Pan Am Tour kicks off at XTERRA Argentina on Saturday

The 2017 XTERRA Pan America Tour gets underway Saturday at the second-annual XTERRA Argentina Championship in San Juan.

American Suzie Snyder, the reigning Pan Am Tour Champ, says she had a good off-season and is ready to start her title defense on Saturday.

“I feel cautiously good about the upcoming season,” said Snyder, who had a breakout year in 2016 with five big wins and a 3rd-place finish at XTERRA Worlds. “I’ve worked really hard on my running over the winter because I felt like I struggled with that last year while still recovering from the pelvis injury in 2015. I think I maintained my swim fitness pretty well, but may have let my cycling slip a bit so this first race will be a good way to see where I’m at.”

Snyder will face off against fellow American and familiar foe Kara LaPoint, who finished 3rd in the Pan Am Tour last year and is also eager to see where she stands after a winter spent training and recovering from an injury.

“This will be the first opportunity I’ve had to test myself now that I’m healthy and I’m really excited,” said LaPoint. “I’m staying relaxed and focused, but I’m looking forward to opening it up out there and seeing what I’ve got.”

Laura Mira Dias from Brazil, who was third at this race a year ago, is back in the mix and the wild card in the women’s field has to be Morgane Riou, who finished 5th on the XTERRA European Tour in her rookie elite season last year.

“Winter training went well, with big efforts on the mountain bike,” said Riou, who is a Commandant in the French military. “I’m ready for the hills and looking forward to starting the season in San Juan.”

Euro Tour director Nico Lebrun did some training with Riou in February and said she has come a long way in the last few years.  “It’s amazing the progress she has made on the mountain bike.  Three years ago it was her weakness, and she took the challenge to get better seriously and worked a lot on her skills.  She had to slow down a little bit on the run training to focus on riding, but she is a natural runner, and I’m 100% sure that if she can put up a strong bike split, she will run fast anyway.”

Still, the favorite is the seasoned vet Suzie Snyder, who added “I’ve been racing XTERRA for 14 years because I love the sport.  Off-road training and racing is full of friendly people, whom I’ve made great friends with and the training and racing is both fun and challenging, which is what keep training and racing fresh, allowing me to continue training hard and dedicating myself to becoming the best athlete I can be.”

The men’s elite race is highlighted by another XTERRA veteran, American Branden Rakita who finished fourth on the Pan Am Tour last season.

“I want to win one of the XTERRA Pan Am series races this year,” said Rakita, who has come close several times including a runner-up performance in the Dominican Republic last year.  “I have come close but wins never come easy, they really have to be earned.  I am looking to start the year strong at XTERRA Argentina. It is always a bit of an unknown going into the first race of the year to see how the body will respond from the training, but I know it is going to be a great experience and I look forward to the challenges that this new course will bring.”

Expect to see Canadian Jean-Philippe Thibodeau come out of the water early with Rakita, as the strong swimmer from Quebec continues his momentum from 2016.  And local favorite Maximiliano Morales, who was third in the race last year, is hoping to be on the podium this year as well.

Frenchman Julien Buffe is also in the mix, and hoping to make a big step-up from his rookie pro season last year when mechanical problems and bad luck affected his racing.  Lebrun believes his persistent effort and strong off-season could reveal his true XTERRA potential in 2017.

XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas is in Argentina to cover all the action and says everything is looking good for an exciting race weekend.

“It’s been a great start to our second year here in San Juan,” said Nicholas.  “Suzie, Branden, Kara and I did a TV interview live on Channel 8, the biggest local station, last night and this morning we had a huge press conference with every newspaper and TV station in the entire province at San Juan’s sports center.  This facility is huge and is used for concerts, ice hockey, boxing and more.  The secretary of sports for the province, Jorge Chica, was our host and has been very important in supporting XTERRA.”

The main event features a 1500-meter swim in Lake Ullum followed by a 30km mountain bike segment, and 9.5km trail run. The trails are primarily hard, packed earth and rocks, due to the arid environment, and the mountain bike course includes several technical sections, including an 1800-meter climb out of a dry riverbed followed by a quick drop.

The XTERRA event is part of a three-day race festival, which includes open water swims, trail races, and a 50K mountain bike race.

“San Juan is a major metropolis of 700,000 citizens and a great place to visit,” said Nicholas.  “There is jet service into the small airport from several major cities in South America.  San Juan is a huge wine production region – the 2nd largest in Argentina and believe me; the local Malbec is as delicious as the local beef.  Recently the silver and gold mines have been revived with new technology, so this part of the world is doing very well.”

San Juan is near the base of the Andes Mountains and as the southern hemisphere heads into autumn temperatures are mild, humidity is low, the scenery is spectacular, and for sure the racing will be fast.

Learn more about the XTERRA Pan America Tour here.

XTERRA Profile: Sam Osborne

Hometown: Rotorua, New Zealand

Twitter: @sam_osborneNZ

 

2017: Won the XTERRA Saipan Championship on March 18 to take the early lead in the Asia-Pacific Tour standings.

