XTERRA Tiger

Edmonds, Grant win XTERRA Tiger

Chris Edmonds and Christine Grant won the XTERRA Tiger off-road tri in Auburn, Alabama on Saturday and our intrepid correspondent Marcus Barton tells us how it happened…

“Are you an Auburn fan or Alabama fan? Well, regardless of whether you yell “War Eagle!” or “Roll Tide!”, you can race an XTERRA near both of these colleges and their names reflect their alma maters. XTERRA Tiger takes place near Auburn whereas XTERRA Tide takes place near Tuscaloosa.

XTERRA Tiger is one of the earliest races on the circuit and in the southeast. Many come from all over to test the waters of how their training is progressing and to get that racing bug again. Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were well-represented. With it being an early season race, the water temps are low and usually wetsuit legal. As the racers lined up in the water, the temp was still dropping from the day before. At breakfast it was 63, but at race start, it was 56.”

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Rotorua Swim

A Baker’s Dozen in Rotorua

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour rolls into Rotorua on Saturday for the 13th year of racing around the famous Blue Lake.

In the elite men’s race Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz returns to defend his crown following one of his all-time favorite XTERRA experiences in Rotorua last year.

“What a phenomenal course and venue!” exclaimed the four-time XTERRA World Champ on his blog after edging Ben Allen to win it with 40-seconds to spare last year.  “Beautiful blue lake called “Blue Lake” surrounded by green mountains covered with dense tree fern growth 20ft tall … some of the very best and unique single track I’ve ever ridden. This is the adventure and adrenaline I’ve been looking for!”

Stoltz will once again have stiff competition awaiting, this time in the form of Kiwi adventure racing star Braden Currie from Wanaka – who will be making his Rotorua debut – and the 23-year-old hometown hero Olly Shaw from Rotorua who was third last year.

“For me to beat or even contend with both Braden and Conrad I will have to have an awesome day in all three disciplines and use my home course knowledge to my advantage,” noted Shaw, who’s been racing at XTERRA New Zealand since he was 15-years-old.

“As a young elite athlete these are the guys you look up to in the sport so it would be awesome to be racing alongside them. Braden is at the top of his game at the moment and Conrad has more pedigree, knowledge and experience than any other XTERRA athlete so I know it is going to be a tough race but I’m looking forward to the challenge!”

Shaw traveled all around the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour last year with stops in Motatapu, Saipan, Guam, and Australia but insists the Rotorua route is the most special of all.

“The course in Rotorua is a dream XTERRA course,” he says.  “A beautiful fresh water swim in the Blue Lake, surrounded by thick green bush on all sides, followed by both a physically and technically challenging mountain bike taking in some of the best tracks and views the world-class Whakarewarewa Forest has to offer. Then top that all off with a two-lap run around the Blue Lake that is both fast and hard, with an atmosphere that is hard to match anywhere. To make it even better the temperature at this time of year in New Zealand always makes for close, fast racing so Saturday will be exciting!”

In the women’s race American stand-out Suzie Snyder is fulfilling a bucket-list dream to toe the start line in Rotorua and will be up against a host of strong local elites like Sarah Backler, Lizzie Orchard, and Rachel Challis.

“I’ve been working really hard this off-season and I’m feeling good about my fitness going into the year so I’m really excited about the season,” said Snyder, the 2012 XTERRA U.S. National Champ.  “I’m really excited to be here, it’s been in my list for about five years now since bumping into Jay Shelgren at Worlds in 2010.”

Shelgren is an XTERRA amateur racer from New York who lives in New Zealand now and has been taking Snyder around to show her the trails.

For Backler, a 32-year-old industrial designer and creator of beautiful porcelain objects from nearby Tauranga, XTERRA was a passion brought on by her husband that has turned into more than just a hobby.

“I watched my husband get hooked by XTERRA in 2010, and decided that if he was going to continue I didn’t want to be a supporter and should give it a go,” explained Backler.  “2011 was my ‘taster’ at XTERRA Rotorua, AND 2012 was the chance to do it a little better and the trend has continued ever since.”

