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Ruben Ruzafa, Julie Dibens Win XTERRA Worlds
MAUI PRINCE HOTEL (Makena, HI) – Ruben Ruzafa, 24, from Spain and Julie Dibens, 33, from England won the men’s and women’s XTERRA World Championship titles on a trademark tropical day in Maui this afternoon.
Ruzafa (pictured), competing in his first XTERRA, became the youngest racer to win the crown by edging Austrian Olympic mountain biker Michael Weiss by 34 seconds after 28 grueling miles of swimming, mountain biking and trail running.
“I decided to do this race two months ago after talking with (fellow countryman and 2003/04 XTERRA World Champ) Eneko Llanos,” said the current Spanish mountain biking champion. “I didn’t know I could do so well, but I thought if I didn’t lose too much time on the swim I would be able to catch up on the bike and hopefully hold on during the run.”
That’s exactly how it played out. Ruzafa, who only started swimming a year ago, came out of the swim more than two minutes behind a tight pack of leaders – Brent McMahon, Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Eneko Llanos, Olivier Marceau, Seth Wealing, Hektor Llanos, Franky Batelier, and Conrad Stoltz – but was able to work his way to the front of the pack by about mile 14 on the bike and never looked back.
Early on, this race showed all the signs of a Stoltz world championship run. The “Caveman” was out of the water with the leaders, passed everyone by the fourth mile of the bike where he had already put 30 seconds on Marceau, Dan Hugo, Batelier, and Eneko Llanos. From there he extended the gap, and was up 1:30 by mile 10 and with less than two miles left of heavy climbing before “The Plunge” steep downhill section where Stoltz’ is at his best, it looked like he was well on his way to a 4th World Title.
“I felt really good today, best I’ve felt in a long time. I was relaxed and riding really fast on the technical stuff, and even had quite a bit in the tank for the run, but then it came down to luck,” said Stoltz, who got a slow-leak somewhere around mile 13 or so that forced him to stop, repair, and watch as Ruzafa went by.
To compound matters, at mile 17 Stoltz’ back tire was completely gone, and he was dangerously riding on the rim coming down the lava fields. “It’s the last race of the season and I wanted to see what I could salvage,” said Stoltz.
By the time he entered T2 and was five minutes and 10 places back, best he could do was a) enjoy the ocean views, b) make sure his fiancée Amber Monforte, who took a nasty spill and had a shovel full of gravel embedded in her shoulder, was o.k., c) drop words of encouragement and some energy gel to a friend, and d) cross the line graciously in 12th place giving high-fives to the spectators that lined the finish chute.
Stoltz bad luck aside, Ruzafa and Weiss came in with heavy mountain bike credentials and lived up to every bit of it – posting the two fastest splits in 1:30:25 and 1:30:33 respectively. To put that in perspective, American Josiah Middaugh who had the fastest split on this course two years ago - had the third best time in 1:33:39.
“The Euro guys were flying,” and “new faces and stiffer competition” were common sentiments from the veteran XTERRA bunch.
“I was nervous and started pushing too hard at first and crashed twice on the loose gravel,” said Weiss, who won the Austrian Championship in his first-ever XTERRA in August. “For my first time on this course I’m happy with the results and to be so close to the winner.”
Indeed, Weiss was close to the winner for most of the race. When Ruzafa headed out on the run, Weiss was right behind and closed to within seconds of the eventual winner at a few spots.
The run, however, belonged to the speedy Brent McMahon who turned in a 43:18 (two minutes quicker than anyone else). McMahon passed a half-dozen others and finished in third, the same spot he placed here in 2005.
“I’m stoaked I did this well after so much time off from XTERRA,” said McMahon, who had been concentrating on qualifying for the Olympics. “It’s great to be back, I really enjoy these races, but was just missing my edge after a couple years off.”
One of the last guys McMahon passed was Vine, who settled in for fourth place, and the consummate pro Olivier Marceau rounded out the top five. Eneko Llanos was sixth and won the Hawaiian Airlines Double for the third straight year, and Middaugh came in as the top American in 7th.
DIBENS DOUBLES XTERRA WORLD TITLE COUNT
Dibens dominated the women’s race here in Maui for the second straight year, taking the lead from the very start of the swim all the way through the finish line with a winning time of 3:03:57, a full minute ahead of runner-up Danelle Kabush from Canada. Dibens is just the second woman to win the XTERRA World Championship in back-to-back years (following Melanie McQuaid’s 2005 and 2006 titles).