2016: Finished 2nd at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Australia, was 5th at XTERRA Portugal, 2nd at XTERRA Belgium, 7th at Switzerland, 2nd at Italy, 3rd at Sweden, 2nd at the XTERRA European Championship in Germany and 2nd at XTERRA Denmark.  Finished 2nd on the XTERRA European Tour. Placed 9th in the XTERRA World Championship.

2015: Finished 2nd at XTERRA New Zealand, won XTERRA Sweden and was 2nd at XTERRA Denmark.

History at XTERRA Worlds: Finished in 9th place last year. DNF in 2015.

Thoughts from XTERRA European Tour Director Nicolas Lebrun: Sam is a pure Kiwi! He’s a strong athlete but is always loose and has fun. He had some great results last year, was second on the Euro tour and at the European Championship in Germany he finished just seconds behind Ruzafa. With the experience he gained in 2016, I bet we will see him crossing the line first a few times this season and celebrate it all night!  He has the perfect XTERRA spirit, to fight hard with your main competitors during the race and then enjoy a few beers with them as real friends afterwards!”

QnA (circa March 2017)

XE: Are you a full time pro Athlete? if not what is your occupation?
I pretend to be, while I’m away for the majority of the racing season I’m still studying for mathematics degree & NZ summer I work as a MTB guide & Barista

XE: Family Status?
Just me and my shadow

XE: What is your daily or week training plan?
Hours, weeks, months they all kinda flow into each other

XE: What do you eat for breakfast before a big race?
Weetbix, cause Kiwi Kids are Weet-bix kids

XE: What type of diet do you follow?
I don’t really just try to keep what I eat reasonably balanced

XE: How many years have you been involved with XTERRA?
2015 I started to throw my hat in the ring a bit

XE: What is your athletic background-How did you started?
I started with mountain biking when I was younger but moved on to ITU racing when I was at school and it’s only in the last 18-months or so I’ve picked up the mountain bike again.

XE: Which of the three disciplines is your favorite?
I like all really, go through phases of what is the flavor of the month

XE: How many XTERRA’s did you race in 2016, (results)
New Zealand 2nd
Asia Pacific Champs (Australia) 2nd
Portugal 5th
Belgium 2nd
Switzerland 7th
Italy 2nd
Sweden 3rd
Germany 2nd
Denmark 2nd
Maui 9th

XE: Last year you had a fantastic season in Europe, finishing second on the Tour, in Denmark in some point you were leading the race and the tour, then Mauricio passed you and gave the tour to Ruben, do you still think about it ?
Ha yea it was agonizingly close, it really wasn’t long to go in the race when Mauricio came past me so naturally I was a bit gutted at the finish. I wouldn’t say I think about it much really, it never pays to look back at what could have or would have been. I do take a fair amount of comfort in the fact that I went out there and put it all on the line, and was just beaten by a better man on the day (who now calls himself World Champ). If I could have got more out of myself that day I would have given it trust me.

XE: In Germany you had also a great race, you almost caught Ruben, is this one of your goals, to try to beat this guy at least once ?
Germany was up there with some of my best races last year. Absolutely it’s a big goal, Ruben has had a cross on his back for a long time now, but to be fair that goes with anybody that has been at the top for that long. He’s obviously very classy and you’ve got to have respect for a guy like that, he’s a tough competitor to race and hopefully we’ll get to line up a few good tussles this year.

XE: What are your XTERRA plans for 2017?
I’m going to have a crack at the Asia Pacific Tour this year and then make the journey back over to Europe. I haven’t mapped out exactly how Europe will look yet but I will definitely be coming back.

XE: What is your favorite XTERRA?
Xterra NZ, and I don’t think its all biased. I really do believe that NZ is one of the best courses around. The mountain biking in Rotorua is really something else, I am yet to find somewhere on my travels that rivals what we have in New Zealand (happily take suggestions and a tour guide to show me this year though). I have held Jan Pyott to ransom over showing me a bit of Switzerland’s trails though this year.

In terms of races in Europe, hard to narrow it down to one, they all have their own unique elements. I love the bike course in Sweden, the town Scanno in Italy and the brutality of the course there and then the atmosphere they have in Germany is unreal.

Myriam Guillot-Boisset Dives into Race Season

“You want to hear something very funny?” giggles Myriam “Mimi” Guillot-Boisset. “My mother was a swim instructor, and you know how you never want to do what your parents do? Well, now she teases me about not taking her lessons, and I have to say ‘I know, I know, I was stupid.”

Mimi is the first to admit that swimming is not her strongest of the three XTERRA disciplines, but that hasn’t stopped her from climbing to the top of the XTERRA elite rankings.