Indeed it has. In 2012 she won the amateur title at Rotorua then went to Maui and won the 30-34 XTERRA World Championship crown.  Turning pro was the logical “next challenge.”

Last year Backler finished third at XTERRA New Zealand behind ITU star Barbara Riveros and many-time XTERRA champ Jacqui Slack, neither of whom are on the start list this year.  As for being one of the favorites to win it, Backler humbly defers…

“It’s always hard to know who will be lining up on race day and what form they are in as there aren’t a lot of other XTERRA races in NZ. It hasn’t really been a scenario that I’ve given a lot of thought to as there are others I know who are very capable of that position. What I do know is if I can have the race I’ve been training for, leave nothing in the tank and enjoy it I’ll be very satisfied and happy with a job well done.”

Speaking of well done, organizer Frank Clark and his team from First Tier Sports Productions have been putting on a first tier event since 2003.  The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival is one of the single biggest multisport events in the world, with more than 2,000 racers taking part in a variety of challenges including a 5.5 km, 11km or 21km walk or run, a 26km mountain bike as well as a team or individual triathlon.

“At XTERRA we want everyone to “Live More” so that means getting out there and giving it a go, whether it be doing the 11km trail walk or racing on an XTERRA team.  We have events for everyone, including a Kids Zone,” said Clark, a racer himself who went head-to-head against the likes of Conrad Stoltz in France back in the 90’s.

More information can be found at www.xterra.co.nz and follow along on race day, April 11, on their Facebook page atfacebook.com/pages/Paymark-XTERRA-Rotorua-Festival.

Renata Bucher

XTERRA Guam Celebrates 11th Year

The 11th annual XTERRA Guam Championship on Saturday will serve as the third of five stops on the 2015 XTERRA Asian Tour, and most of the major players are on island to take part.

In the men’s race all eyes are on Brad Weiss from South Africa, who won the XTERRA Philippines Championship to open the season,  and Ben Allen from Australia, who won the XTERRA Saipan Championship just two weeks ago.

“I’ve been out here for almost a month now and these races (Saipan/Guam) are tough, honest courses,” said Allen, the 2012 and 2013 XTERRA Guam Champ.  “It gives you an idea as to where you are at, at the beginning of the season. Steep climbs, natural rugged terrain and the heat and humidity provide the perfect opportunity to race and train in similar conditions to Maui for the World Champs.  It’s also a great stepping stone towards the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs which is the main focus for the first half of the season.”

Nearly a dozen pros this year used the Tagaman Triathlon, XTERRA Saipan, and XTERRA Guam races as a great excuse to live and train in the Marianas for a month.

“Being in the warmth and getting your daily dose of vitamin D, always brings a smile to your face. You spend your days’ outdoors exploring and living life, the way we should…” is how Allen described it.

For Weiss, the trip came at a great time for a mix of solid training and healthy recovery from an early ITB issue.

“Training is finally back to some form of normality but the body is certainly feeling a little sluggish with the added running volume,” said Weiss.  “Just incredibly grateful to be running pain free again and the injury seems to be well and truly a thing of the past. Guam provides a really challenging mountain bike course and truly tests the full array of skills. It has it all from steep climbs to fun flowing pump track style racing. It really is a favorite of mine and I look forward to racing here on the 11th. It has already been a great week of training and I look forward to continuing the momentum into next week. I may be a little fatigued going into the race but there is a long season ahead I must prepare for. Regardless, racing in Guam is always incredibly fun.”

The elites racing overseas have also been of great value to the local community, and have taken advantages of opportunities to meet with the island youth and inspire them with their stories.

“Kanae Quinn (long-time XTERRA racer and supporter from Saipan) gave me the opportunity to come and talk with her students about my job of being a professional XTERRA athlete as well as the country I come from,” said Weiss.  “Many had never heard of South Africa or triathlon for that matter. A truly awesome experience all round. I am very grateful to Kanae and what she’s doing.  It’s very cool to see how she’s helping the local students broaden their horizons.”

In the women’s race the reigning and three-time XTERRA Guam Champ Renata Bucher is back to defend her title, but will be up against familiar foes (friends, really) in recent Saipan winner Jacqui Slack, hometown favorite Mieko Carey, and Austrian Carina Wasle.

