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.

XTERRA Couch to Trail – Buying Your First Mountain Bike

Looking to put a little excitement into your life? Want to venture off road to escape traffic and congestion? Attracted by friends’ tales of sweet singletrack and fantastic stories of XTERRA racing? You’ve got the mountain-bike bug. Good for you. Now’s a great time to buy that sweet fat-tire that’ll satisfy all your dirt dreams.  Delving into any new activity isn’t easy, and mountain bikes—with their newfangled suspension designs, high-tech parts, and myriad accessories—can be seriously intimidating. The myriad of prices, models and types of mountain bikes available makes the process not unlike buying a car. This guide will give you the info you need to be an informed buyer with realistic expectations about what you need and what you can afford.

One thing: It’s not going to be inexpensive. High-quality, intro-level bikes start around $2,000 to $2,500, depending on what features you want, and prices climb dramatically from there. You can get a good bike for less than that (if you buy it used), but you’ll need to spend money on pedals, riding shoes, helmet, and a pump, at the very least.

The good news: After the initial investment, mountain biking is pretty cheap. Bikes can last for years, and almost everywhere has dirt roads and trails you can ride for free. Once you’re set up and shredding on dirt, we pretty much guarantee you’re never going to want to go back to pavement!

Do A Little Homework First:

Before you rush in and kick some knobbies, though, think about how and where you’ll ride. You’ll find that there’s a fascinating range of off-road bikes and equipment; so much so, that shoppers are sometimes struck with analysis paralysis and have difficulty picking the right bike. What type of mountain biking suits you best?  For example, are you the type who has to have the best or would you be happier getting reasonable quality at a pleasing price point? Do you like simple designs or are you infatuated with cutting-edge technology? Will you keep this bike for ten years or more or are you thinking that you’ll upgrade as your skills and interests develop?

While you’re soul searching, give some thought to how much you’d like to spend on your new bike. Keep in mind that you often need accessories with new-bike purchases, such as a helmet, gloves, pedals and shoes. Because these will add to the bike’s purchase price, include some extra in your budget. Modern mountain bikes can cost as much as $10,000, and while these bikes are super cool, there is no need to spend that much to get a bike that will allow you to have a safe and fun ride on the trail.

What can I get for my money?

  • Budget-Minded: $500 – $1,000

In this range you can score a decent hardtail, perhaps even a 29er, or even start looking at entry level full suspension bikes. You can probably find a good, used bike in this range.

  • Mid-range: $1,000 – $1,500

Once you get over $1000, options open up in the clearance and model year close-out choices. There are a number of full suspension bikes and really nice hardtails in this range. These bikes will start to have the same frames as the pricier models, just with cheaper components. Choosing one of these sets you up to upgrade-as-needed with better parts.

  • Upper mid-range: $1,500 – $3,500

With a little shopping around, you can buy a bike in this category that will last you for years. Most local shops will have race-ready hardtails and decent cross-country or trail full suspension models in this price range. You will also start to see carbon fiber models.

  • Going for the Gold: $3500+

If you have this kind of money to drop on a bike, you don’t really need to worry about price per se. You will be more concerned with getting a bike that exactly matches your riding style with sweet components to boot.

Now…let’s talk about frame materials

Aluminum: The most common material for modern bike frames; aluminum is relatively light and durable, and has good ride qualities; it provides a reliable all-round performance.

Carbon fiber: This composite material is super light, super strong, and has vibration absorbing properties. Carbon fiber bike frames are a relatively modern introduction for mountain bikes, but they offer the highest level of performance of all frame materials.

Steel: Steel frames are renowned for their comfort, strength and durability. Steel is quite a heavy frame material though, and therefore despite its good ride qualities, it is used less commonly.

Titanium: Titanium is the metal used by a lot of aircraft manufacturers; it is expensive, but it has become a bespoke choice for bicycle frame manufacture. The unique look and outstanding strength are the main attractions.

What’s with all these tire sizes?

Historically, mountain bikes had wheels that were 26 inches in diameter; it was the standard wheel/tire size for all off-road bicycles. In the late 1990s though, people started to experiment with larger wheel sizes; namely 29 inch wheels (29ers), which is the same wheel size as a 700c wheel on a road bike. Larger wheels roll over obstacles more easily, and although they are slightly heavier and a bit less responsive, the new standard quickly grew in popularity; this was because of the tire’s ability to provide better traction and speed, particularly for cross country racing. Other advantages of a 29-inch wheel are that you can pedal at the same speed with less effort, you are more stable, and it gives a hardtail bike some of the advantages of suspension without the additional cost.