Last year at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui where she finished 4th overall, her run time was the third fastest behind only the champ, Flora Duffy, and the runner-up Lesley Paterson. Her raw foot speed and technical skills on the mountain bike contributed to her 4th place ranking on the XTERRA Pan America Tour and 6th-place ranking on both the XTERRA Asia Pacific Tour and the XTERRA European Tour.

In 2016 Mimi won XTERRA Costa Rica and XTERRA Argentina on back-to-back weekends in March, and she almost pulled off a third win at XTERRA Mexico, where she was nosed-out for the win by American Suzie Snyder.

“I was second on the run and I had no idea were Suzie was. I didn’t see her until the end of the second lap on the last downhill trail when we only had 500-meters to go,” said Guillot-Boisset.  “We finished together by a sprint and it was so exciting even if I couldn’t quite catch her.”

This fall and winter, Mimi took four months to focus on training at her home in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands off West Africa where she lives with her husband Jacky Boisset. Each week, she trains for 25-30 hours, doing two workouts a day, combining running, swimming, and biking as well as yoga and stretching.

She has also doubled down on swimming and is looking forward to testing the waters in the 2017 XTERRA season. She has a swim coach (although its not her Mom) and she has upped her pool workouts to four times a week. Mimi admits, “It’s hard to jump on the podium with a slow swim.”

Often, she has to pass dozens of athletes on the mountain bike and swim sections in order to finish in her usual elite fashion. “Maui was hard,” she says. “The course was so muddy, and I had to pass packs of people. I love when it’s an adventure, but it took a lot of energy.”

Typically, Mimi has a great deal of energy, which she contributes to her raw, vegan diet.

“We used to be more normal,” she says, shielding her face to the morning sun that is now rising over her bright, eco-friendly home. “But I didn’t feel the way I wanted to feel. Jacky and I spent a lot of time in China and Australia and we adopted their simpler lifestyles. Now I can’t imagine living differently. It’ so easy and perfect.”

Mimi and her husband Jacky Boisset eat mostly fruits and vegetables. “We have one to 1.5 kilos of papaya for breakfast, then a kilo of bananas for lunch, and a big salad for dinner. We are entirely plant powered!”

She and her husband carefully track what they eat to ensure they get adequate protein and nutrition for their training. Their plan for the future is to launch a nutrition coaching service to share what she has learned about food to a wider audience.

“If you want to live simply, you need to eat simply. The beauty is that it’s natural and stronger for your body. Our goal isn’t to eat for racing but to eat for a good, long life.”

While many athletes eschew travel, it’s one of the things Mimi loves about XTERRA and the sport of triathlon in general.

“XTERRA is so good for the body because you are doing different sports and moving the body in different ways,” she says. “It’s also good for our head and our hearts. When we live in a small space, we can become isolated. XTERRA allows me to travel to different worlds and connect with people and life around me.”

Mimi’s athletic prowess will take her around the world this year from her home in Tenerife to XTERRA Malaysia, XTERRA Philippines, XTERRA Mexico, and races on the XTERRA European tour including Switzerland and France. And, you can be sure to see Mimi at the starting line at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui this December.

“I’m excited to be faster on the swim this year,” she says. “After two fourth place finishes in Maui, it will be a pleasure to jump up on the podium.”

Sam Osborne

Osborne, Wasle win XTERRA Saipan

Sam Osborne from New Zealand and Carina Wasle of Austria captured the 16th annual XTERRA Saipan Championship crowns on a windy, yet beautiful Saturday morning in the Northern Marianas.

The win is Osborne’s second major victory on the XTERRA World Tour (he won Sweden, 2015) and it’s the 14th big win in Wasle’s storied 13-year career.

In the men’s race 4x Saipan Champ Ben Allen and Osborne were the first two out of the water, clocking 1.5km swim times of 19:17 and 19:18, respectively. Olympian Yuichi Hosoda was about 30-seconds back with Kieran McPherson close behind, while Brodie Gardner and Bradley Weiss were more than one-minute off the leaders pace.

“It was windy this morning and there was quite a bit of current in the water. I just stayed on Benny’s feet through the swim and we started to climb that hill together on the bike,” said Osborne. “I was able to pull away a little on the bike and towards the top it was Bradley Weiss behind me. I saw him coming and knew I had to have a good descent to keep some space between us because Bradley can run.”

Weiss posted the fastest bike split of the day (1:24:50) and entered the bike-to-run transition about 1:30 behind Osborne, who went on to post the fastest run of the day (50:15) to take the win.

“I was running scared the whole time. I saw what Bradley did in South Africa and know what he is capable of. That run is hard, a lot of jumping and changing direction,” said Osborne, the vice-champion of the XTERRA European Tour who finished 2nd at six of the 10 XTERRA races he competed in last year. “I’m so happy to finally get the win, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ve had so many podiums, it’s great to finally break through.”

Osborne was also in awe of the island itself, saying “It is an amazing place. It seems so untouched, so beautiful. That’s what I really enjoy about this sport is the places. I might never have discovered Saipan if not for XTERRA, and I’m so happy I did. This place is great, the people are warm and so welcoming and the course is pure adventure. I’ve had a blast.”