“This will be my 3rd time in Guam,” said Slack, who won the 2013 edition. “Similar to Saipan I love the natural courses as opposed to the man-made trails.  There is heaps of climbing and riding in the red dirt is something special, it’s a great test of awareness and ability as you have to negotiate the terrain to pick the correct lines.   We also have a great home stay, we love spending time with Cameron and Karly as they show us all the best spots on Island.  Eric’s band is pretty good too and makes for a pretty awesome after party.”

Indeed “Mojo” has been rocking XTERRA for a decade now.

As for her favorite part of the course, Slack says “it has to be the waterfall, you need to be pretty gutsy to allow yourself to jump from those heights into the rock pools it’s pretty slippery so a good level of skill and fearlessness is required.”

Like the others, Slack said she relishes the opportunity to race in train on the islands.

“It’s pretty incredible to be able to train on mountainous terrain, natural bush land and crystal clear waters, being on a small island allows you to relax and recover much easier as there are less distractions. It’s been great to get into a routine and I’ve had plenty of time to prepare well for Guam and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs next weekend.”

Wasle, who travels as much as anyone around the world with XTERRA, is quick to agree…

“After XTERRA Saipan I stayed one-week longer on this beautiful island together with Austrian Markus Benesch, who will also compete at XTERRA Guam,” said Wasle.  “The training was quite good and also quite fun biking and running through the jungle. Swimming in the ocean is just amazing. Warm water and lots of fish. I have never sweat so much, but now I think I’m better used to the heat and humidity.  Beside training and getting ready for the next race, there was so much fun things to do, like archery, paddeling, snorkeling, basketball, surfing…..It never got boring. Perfect training and racing vacation.”

xterraisland.com // www.facebook.com/XTERRA-Guam // @xterraguam // #xterraGuam

Janet Soule

Paterson, Soule Stand Out

Two XTERRA racers deserve some special recognition this week.

The first is Braveheart warrior Lesley Paterson, who quite literally swam with one arm at XTERRA Costa Rica this week because she tore a tendon while pre-riding and couldn’t rotate her shoulder.

“I couldn’t lift my arm above my head so I had to do the whole swim one armed…1500-meters is a long way with one arm! I had to have the other one down by my side,” she explained.

Paterson’s swim split was 33:27, a full 12-minutes slower than Sara McLarty and more than six minutes behind eventual runner-up Emma Garrard.

She erased most of that deficit with the fastest bike split of the day then made up the rest with a blistering fast run (and bloody shoes thanks to the sandy insides).

Also of note this week is Janet Soule from Davis, California.

The 53-year-old who won her division at XTERRA REAL on Saturday, then a half-marathon the day after. Earlier in the month she took home top honors for her work as a public relations professional and before that took home some trophies at a body building competition. And, if you know Janet, all that pales in comparison to how genuinely sweet she is as a person.

Camp Eagle Top Female

Cartwright, Etherton Win in Texas

The XTERRA Texas series got underway at Camp Eagle in Rocksprings, TX on Saturday to the delight of winners Jack Cartwright and Melanie Etherton.

“It was a very good day,” explained Cartwright, the reigning 40-44 XTERRA National Champ who finished in 1:43:25, two minutes ahead of 11x South Central Region Champ Kyle Grieser.

“I came out of the water right with Kyle and we rode together up the first super technical climb, passing the few others who were ahead from their faster swims. I had a small crash (or rather put my foot down and had to get moving again) on the technical descent into the river bed and Kyle opened a 30-45sec gap on my. From there I kept him nearly in sight and decided I would bridge and pass him on the last long climb in the final 3km of the course. On that climb, I committed to making the pass stick and went by him and another guy (3rd place guy Donnie Bunker I believe) without looking back and once over the top, I drilled the descent to ensure they did not pull me back. Going into T2, I was all alone and the run (if you can call it that) was uneventful. It was a brutal run course, perhaps a bit too brutal. I am a sub 35min 10k runner and my pace on that run course was over 8min per mile.  I did love the bike course, it ranks as one of the best in Texas, especially since it has some real elevation rather than only rolling rock gardens like Reveille Peak and Muleshoe.”