“I think this one was harder, it definitely took more out of me,” said the former All-American swimmer at Louisiana State University and 2004 Olympic triathlete. “I was hurting out there on the run and the heat really got to me, and just before the finish a guy passed me and said that Danelle was right behind so I had to sprint to the finish and that was murder. Despite that, XTERRA is awesome. I just wished I would have got into this earlier. It’s just something where everyone who tries it loves it, and then it’s just plain addictive.”
Melanie McQuaid was supposed to provide Dibens stiffest competition, but “some kind of intestinal thing” turned out to be her chief rival and after regurgitating over and over in the early portions of the run, there was nothing left to do but wait for next year.
“I want a mulligan, can we race tomorrow,” said the three-time World Champ. “I tried to keep going but just kept catapulting backwards, it was the worst. I only thank goodness that there were two other Canadians that pulled up the slack for me today.”
McQuaid is referencing Danelle Kabush who had the third-best bike and fastest run by far to finish in second place for the second time in three years (and she took off last year to have a baby).
“I was feeling leaner and meaner this year after having that child,” smiled Kabush.
Shonny Vanlandingham solidified her reputation as being the best women’s biker this course has seen by turning in the fastest bike for the third time in four years. That bike pushed her to the front of the pack and even on a bad ankle that she sprained a week ago, she still held off all but Kabush on the run to finish in third place and top American.
“This is always a tough course and there was some super loose rock on the course which made it extremely challenging and technical. And the cattle on the course make it even more interesting and today I even saw some deer charge at another racer.”
Renata Bucher, the three-time XTERRA European Tour Champ, was solid all around and finished fourth, and in the top five in her third straight Maui race. Christine Jeffrey, in just her first-year of XTERRA racing, put together her best effort on the biggest stage to finish in 5th.
A maxed-out field of more than 500 athletes from 25 countries and 35 U.S. states competed in the 13th annual event that consisted of a 1-mile swim in the calm, warm, clear waters of the Pacific Ocean on Maui’s south shore, a 20-mile mountain bike that featured 5,000 feet of climbing up and down the lower slopes of Haleakala volcano, and a 7-mile trail run with 1,600-feet of climbing on rocks, dirt, lava, and sand.
The race was filmed for a one-hour TV show that will begin airing across the country via national syndication starting in January. Highlights can be seen at www.XTERRA.tv.
TOP 15 PRO MEN
Also: Seth Wealing ($600), Conrad Stoltz ($500), Jim Thijs ($400), Ryan Ignatz ($300), Franky Batelier ($300), Karel Zadak, Scott Thorne, Branden Rakita, Nico Pfitzenmaier, Mark Leishman, Jim McConnel, Ruben Bravo, Dominic Gillen, James Kennedy, Craig Evans, Gianpietro De Faveri, Hektor Llanos, Jordan Bryden, Rom Akerson, Jan Kubicek, Yu Yumoto, Damian Gonzalez, Nat Faulkner, Cody Waite, Chad Seymour, Mike Champigny, Ryan DeCook, Tim Peddie.
TOP 15 PRO WOMEN
Also: Kristy Lanier, Fabiola Corona, Emma Garrard, Sibylle Matter, Sari Anderson, Marion Summerer, Kate Chapman, Catherine Dunn, Sabrina Enaux, Linda Gallo, Carla Prada, Daniela Campuzano, Andrea Lima Franch.
Fastest swim (1-mile): Brent McMahon (18:13), Linda Gallo (18:16) taken out of T1
AMATEUR RACE: Francois Carloni of Saint Raphael, France took the men’s title finishing in 2:54:26, 20th overall and less than a minute ahead of runner-up James Walsh of Carlsbad, CA. Transitioning from the bike to the run, Carloni had an eight-minute lead but Walsh never gave up hope and made up enough ground to finish just 51 seconds behind the leader. Dirk Pauling of Rupperswil, Switzerland came in third overall at 2:56:24 to win the 40-44 division. After coming in 4th and 2nd at the last two XTERRA World Championships, Pauling, a cement plant engineer, said “I am thrilled about winning my age group. It’s a mean event, and I like it much better now in this third year now that I know the ins-and-outs of the course.”
The women’s amateur race also had an all out battle for first place with Keri Grosse of Leavenworth, WA leading the way. Her time of 3:34:04 was good enough to take the top honors over 18-year old Charlotte McShane of Mount Taylor, Australia. McShane came out of the water almost 3 ½ minutes faster than Grosse, but Grosse had a great bike and came into the run with a 5-minute lead over the competition. Keri kept the lead from there on in but not without McShane giving her a run for her money finishing just 53 seconds behind the winner, and Erin Kummer from Boulder, CO was not far behind in third.
