form now. I think that’s because of my old age, I’m just not training as hard earlier in the season, that and it rained a lot in those early months and I don’t do anything when it rains. It’s hard to peak at the right time, but it looks good now.”
Julie Dibens from the United Kingdom (2007 XTERRA World Champion) – Julie crushed the field from start to finish last year, and won XTERRA UK and Austria this year. Everyone knew she was fast but nobody knew she’d handle herself so well on the mountain bike. She was asked how different it is here now that she’s the one everyone is shooting for:
“I’m just really excited to be back. I’m still nervous about what I can do on the bike, and I know that the island can throw a lot of things at you. Really, I’m just focusing on what I can do and not worrying about what goes on behind me.”
Melanie McQuaid from Canada (2003, 2005/06 XTERRA World Champion) – Melanie has either won or been second here for the last five years, and after all those seasons battling against Jamie Whitmore, Julie Dibens emerged on the scene last year and won by more than eight minutes. Melanie was asked what she thought facing Julie again:
“Last year wasn’t my best racing season, and it really wouldn’t have mattered if I had a great day or not because Julie was just a way better athlete on that day. This year I’ve just tried to be faster, and hope to put up a better fight because I prefer to be the World Champion.”
Shonny Vanlandingham from Colorado/Hawaii, USA – Shonny was 4th last year and has had the fastest bike split in two of the last three years. She twisted an ankle a week ago and it’ll be interesting to see how ready to race she’ll be on Sunday. Shonny is the most successful rider in NORBA history and this year turned her focus to XTERRA and it paid dividends with a better swim, a better run, and an XTERRA Championship win in Alabama. Shonny was asked if she’s more prepared for this race this year:
“Every year you have under your belt you have more experience and more confidence. I’m just going to do my best and hope I have a great day.”
The McShane Family: Coming all the way from Australia, this is the first XTERRA World Championship for the McShane family. Head of the family Frank has been racing on and off for 14 years. His daughter Charlotte, 18, used to tag along with her dad to his events and started her triathlon career winning the kid's races and has now been racing on her own for 11 years. Stephen, 16, has been racing triathlons for three years, and the family has been competing together ever since.
Andy May: Andy May is from Dublin, California and racing in the Physically Challenged Division. After an accident eight years ago, Andy did not skip a beat and immediately continued racing with the help of a prosthetic leg. In 2008, he competed in the XTERRA REAL, and he qualified for his first XTERRA Worlds at the XTERRA West Championship in Temecula, California by finishing in second place. Andy is heavily involved with the Challenged Athlete Foundation and is here in Maui with his wife and two children.
Mark Triebwasser: From Lincoln, California, 28-year old Mark Triebwasser just started his XTERRA racing career after seven years of mountain biking. This theatrical contractor company owner completed seven XTERRA races in 2008, but was disappointed with his 8th place finish at the XTERRA USA Championship and is hoping to show the world what he is capable of here in Maui. Just being here is a big accomplishment for Mark, as just over a year ago he was struck by a car while riding his bike and suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, fracture pelvis & sacrum and had reconstructive surgery on his elbow.
Lorenn Walker: This 56-year-old from Waialua on the island of Oahu has won this race five times (last in 2004) and several years ago she came into the bike-to-run transition with all the fingers on her hand going in the wrong direction. After refusing medical attention Lorenn ran the 6+ miles to finish the race and has been part of XTERRA lore ever since.
Katherine Pollard: At just 15-years old, Katherine Pollard's triathlon career has started in full gear. She has only been racing for two years, and this is her first year with XTERRA. Katherine's 2008 schedule included racing at the XTERRA West Championship, Tahoe City, the XTERRA Mountain Championship where she qualified for Worlds, and the XTERRA USA Championship where she took home first place in her age group. Already an XTERRA National Champion, Katherine is here is Maui to prove herself again to the world.
Will Ross: From Anchorage, Alaska, 19 year old Will Ross is here in Maui for his first XTERRA World Championship. Studying athletic training at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, he managed to find time to train for this event. Since age 12, Will has done one triathlon per year but has been racing more seriously from the age of 17. Competing in the XTERRA USA Championship for the past 2 years, he came in third place in his age group in 2008 beating his previous year time by 20 minutes and proving he is ready for the XTERRA World Championship.
Kim Jennings: Kim Jennings, 28, is a park ranger at Cameron Park in Waco, TX. She is also the founder of the Ride Cameron Park Women's Mountain Bike Clinic that is coming up on November 1-2. Hoping to promote mountain biking for women, the race is in its fourth year and is still going strong with over 100 pre-registered participants so far. Biking legend Shonny Vanlandingham was there for the inaugural year and will be in attendance this year as well. Kim has been a mountain bike racer since 2004, but this is her first year with XTERRA. In 2008, she competed in all the XTERRA races in Texas as well as placing 3rd at the XTERRA Southeast Championship in Pelham, Alabama. She is in Maui with her mom and biggest supporter as she tackles her first XTERRA World Championship.
Eric Kollai: Eric Kollai is an emergency physician from Kailua on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He has been racing since he was 18 years old and is still going strong after 12 years. This will only be his second XTERRA race after qualifying at the Jamba Juice XTERRA Mountainman earlier this year at Kualoa Ranch on his home island. Eric's father Darryl, who was an elite triathlete, passed away just 8 weeks ago. Eric almost didn't make the trip to Maui, but he is here at his first XTERRA Worlds as a tribute to his father.
Megan Fisher: At the age of 19, Megan Fisher was in a car accident that caused her to lose her leg below the knee. After long thinking that triathlons were out of her athletic range, she figured she didn't have anything more to lose by trying. Megan started racing 11 months after she lost her leg making her goal to not come in last place. Now 5 years later, with the help of a prosthetic leg, Megan is competing at her first XTERRA World Championship. This 25 year old University of Montana student is studying to be an orthopedic surgeon and is currently a certified athletic trainer, but her goal is to someday be a professional triathlete. Just three years ago, Megan was told she would never be able to walk, but she is here in Maui to prove anyone can overcome the odds.
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