Although 29 inch wheels became popular with cross-country riders, downhill racers largely stuck with 26 inch wheels. This split was because of the nature of downhill riding, which demands ‘snappier’ handling; the smaller wheels and shorter wheelbase of the 26 inch wheeled bike still met these demands best. Then, in the mid-2000’s, bike manufacturers brought in a half-way-house option… the 27.5 inch (650b) wheeled bike. This new standard has become the most popular with Downhill, Enduro and Trail bikes, providing a good balance between straight-line speed and quick control, while 29 inch wheels remain the most popular for cross-country speed demons!

Some manufacturers however, have now started making small size frames for XC bikes only in a 27.5 inch wheel size.  They felt they had to compromise too much with the frame geometry to accommodate the larger wheels.  Trek is one example.  All their small size frames come with 27.5 inch wheels.

So what should you buy?  Obviously, it depends on your size.  If you are 5’2 you probably want a 27.5 inch wheel.  If you’re 6’2, a 29 inch wheel might suit you better.  But, with that said, plenty of tall riders prefer 27.5 inch wheels because of their handling capabilities.  Test ride both and see what feels best.  My guess is you won’t be able to tell that much difference!

Types of Bikes:

Mountain bikes can be broken down into a few broad categories: cross-country (XC) for racing and going fast, trail bikes for general use and all-around mountain riding, all-mountain or enduro for more technical trails, and downhill (DH) for flat-out descending. Don’t get caught up in the labels—everyone has their own definitions. What’s important to understand is that all bikes fit somewhere on this continuum, and choosing the right style means balancing a handful of considerations, including frame geometry, design and amount of suspension, and weight.

Most likely you will want to choose a cross-country (XC) mountain.  If you are going to be doing any racing at all, a cross-country mountain bike is what you want. Keep in mind cross-country mountain bikes are also versatile enough for most trails you come across.

Below are brief descriptions of each of the four categories:

XC bikes are typically the lightest, have the least amount of suspension, and are built with steeper geometries that favor pedaling. They’re often rigid (no suspension), hardtails (suspension up front only), or, if they have dual suspension, have around four inches (100 millimeters) of travel. This is what most XTERRA racers ride.

On the other end of the spectrum, DH bikes are always full suspension and built with extremely slack geometries that are great for tearing down hills but not great at pedaling. They’re also heavy so they can take a lot of abuse and tend to have around eight inches (200 millimeters) of travel.

Trail bikes are in the middle of the specturm and they do a lot of things well.  These can be hardtails, which keep the complication factor and cost down. (It is not recommended to go with a  fully rigid design for your first mountain bike—the lack of suspension will probably make you miserable.) More often, trail bikes have full suspension, with somewhere between 4.7 inches (120 millimeters) to 5.5 inches (140 millimeters) of travel. The general rule of thumb is the more travel your bike has, the easier and more comfortable it is to negotiate obstacles. The additional suspension also adds weight, however, which makes pedaling and climbing tougher.

Enduro bikes sit closer to the DH end of the spectrum with six or seven inches of travel. If you live around rocky trails or want to focus on big-hit riding, this is a good category to look at. But for the most part, a beginner rider will be best served by a XC or trail bike.

Bikes come in male and female specific and most range in size from XS-XL or are sized by seat tube height in inches.  The seat tube height is the distance from the center of the bottom bracket (where your crank arms connect to the frame) to the top of the seat tube (where the seat post enters the frame).  Work with the bike shop so they can tell you what size bikes you should demo and whether male or female sizing is best for you. (Ladies, I have been racing mountain bikes for over 10 years and have only ridden unisex bikes with no problem so look at your arm and leg length to see which is a better fit.  For reference, I am 5’2.) Women’s specific bikes often have a shorter top tube, narrower handlebars, shorter stems (what connects the handlebar to the bike), shorter cranks (the part connected to the pedals), wider saddles, smaller diameter grips, shorter reach on the brake levers, adjusted fork and shock for the lighter weight rider, and feminine color choices.

Hardtail or Full Suspension:

Hardtails offer a lightweight bike, with just front suspension. These bikes have a fully rigid rear end, and are ideal for a wide variety of trails. Hardtails offer a simplicity that full suspension bikes simply can’t compete with. Having only front suspension enables bike manufactures to make hardtail frames incredibly light, and in a sport where weight matters, the lighter the better.  With no moving parts like bushings, bearings and pivots, a hardtail is also far easier and cheaper to maintain. This is especially telling if you live in an area where mother nature takes her toll, as all that rain, mud, salt and sand can work its way into your moving parts, which can be expensive to replace.  It’s clear a hardtail will suffer on the descents compared to a fully sprung bike, but take an honest look at where and what type of riding you do. Many people don’t have the luxury of huge gnarly trails to ride everyday, so a hardtail could be a valid choice for someone on more subdued terrain. And if you like rides where the climbing is measured in the thousands rather than hundreds of meters, the feathery weight of a hardtail should have you flying up the trails.  Finally, there’s nothing like a hardtail to bring on your overall riding skills. Without rear suspension, the margin for making errors on technical terrain becomes much smaller. This causes you to think extra hard about line choice and body position, which will only help your overall riding in the long run.