The Kiwi will now head back to his hometown in Rotorua for XTERRA New Zealand on April 8, then continue his quest to steal the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour title from Allen with stops in the Philippines and Malaysia… “and maybe Tahiti too, I saw that Mauricio is headed there and I might just have to give him a run for his money in Moorea.”

Carina Wasle

In the women’s race it was Wasle from wire-to-wire with the fastest swim, bike, and run splits that added up to a winning time of 3:18:54. She jumped out to an early lead, transitioning from the swim to the bike about 40-seconds ahead of Mieko Carey, and never looked back.

“I had an amazing race today,” said Wasle, who has now won two in a row and three of the last four XTERRA Saipan titles. “I was ahead the whole race, and was able to get in a good rhythm on the uphills, then on the downhills I was clean with no crashes or flats.”

The overcast and windy conditions also played to Wasle’s advantage. “It was relatively cool here in Saipan today with the clouds and even a little breeze.”

Wasle credits her annual warm weather training in South Africa as the key to her success today, saying “I had a really good training camp and I feel good, I feel fit. I worked a lot on my swim and it payed off.”

The pint-sized Austrian will head back to Europe for the season-opener at XTERRA Malta on April 2nd, then try to defend her title at XTERRA Reunion on April 16 before getting back to the Asia-Pacific Tour stops in the Philippines and Malaysia.

XTERRA Saipan was the first of seven races on this year’s XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour. Next up is XTERRA Thailand on April 1 in Phuket, followed by XTERRA New Zealand on April 8, XTERRA Cebu (Philippines) on April 23, the $25,000 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Langkawi, Malaysia on April 29, XTERRA Tahiti on May 6, and the finale at XTERRA Japan in Hokkaido on September 2. Every race counts for points and the tour titles go to the pros and amateurs in each division who collect the most points by the end of the season. Learn more about the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour here.

Tentative Elite Results

Complete Results will be available at www.jtltiming.com upon race completion.

2017 XTERRA ASIA-PACIFIC TOUR ELITE POINT STANDINGS – AFTER 1

Elite Men

PL NAME, NAT TOT SPN THA NZL PHI MAS TAH JPN
1 Sam Osborne, NZL 75 75
2 Bradley Weiss, RSA 67 67
3 Ben Allen, AUS 61 61
4 Kieran McPherson, NZL 56 56
5 Markus Benesch, AUT 51 51
6 Will Kelsay, USA 47 47
7 Yuichi Hosoda, JPN 43 43
8 Brodie Gardner, AUS 39 39
9 Aleksandr Dorovskikh, RUS 36 36
10 Dominik Wychera, AUT 33 33
11 Joe Miller, PHI 30 30
12 Emil Duraj, SVK 27 27
13 Akihiko Maeda, JPN 25 25
14 Michal Bucek, SVK 23 23
15 Takahiro Ogasawara, JPN 21 21

Elite Women

PL NAME, NAT TOT SPN THA NZL PHI MAS TAH JPN
1 Carina Wasle, AUT 75 75
2 Mieko Carey, JPN 67 67

All-time XTERRA Saipan Elite Champions

Year – Men/Women
2002 – Mike Vine/Jamie Whitmore
2003 – Jason Chalker/Jamie Whitmore
2004 – Olivier Marceau/Jamie Whitmore
2005 – Olivier Marceau/Renata Bucher
2006 – Olivier Marceau/Renata Bucher
2007 – Olivier Marceau/Renata Bucher
2008 – Andrew Noble/Renata Bucher
2009 – Sam Gardner/Renata Bucher
2010 – Sam Gardner/Renata Bucher
2011 – Sam Gardner/Shonny Vanlandingham
2012 – Ben Allen/Renata Bucher
2013 – Ben Allen/Jacqui Slack
2014 – Ben Allen/Carina Wasle
2015 – Ben Allen/Jacqui Slack
2016 – Brodie Gardner/Carina Wasle
2017 – Sam Osborne/Carina Wasle

2017 XTERRA World Championship Qualifying Series Schedule
XTERRA Saipan was the third of 41 events where amateur athletes from around the world could qualify to race at the 22nd annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on October 29.