In the women’s race four-time South Central Region Champ Melanie Etherton and Texas Series regular looked in fine form after focusing more on her engineering career than her racing career over the past couple years.

“Race Revolutions put on an excellent race – everything from race-preparation schedule and packet-pick up/registration to the swim/bike/run and the post-race food was well organized and went smoothly,” said Etherton.

“The XTERRA race at Camp Eagle in the heart of the Texas hill country is always a highlight. On race day we were excited to line up with many of our long-time friends and a few new ones in the clear water of the Nueces River. My swim went well and after the long climb on the limestone stairs from the river to the transition zone, I was excited to get on the bike and start my favorite leg of the race. Less than a mile into the ride Steve (her husband who finished 5th overall) caught up with me. I let him pass and was able to keep up with him for almost 4 more miles, which made the ride even more fun. Both the bike and the run courses were significantly different this year, and the run course was tough. Due to lack of run training over the winter (foot injury and cyclocross were the culprits), I didn’t have high hopes for the run, but the relatively high temperatures, the climbs and technical terrain made it a big challenge. The generous encouragements from fellow racers, volunteers and the beautiful hill country views kept me going and I finished the race worn out and happy. The post-race party was fun as always and is part of the reason why we race.”

Complete results

Matt Balzer

Balzer, Sullivan win XTERRA REAL

The stars were out at the 13th annual XTERRA REAL off-road triathlon in Granite Bay, California, the first of four races in The Golden State this year.

2013 overall amateur XTERRA National Champ Matt Balzer from Reno, Nevada took home the men’s title in 1:44:54, a little more than four minutes ahead of the reigning 15-19 division XTERRA National Champ David Duncan.

“David’s progress is amazing,” said Balzer, who played a big role in the success of JP Donovan who won the overall amateur XTERRA National title last year. “Two years ago he was 20min behind me, last year about 8 and this year 4 or less.  I am launching my new team very soon, Sierra Endurance Sports and David is already a teammate!  I figure if he’s going to be beating me soon I need to get him on the team early.”

The top three spots in the women’s race went to the pros – Debby Sullivan (1:58:57), Kara LaPoint (2:00:09) and Kelsey Withrow (2:03:42) while Sian Turner, the 30-34 XTERRA National Champ, took the amateur crown.

“It was a good race this weekend,” said Sullivan. “The conditions were perfect with a beautiful sunny day in the mid-70s and the course was running fast.  It felt great to get back into XTERRA and shake out the cobwebs. I felt like I was able to put together a strong race the whole way through. My swim went well but I knew I had my work cut out on the bike as Kelsey Withrow was racing and she put the whole field to work, way ahead of everyone on the swim. I was able to catch her on the bike about 3/4 of the way through the first lap of the two-lap course but I knew Kara was right on my heels out of the water. I also knew that the one thing that has not suffered from her hand injury was her run. So, I wanted to gain as much as I could on the bike. Turned out to be enough to hold!”

Withrow was indeed impressive in the swim, posting a 12:39 split that was best in the field, men included. Also of note, UFC stars Nick and Nate Diaz were in the field, but the real stars are the organizers at TBF racing.

“They do an amazing job at all their races,” said Balzer.

http://totalbodyfitness.com / Complete results

Brigitte Poor

More From XTERRA Malta

Brigitta Poor from Hungary, who has been racing XTERRA since 2009, picked up her first big win at XTERRA Malta over the weekend. We caught up with her post-race for a few questions:

XTERRA: What was the course like?
Brigitta Poor: I was lucky to spend a whole week on this beautiful island, Malta. We discovered the bike course few days earlier before the race. First time we shocked how rocky is it and how steeps are the climbs. The organizers find a perfect route for this competition with amazing view on the see. One thing what surprised me the muddy sections on the trail because of the previous days rains. To summarize it: it was a fantastic and unforgettable race! Congrats to organizers of XTERRA Malta!

XT: When did you take the lead?
BP: The swim was a little bit shorter but wavy, it helps me get the lead. I was the first woman out of water. After on the bike I gave more minutes to my race mates. Finally on the run I kept my lead.