Full suspension mountain bikes offer the rider increased comfort and control. The front and rear suspension cushions the rider from the impacts on the trail. The weight penalty is comparatively small compared to what it used to be, with most full suspension frames being around 2 lbs. heavier than a hardtail counterpart. Unless you’re an elite racer, this doesn’t make that big a difference when factoring in the fun and comfort of rear suspension.  Full suspension bikes used to suffer from poor pedaling performance, but those days are well and truly over. Manufacturers are now offering front and rear lockout at the flick of a switch, turning your full suspension bike into a mean pedaling machine. Even if you prefer not to use the lockout, the linkages and pivots are now so efficient, you’ll hardly be loosing any energy with the suspension fully open.  Cross country riding is only getting more technical and this is where full suspension bikes really shine.  There’s also the simple fun factor of riding a full suspension bike. That rock garden that had you terrified on a hardtail now becomes a fun feature to barrel over. Struggling on gnarly root section? Full suspension will give you the confidence and handling a hardtail never could. Cross country riding is only getting more technical and this is where full suspension bikes really shine.

Full suspension bikes aren’t cheap, so if your budget is tight, you may get more bang for your buck from a hardtail.  Furthermore, full suspension bikes aren’t without their issues. As mentioned earlier, they’re far more expensive to maintain due to all the extra moving parts, and that’s before you factor in the initial cost of purchase. Simply put, full suspension bikes aren’t cheap, so if your budget is tight, you may get more bang for your buck from a hardtail.

Despite what the marketing hype tells you, there’s no one size fits all when deciding between hardtail and full suspension. Hardtails may be seen as old school, but they’re a reliable, proven technology, whereas full suspension bikes are exciting, versatile machines, that may come back to bite you with cost and maintenance.

As mentioned above, there is also the fully rigid bike option for those with arms and backs of steel.  This type of bike is not recommended for your first mountain bike.

Ready to Take the Plunge – New or Used:

After test riding a couple bikes within your budget, you’ve decided what you want.  The hard part is over.  Now the fun begins!  But some people wonder if they should buy a new bike or a used one.  You will get more bang for your bike if you buy a bike that is one or two years old.  For the most part, bicycles don’t have a very good resale value, which means you can get a really good deal on a used bike.  Buying used gives you a better opportunity to negotiate a better price and stick within a reasonable budget. It’s quite common to find decent used bikes that have only been ridden for one season, and sometimes with less then ten rides on them. If weight is important to you, you can probably find a 1-2 year old carbon frame bike, for the same price as a new aluminum bike. Be cautious though, know how to spot a good AND a bad deal – if you’re unsure, ask your fellow riders for advice, or go speak with staff at the local bike shop to gain more insight. If possible, test ride the bike; you want to know how the bike feels, inspect the components yourself and look for wear and tear first hand. A good seller will have no problems setting up a meeting time and place to accommodate a test ride.  This is also gives you the opportunity to make sure the bike fits you properly.  Getting the bike inspected by a local bike shop or certified mechanic is a good idea as well.

In Summary:

There has never been a better time to buy a mountain bike!  Think hard about these things before heading off to your local bike store or looking for a used bike.  And remember to test out as many bikes as possible!

  • What kind of bike do I want?
  • What is my budget (don’t forget to factor in accessories)
  • What frame material?
  • Hardtail or Full Suspension?
  • What size wheels?
  • Women’s Specific Design (applies only to women)?
  • Used or New?

New or used… once you’ve made your final decision… Congratulations! Now, get out and ride and race! You’ve made a wonderful investment in your health and happiness!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at prsfit@gmail.com

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Allan, Wilcox win XTERRA Motatapu

Kiwi’s Dougal Allan and Josie Wilcox took the top spots at the UDC Finance XTERRA Motatapu off-road triathlon on Saturday (March 4) with winning times of 4:09:27 and 4:54:06, respectively.

It’s the second win in three years for Allan at Motatapu, and his second win in two weeks on the South Island of New Zealand following his impressive course record-breaking victory at Challenge Wanaka on February 18.

“It was tough, I am not conditioned to the mountains at the moment,” said Allan, who edged last year’s winner Olly Shaw to the tape by just over one-minute.  “I came here because I wanted a good adventure and this is what I used to do, and I still love it. Last week I still couldn’t really walk so I didn’t think I would race, but on about Wednesday I loosened up and knew I would be okay. Today was about having fun though and the win is a bonus. I had a cushion into the final descent over Olly, and thought I could run it softly, but there is no such thing as running an event like this softly!”

Former Nelson Girls High student Josie Wilcox was a surprising but impressive winner of the women’s race, usurping pre-ace favorites Julia Grant and Martina Fellman to take out the win on her first attempt at the iconic event, finishing almost five minutes in front of last year’s champion Mary Gray.