Date
Race
Elite Winners or Location
Feb 25
Richard Murray / Flora Duffy
Mar 4
Dougal Allan / Josie Wilcox
Mar 18
XTERRA Saipan + Silver
Sam Osborne / Carina Wasle
Mar 25
Dique Ullum, San Juan
Apr 1
Phuket
Apr 1
XTERRA Chile # Silver
San Bernardo, Santiago
Apr 2
XTERRA Malta * Silver
Majjistral Nature Reserve
Apr 8
Rotorua, North Island
Apr 9
Playa Reserva Conchal
Apr 16
La Reunion Island
Apr 23
XTERRA Cyprus * Silver
Lara Beach/Akamas, Paphos
Apr 23
Danao, Cebu, Philippines
Apr 29
Langkawi, Malaysia
Apr 30
XTERRA Greece * Silver
Vouliagmeni
May 6
Moorea
May 14
XTERRA Spain * Silver
Taragonna
May 14
XTERRA Brazil # Silver
Ilha Bella, Sao Paolo
May 20
Pelham, AL, USA
May 27
Golega
Jun 10
Namur
Jun 17
Milton, Ontario, Canada
Jun 18
Imatra
Jun 24
Vallee de Joux
Jul 2
Xonrupt
Jul 9
Victoria, B.C., Canada
Jul 15
Beaver Creek, CO, USA
Jul 30
Scanno, Abruzzo, Italy
Aug 5
Tapalpa
Aug 5
XTERRA Norway * Silver
Norefjell
Aug 6
Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Aug 12
Quebec City, Canada
Aug 12
Ontario, Canada
Aug 13
Barahona
Aug 13
XTERRA Poland * Silver
Krakow
Aug 19
Zittau
Aug 26
XTERRA Sweden * Silver
Hammarbybacken, Stockholm
Aug 26
Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
Sep 2
XTERRA Japan + Silver
Hokkaido
Sep 3
Mons Klint
Sep 16
Ogden, Utah, USA
Oct 29
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

* XTERRA European Tour / # XTERRA Pan American Tour / + Asia-Pacific Tour
Silver = Min. $7,500 pro purse & 75-point scale // GOLD = Min $15,000 pro purse & 100-point scale

XTERRA in Canada, Eh!

There are seven XTERRA races from coast-to-coast in Canada in 2017, and each race dishes out qualifying spots for amateurs into the XTERRA World Championship*.

The action starts at the magnificent Kelso Conservation Area with XTERRA Mine over Matter on June 17. It’s Karsten Madsen’s home course, and sits just 40 minutes outside of the bustling city of Toronto.

There are two races on the weekend of July 8-9, is XTERRA Falcon Lake in Manitoba on the 8th followed by XTERRA Victoria (B.C.) 1,500 miles away on the West Coast on the 9th.

Falcon Lake is a new race in the heart of the Canadian Shield – about half way between Kenora and Winnipeg with good proximity to US athletes in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Victoria is one of the true epic courses on the XTERRA World Tour and part of the Pan America Tour for professionals and amateurs offering US$7,500 in elite prize money and Maui slots to first place age groupers in all divisions.

August gets started at XTERRA Canmore, a spectacular destination in the Canadian Rockies. The event is August 6th in a beautiful town with stunning trails to ride and a long-history of great organization.

On August 12th, we have XTERRA Parry Sound in Ontario and XTERRA Quebec City in the French-speaking east coast of Canada. Both races offer up epic trails. The Parry Sound course navigates the newly-opened trail network at the Georgian Nordic Ski Club, while the Quebec course trails were literally custom-built for the race.  Quebec hosts a weekend long offroad festival with three different triathlons, duathlons for kids, swimruns, and trail running.

The last race in Canada is XTERRA Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay, Ontario on August 26. It’s a beauty of a course contained entirely with Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

2017 XTERRA Races in Canada (Maui spots)

June 17 – XTERRA Mine over Matter (14 OPS) – Milton, Ontario, Canada

July 8 – XTERRA Falcon Lake (15) – Falcon Lake, Manitoba

July 9 – XTERRA Victoria, (26) Victoria, B.C., Canada*

August 6 – XTERRA Canmore, (15) Canmore, Alberta, Canada

August 12 – XTERRA Parry Sound (14 OPS) – McDougall, Ontario, Canada

August 12 – XTERRA Quebec – (15) Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

August 26 – XTERRA Sleeping Giant, (6) Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

*See individual race websites for Maui spot breakdowns

XTERRA Blackwater Sells Out

For the third year in a row, the XTERRA Blackwater event in Milton, Florida has sold out almost a month before the April first race date.

“One of the reasons the XTERRA Blackwater is so popular is because the course is challenging for experts but accessible enough for those just entering off-road events,” said race director, Ben Dillon.

Don Morrison of West Brandywine, Pennsylvania is leaving the snowy northeast to kickoff his XTERRA season by doubling up with the XTERRA Blackwater on Saturday and the XTERRA Blackwater Trail Run on Sunday.

“I travel to XTERRA races every year because it’s not just about the race. It’s an adventure with new trails, new friends, and great stories,” says Morrison. “At age 67, I have slowed down a bit, but the enjoyment of being in the woods is what it’s all about.”

As of early March, the water temperature was a chilly 65-degrees, so wetsuits are encouraged. After the 800-yard swim in Bear Lake, competitors will jump on a two-lap, twelve mile trail consisting of single track, fire road, and a brief stretch of pavement. The following 3.75-mile run is on well-maintained single track, with just enough rocks and roots to keep things interesting.