McShane is here in Maui for her first XTERRA World Championship with father Frank and brother Stephen, 16, both also racing in today’s event. All members of the family were in high spirits after the race commenting that the course was “tough but very fun” joking about wanting to go out and do it again tomorrow.
Other stand-out competitors include Tom Lyons of Reno, Nevada, winning an unprecedented 7th XTERRA World Championship Title taking the 45-49 age group division in 3:13:51. Peter Wood of La Jolla, CA won the 65-69 age group to take his 5th world title in 4:09:11 and Beverly Enslow of Metamora, IL, was the 50-54 age group champion in 3:55:47, winning her 3rd title.
The top Hawaii finisher was Alexander Eiler from Kaneohe (via Austria), coming in 45th overall with a time of 3:04:56. Marion Summerer, also from Honolulu, HI, was the first female from Hawaii (via Germany) to cross the finish line in 3:36:22. Coming in at 3:47:34 was Karen Brisson of Honokaa, HI was the top local amateur.
Megan Fisher, a below knee amputee from Missoula, MT, was the first female challenged athlete to ever race here in Maui. Just three years ago she was told she would never walk again, and today she finished one of triathlon’s most grueling events in 5:09:47 and an inspiration to all. David Kyle, who has multiple sclerosis, won the men’s physically challenged division in just under five hours.
XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONS (MALE AGE GROUP)
Division Name Time Hometown
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES DOUBLE: Eneko Llanos of Spain, who was second last week at the Ironman World Championship, placed 6th today and won the Hawaiian Airlines Double award for the third consecutive year with a combined time of 11:03:39 – his best effort yet. Sibylle Matter from Switzerland won the women’s pro double for the second time in three years (also in 2006) by finishing 13th at Ironman and 14th today in a combined 13:12:08. In the amateur division Mark Geoghegan of Honolulu was 22nd in his division at Ironman (9:52:21) and 2nd in the 45-49 division today (3:14:49) for a combined time of 13:07:10. Karen Brisson of Honakaa was 27th at Ironman (11:37:10) and 4th at XTERRA in 3:47:34 for a combined time of 15:24:44.
Name Division Hometown IM Time XTERRA Total
Eneko Llanos ProM Spain 8:20:50 2:42:49 11:03:39
Nat Faulkner ProM Canada 9:16:26 3:12:11 12:28:37
Mark Geoghegan 45-49 Honolulu, HI 9:52:21 3:14:49 13:07:10
Sibylle Matter ProW Switzerland 9:44:54 3:27:14 13:12:08
Armin Hohenadler 35-39M Germany 10:09:34 3:13:10 13:22:44
Mike Ferreira 40-44 Kaneohe, HI 9:40:42 3:47:00 13:27:42
Aaron Wallen 35-39M Honolulu, HI 10:07:05 3:27:02 13:34:07
Jorg Schneider 40-44M Germany 10:19:24 3:16:01 13:35:25
Reinhold Garnitschnig 50-54M Austria 10:19:35 3:27:41 13:47:16
Nino Cokan 35-39M Slovenia 10:25:49 3:30:00 13:55:49
Bryant Hafler 45-49M Mililani, HI 10:24:38 3:35:04 13:59:42
Arnaud Bouvier 40-44M France 10:52:31 3:26:57 14:19:28
Karen Brisson 40-44F Honokaa, HI 11:37:10 3:47:34 15:24:44
Beate Kleindienst 40-44F Germany 12:09:13 3:57:26 16:06:39
Ulrike Striednig 45-49M Austria 12:17:58 3:53:56 16:11:54
Racheal Wood 45-49F Deerfield Beach, FL 12:26:24 4:33:46 17:00:10
Kelly Hovland 30-34F Portland, OR 13:07:38 4:02:21 17:09:59
Raul Marin 60-64 Argentina 12:59:54 4:14:47 17:14:31
Tony Claudino 35-39M Brooklyn, NY 13:38:34 4:44:15 18:22:49
Manfred Klittich 70+M Germany 15:25:43 5:18:25 20:44:08
Nico Lebrun ProM France 9:16:51 DNF
Amber Monforte 30-34F Bend, OR 14:59:12 DNF
The XTERRA World Championship is the final stop on the XTERRA Global Tour - a national and international series of 100+ qualifying events held in Saipan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Brazil, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, France, Austria, Japan & the United States.
The XTERRA World Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell, XTERRAGear.com, Hawaiian Airlines, the Maui Visitors Bureau, and Maui Prince Hotel. Sponsors include GU, Gatorade, Zorrel, Breeder’s Choice, Kona Brewing Company, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
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