Having returned from a running scholarship in the States in 2014, Wilcox has spent some time on the mountain bike and might have found her niche after an impressive showing.

“This is my first time here so I am very pleased. I started towards the middle of the field in the swim and gave up about five minutes in the technical area on the bike but made up ground on the hills and then on the run – I knew I could do that on the run, that is my strength.”

The XTERRA Motatapu course, which combines a 2km swim with a 47km mountain bike, and 15km trail run is the longest and arguably one of the hardest courses on the entire XTERRA World Tour.  More than half the field took six hours or longer to finish.

The race was the second 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. Here’s a look at the 17 athletes who punched their ticket to paradise on Saturday:

Female 18-24: Mary Gray 25-29: Josie Wilcox 30-34: Femke Hilbink 35-39: Kristy Jennings 40-44: Claire Martin 45-49: Megan Brett 50-54: Kate Hobsley 55-59: Celine Hepworth 60-64: Alison Russell. Male 18-24: Liam Robinson 25-29: Tyrone Hellyer 30-34: Adam Wilson 35-39: Matt Randall 40-44: Stephen Hurdley 45-49: Nicholas Kensington 50-54: David Cormack 60-64: Chris Seeley 65+: Robert Jackson.

Over 3,500 competitors were treated to a perfect Queenstown Lakes District day for the 13th hosting of the Macpac Motatapu, New Zealand’s iconic one day multi-sport race with walkers, runners, triathletes and mountain bikers competing in a variety of races from the 15km Miners Trail, to the 51km Ultra-Run.

MOTATAPU BY THE NUMBERS: SKODA Mountain Bike – 1,914 riders; Off Road Marathon – 437 runners; Miners Trail – 688 runners; XTERRA UDC Finance Triathlon – 225 triathletes; Ultra-Run – 96 runners. TOTAL = 3,360 racers

Full results CLICK HERE

Nirvana Named Official XTERRA European Tour Travel Partner

(HONOLULU, HI) – TEAM Unlimited LLC, owner and producer of the XTERRA World Tour, today announced Nirvana as the Official XTERRA European Tour Travel Partner.

NirvanaThe Nirvana events team, which boasts more than 15 years of experience in triathlon travel, will provide all the necessary services to ensure XTERRA competitors and spectators enjoy their trip.

“It’s a complete and cost effective service for our athletes,” said XTERRA President Janet Clark.  “From airline flights and airport meet-and-greet, hotel bookings and ground transfers, to providing bike mechanics and masseurs, this team has every detail of travel covered so athletes can simply enjoy the experience and focus on their race.”

There are many benefits to booking with Nirvana, including fully protected flight booking service and world-wide bike shipment arrangement.

“We are extremely proud to be joining the XTERRA family as the Official European Tour Travel Partner,” said Nirvana’s Managing Director Ken Morris.  “Our primary aim is to enhance the experience of all XTERRA competitors and spectators by combining our vast triathlon-related travel knowledge with the personal approach that matters.”

As part of the agreement Nirvana will thoroughly inspect each of the destinations on this year’s XTERRA European Tour to find a range of properties that will suit various budgets, including host hotels.  They can take athletes on pre-rides and runs of the course, and be on-site to assist throughout the trip.  They will also service European athletes who are traveling to Maui for the XTERRA World Championship in October.

“We are very happy to have Nirvana as our Official Travel Partner in Europe. It’s a great service and I am sure our athletes and organizers will benefit from their knowledge and expertise in sports travel,” said XTERRA European Tour marketing director Kostas Koumargialis.

About Nirvana

With a track record of delivering top class event travel since 1999, Nirvana has planned and executed bespoke travel, accommodation and logistical arrangements for thousands of participants and spectators to events spanning the globe. ABTA members and fully licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority, Nirvana can give you the peace of mind that is essential to your event preparation. Continually looking to improve our services, we have added innovative travel solutions over the years that have contributed to our client’s event journey and aspirations. Learn more at nirvanaeurope.com.

About TEAM Unlimited/XTERRA

TEAM Unlimited LLC, founded in 1988, is the Hawaii-based television, events, and marketing company that brought off-road triathlon and trail running to the world under the brand name XTERRA.  From a one-off race held on the most remote island chain in the world XTERRA evolved into an endurance sports lifestyle with worldwide appeal. Over the past 20 years XTERRA transcended its status as ‘just a race’ to become a bona-fide way of life for thousands of intrepid athletes as well as an emerging brand in the outdoor industry.  In 2017 XTERRA will offer more than 200 off-road triathlons and trail running events in 35+ countries worldwide and produce 10 adventure television shows for international distribution.  Learn more at xterraeurope.com, xterraplanet.com and xterracontent.com.