Having participated in more than 30 XTERRA races all over the world, Ben Dillon knows how to put on a great race. He is the founder of Blackwater Multisport, the organization behind both XTERRA events. “I was drawn to XTERRA because I could train for the races the way I used to train when I was an Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Navy.”

U.S. Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmers are one of the top emergency response teams in the world. They routinely complete rescue missions in some of the most extreme environments, including mountain rescues, missions at sea, and humanitarian efforts in remote locations during natural disasters.

“The motto of every Aviation Rescue Swimmer is ‘So Others May Live,” says Dillon. “It’s a privilege to serve at this level, and after I separated from the Navy, I wanted to keep giving back. XTERRA’s “Live More” philosophy is aligned to my own beliefs, and I love to see people test their limits and succeed.”

XTERRA Blackwater is the second race in the XTERRA America Tour, and the first of nine in the Southeast Region. To find how the series works visit XTERRA America Tour.

XTERRA Adventures Into 16th Year of Racing on Saipan

The 2017 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour gets underway Saturday, March 18, at the 16th annual XTERRA Saipan Championship in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Seventeen elites representing 10 countries are on the remote tropical island for the challenge, including recently wed, 4x Saipan Champ Ben Allen of Australia.

“I would love to make history and win it for the fifth time, and I also want to defend my XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour title” said Allen, who married fellow XTERRA Warrior Jacqui Slack over the weekend in Australia.

Allen will have his work cut out for him this year as the men’s field is one of the deepest, fastest, and most unpredictable line-ups ever assembled for this event.

It includes the defending champ Brodie Gardner, also from Australia, who upset Allen in February to win the Australian Cross Triathlon National Title.

“Not only am coming back to defend my title,” said Gardner, “I also want to see more of this truly magnificent and tranquil destination. As for race plans, with such a strong men’s field I’ll aim to execute that same plan as last year where I simply went hard as I could from start to finish and hope to have something left in the tank at the end.”

Reflecting on the Aussie Cross Tri Nationals, Allen said “Brodie’s a good bloke and he put together a phenomenal performance. I didn’t race up to my own standards at that race, however, and learned a pretty harsh lesson that’s been eating me up every time I lace up my shoes or jump on my bike or dive into the water. I have a new fire in my belly now.”

Ben’s perpetual Asia-Pacific Tour nemesis Bradley Weiss from South Africa is also in the mix.  Weiss recently finished 2nd at XTERRA South Africa to Richard Murray (who finished 4th at the Rio Olympics) despite a mechanical on the bike that cost him precious time.

Then there are the formidable Kiwis, Sam Osborne and Kieran McPherson, both coming off breakout seasons on the XTERRA World Tour.  Last year Osborne finished runner-up on the XTERRA European Tour, runner-up at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, runner-up at his hometown race in Rotorua, and runner-up at XTERRA Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Denmark.

“2016 was a good year for me, as you say a lot of 2nd’s but if all the 2nd’s were 1st’s it would have been an incredible year, BUT, they weren’t so yea I want to go and win some races this year,” said Osborne. “I haven’t placed a lot of pressure on myself to go and chase a win, I just want to be good at the moment, make good decisions, have good legs, and good race craft.  If I do that I’ll be happy and that should bring the good results.”

Osborne, like all first-timers to Saipan, is excited for the experience, saying “I didn’t really know where Saipan was before I decided to come here. After consulting Uncle Google though, it looks like a pretty epic place to have a race.  And we’ll see about the heat. I’ve had a look at the weather, and it looks like the heat isn’t anything outrageous but the humidity is going get you.”

As for the competition, Osborne added “There is a pretty decent field coming, especially this early in the season and to start the Asia-Pacific Tour off. Looks like we all must have had the same idea … great minds think alike!  There are the obvious hitters Benny & Brad. Brad’s going well from his South African races. Benny’s an Aussie and they are always crafty buggers so you’ve got to watch them, but he just tied the knot though so could be a bit sleep deprived.   And, there are other guys who are more than capable of stirring things up. I know Yuichi (Hosoda) from road racing, and have seen how he swims first hand when he’s been in NZ for some of our races.  Fresh off Abu Dhabi, I’m sure he’ll be dangerous.”

As for McPherson, he finished 5th overall in his first full season on the XTERRA Pan America Tour last year and got better as the season progressed, posting a 3rd place showing at the Dominican Republic and a runner-up finish at XTERRA Mexico.

“I’m looking forward to another long and busy season,” said McPherson.  “I’m still hoping to fly under the radar like last year.  My lead up has been good and I guess the rest we will all just have to wait and see.”

Former XTERRA Japan Champion Takahiro Ogasawara, who was 2nd at this race last year, is joined by countrymen Yuichi Hosoda – a 2012 Olympian, and Akihiko Maeda.  Filipino star Joe Miller, who was third last year, is also back in the mix.

A pair of Austrians – Dominik Wychera and Markus Benesch – add some European Tour flavor to the race.  Wychera had three top 10’s in Europe last year and finished 18th in final standings.  Benesch placed in the top 15 at Malta, Italy, and Poland and was 32nd overall.

Others on the start list include familiar faces like former Mr. XTERRA Will Kelsay, the ever-popular Michal Bucek from Hong Kong, a regular from Russia named Aleksandr Dorovskikh, and a relative unknown from Slovakia, Emil Duraj.

In the women’s race Carina Wasle is back to defend her title and Mieko Carey returns to try and steal it away from her.

“I feel good and ready to race on Saturday,” said Wasle, who has more than a dozen wins on the World Tour in her 12-year career. “Most of my preparation for the upcoming season I did in South Africa. It was a perfect training camp with XTERRA South Africa at the end.”

Wasle was running in third position at South Africa before having to pull the plug due to cramps…“The race went well until the last 2km on the run,” she explained.  “I was in a safe 3rd position, but then I started to cramp very bad and had no chance to even walk to the finish.  Now I’m in Saipan and can’t wait to race on this course, it’s so unique. The bike has lots of very steep climbs and some very slippery trails through the jungle, and the run is the most technical course I’ve ever done. It goes through the jungle, under and over trees, lots of slippery roots and rocks, a cave, and many jumps that make it a hard challenge.”

For Carey, taking the quick flight from her home in Guam back to Saipan signals a return to her XTERRA roots.

“Saipan is a special place where I met XTERRA and fell in love with it,” exclaimed Mieko Carey, the four-time XTERRA Japan Champion who stumbled upon XTERRA while working at the host hotel many years ago.  “Saipan changed my whole life.  It is here where I found my passion for the sport, and love for the people who all share the same goal, to Live More.”

Saipan is the sports “Crown Jewel” for many reasons, chief among them an amazing course that combines a 1.5-kilometer tropical ocean swim in azure-colored water with a 30km mountain bike route that mixes technical twists with coral climbs to the highest point on the island at 1,500-feet, and finishes with one of the World Tour’s signature run courses traversing heavy jungle, caves used during World War II, and white sand beaches.

“It’s some of the best terrain you will ever come across,” said Allen. “You get beaches, waterfalls and mountains. Plus, the people are some of the happiest in the world and always smiling, no matter what.”

The people. It always comes back to the people when athletes talk about XTERRA Saipan, whether it’s the friendly locals or the friendships they’ve made with other athletes from around the world while on the island.

“I love to come back every year to see all of my friends again,” said Wasle.  “It’s a very small race, but they put lots of energy and love into it, so it’s good to support it. Saipan is a great place.”

Mother Teresa once said “be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

This rings true to XTERRA’s faith in Saipan. Indeed, it’s a small island, roughly 12 miles long and 6 miles wide, and hosts a relatively small field, around 100 racers, but it is strong in beauty, adventure, people, and history.

Some of the sports’ best all-time stories originated in Saipan, from an exploding neighbor island volcano that painted the sky black with ash during the middle of the day to the tsunami threat following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake that played tricks with the ocean currents.

It’s where XTERRA Hall-of-Famer Jamie Whitmore got her career kick-started and where Richard “Doc” Wall saved a man’s life in the middle of the race one year.  Triathlete Magazine named XTERRA Saipan one of the ‘World’s Best” races in 2011, and New York Times bestselling author Marty Dugard wrote about his adventures at XTERRA Saipan in his book, To Be A Runner.

XTERRA first ventured to Saipan in 2002, and 16-years later is still taking racers through caves where Japanese soldiers hid and fought from during the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

“This race is really the epitome of XTERRA, and our motto that Mother Nature is your toughest competitor” said XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas.

Note: The race starts on the same beach where Marines launched their attack in ’44, then the bike course traverses nearly every inch of the island where the battles took place. At the American Memorial Park Museum, many who visit watch a heart-wrenching video on how it all went down, and then walk somberly through the interactive displays.  Saipan is in the middle of the Western Pacific Ocean – 1,300 miles south of Tokyo, 1,400 miles east of Manila, 3,200 miles west of Honolulu, and 2,900 miles north of Sydney.

Elites (By Alpha)

Ben Allen, AUS; Markus Benesch, AUT; Michal Bucek, HKG; Aleksandr Dorovskikh, RUS; Emil Duraj, SVK; Yuichi Hosoda, JPN; Will Kelsay, USA; Akihiko Maeda, JPN; Kieran McPherson, NZL; Joe Miller, PHI; Takahiro Ogasawara, JPN; Sam Osborne, NZL; Bradley Weiss, RSA; Dominik Wychera, AUT; Women: Mieko Carey, JPN; Carina Wasle, AUT

XTERRA SAIPAN ALL-TIME PRO WINNERS

Year        Men                                    Women

2002        Mike Vine                          Jamie Whitmore

2003        Jason Chalker                   Jamie Whitmore

2004        Olivier Marceau              Jamie Whitmore

2005        Olivier Marceau              Renata Bucher

2006        Olivier Marceau              Renata Bucher

2007        Olivier Marceau              Renata Bucher

2008        Andrew Noble                 Renata Bucher

2009        Sam Gardner                   Renata Bucher

2010        Sam Gardner                   Renata Bucher

2011        Sam Gardner                   Shonny Vanlandingham

2012        Ben Allen                           Renata Bucher

2013        Ben Allen                           Jacqui Slack

2014        Ben Allen                           Carina Wasle

2015        Ben Allen                           Jacqui Slack

2016        Brodie Gardner               Carina Wasle

Heather Zimchek-Dunn is Seriously Fierce

Heather Zimchek-Dunn first got on a mountain bike to impress a boy. “He went by the wayside,” she says, “But the bike did not.”

Heather’s love affair with cycling led her to her first XTERRA off-road triathlon in 2013 in La Grande, Oregon, where she won her age group and was the third female overall.

“It was the hardest mountain bike race I’d ever done,” says Heather. “It went straight down this power line trail, and if you braked, you were screwed. I thought, ‘wow, this is pretty awesome.”

Her sophomore showing at XTERRA Black Diamond in August resulted in another age-group win and a ticket to the XTERRA Pan Am Championship race in Ogden, Utah. There, she finished second in her 25-29 age group and qualified for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui a month later.

“Heather is fierce,” says her husband, Jeff Dunn. “She crushes us on the trails and then can drink us under the table afterwards.”

Last year at the Pan Am Champs Heather proved this point by winning her 30-34 age group by five minutes. On the mountain bike section, she jammed down hills on her bike and left many white knuckles in her wake.

“The hardest part of the day was the last 200 yards or so at the top of the mountain bike climb. I was trying to stay in front of the people behind me because my plan was to rip down the hills. I crested that hill with just enough energy for one more pedal stroke.”

Her victory in Utah almost didn’t happen, not because of the course, but because of her husband. “Just about a mile from the finish, I was running down the single track and saw Jeff and then tripped. I came very close to rolling down the mountain. The best part is that he caught it all in a series of photos.”

Heather and Jeff co-own Joy Ride Bikes with three friends in Lacey, Washington. Hundreds of miles of Pacific Northwest single track are in their back yard, so it’s not surprising that the couple’s first date was a trail ride.

“He was on a single speed with a belt drive,” says Heather. “That’s how I knew he was the one.”

While their home base is in Olympia, Washington, the couple has been living in a 20-foot trailer for the last few months while Heather trains in Arizona with her new coach, XTERRA Pro Lesley Paterson of Braveheart Coaching.

“I’m kind of in awe of her,” said Heather. “I’m trying to turn pro this year and having Lesley as my coach gives me confidence. “

Heather enjoys the mathematical thought processes that underlie much of her training. In her former life, she was a civil engineer, and she still has her professional license.

“My boss wouldn’t give me time off for the XTERRA World Championship so I quit,” she says. “But working in an office really wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m too much of a free spirit.”

Heather’s sense of humor, determination, and love of life bode well for her 2017 XTERRA Pan Am circuit. “I just successfully backed our trailer in!” says Heather. “If I can do that, I’m pretty sure anything can happen this year.”

You can follow Heather on Facebook at Heather Zimchek-Dunn , on Twitter @hezbezzer, and on Instagram @hezbez.

XTERRA America Tour About to Get Real

Race Director Bill Driskill wants athletes to be prepared for this year’s XTERRA Real off-road triathlon on March 25th in Granite Bay, California.

“The water will be cold, the air might be colder, and if it rains, it won’t be a warm rain,” he warns with a laugh, suggesting once again that in XTERRA, Mother Nature is your toughest competitor.

XTERRA Real is the first of 50 races on this year’s XTERRA America Tour, and one of the longest tenured events on the schedule now in its 14th year, but did you know the story behind the name XTERRA Real?

“There was another sprint-distance off-road triathlon in Folsom, but the bike was on a flat path along the main bike trail,” says Driskill. “We called ours the ‘Real Mountain Bike Triathlon’ because our course is extreme single track, and extreme off-road riding, just the way we like it.”

The race begins with a brisk half-mile swim in Folsom Lake, where the temperature will be between 50 and 60 degrees, followed by a challenging two-loop, sixteen-mile course around the lake that traverses sand, packed decomposed granite, and lots of climbs and steep descents, and finishes up with a rugged four-mile run over mixed terrain.

With all the great racers in the West Region athletes can count on a stacked field to toe the start line again this year.  Tim Helms, who placed fourth overall in 2016 with a time of 1:51:43, looks to be the top returner from last year.  He will be joined by local speedster Scott Miller, veterans like Dennis Lloyd, 64, who won a regional title in 2012, and newcomers like 17-year-old Dewight Winchester, a talented triathlete from Bryson City, North Carolina.

Register and learn more at XTERRA Real, and to find how the series works visit http://www.xterraplanet.com/races/america-tour.