XT: Is this your first big XTERRA win?
BP: This is my first Pro XTERRA win. Four years ago I won the ITU Cross Triathlon U23 World Champion title.

XT: How long have you been racing XTERRA?
BP: In 2009, Austria was my first XTERRA race. It was love at first sight!

XT: What other races will you do this year?
BP: I plan to go most of the European XTERRA races and at the end of the season XTERRA World Championship on Hawaii if everything goes all right!

We also caught up with the men’s winner, Nico Fernandez of France, who had a breakout win of his own in Malta. Interesting note, Nico was the 20-24 XTERRA World Champion back in 2007.

XT: When did you take the lead?
NF: I took the lead at 6km on the bike, and kept it through the finish.

XT: What were the conditions like?
NF: The conditions were very good: there were good waves, sun and a little wind. I like the dry and sunny conditions. I live in the south of France and it’s the same weather.

XT: Why did you choose to race Malta?
NF: This winter, I prepared for the XTERRA season and Malta was the first race in the European Tour.                                                             It’s also very easy to come from France to Malta.

XT: What other XTERRA races will you do this year?
NF: I will race at three or four XTERRA’s in Europe but I’m not sure which ones yet. My calendar is not organized.                                                             I also hope to be in Maui in November.

XT: How does it feel to get your first big XTERRA win?
NF: I’m very happy, and now I’ll race other XTERRA with the favorites from the World Tour and see where I am.

XT: What other XTERRA races have you done, when was your first?
NF: 3 times XTERRA France, 1x XTERRA Switzerland in 2013, and Maui in the 20-24 age group in 2007.                                                             My first XTERRA is in France in 2007 in Auron.  I’ve always liked XTERRA but I had tried Ironman for a few years but now back with XTERRA.

HONORING LINDA SCATTOLIN IN MALTA

Dario Nardone, the founder and editor of FCZ.it, an Italian-based triathlon website, raced at the XTERRA Malta off-road triathlon on Sunday to honor the memory of his dear friend Linda Scattolin who passed away after an accident while cycling in Stellenbosch, South Africa two weeks ago.

“I raced to remember my great friend Linda,” said Nardone, who finished second in the sprint race. “My girlfriend Emanuela and I accompanied a group of 25 Italian triathletes who all raced in Malta.”

Scattolin was on a training ride with fellow Italian triathlete Edith Niederfriniger who was also injured when a bus lost control and ran into them (read more from slowtwitch).

Ruben Ruzafa

Ruzafa wins First Race of XTERRA Spain Tour

Reigning and two-time XTERRA World Champion Ruben Ruzafa opened the 2015 XTERRA season with a celebratory homecoming race, XTERRA Axarquia – Costa del Sol in Malaga, Spain on Saturday.

“Running at home is special, it allows you to be spend more time with the people you love,” said Ruzafa. “It’s exciting to see so many people here that I’ve known for a long time. It was also a very well organized race and that means a lot to me.”

The race itself was long and hard, and Ruzafa overcame two flats and the overwhelming desire to give up before crossing the line with his goddaughter in his arms with a winning time of 3:51:58, more than six-minutes ahead of runner-up David Bernal.

“On the descent of ‘La Cucaracha’ I punctured the rear wheel and I thought about retiring, but I really wanted to finish and I fought to the transition,” said Ruzafa, who rode the last eight kilometers on the rim.

Nati Gomez won the women’s elite race in 5:13:47, saying “the bike was spectacular, but very hard. I think it was the toughest bike I’ve seen in any circuit, certainly the most demanding on the XTERRA Spain Tour. It had all the right XTERRA characteristics: exigency, environment…”

The race was the first of six in the XTERRA Spain Tour. Next up is the marquee event on the Tour in Plasencia (Extremadura), home to the XTERRA Spain Championship race on June 7.

Learn more at xterraspain.es … and watch them dance here: http://youtu.be/epNCysQlMks

Caroline Steffens

Steffen to Race XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in New South Wales

Caroline Steffen, one of the most decorated triathletes of the 21st century, is the latest in a string of high-profile racers to add their name to the start list of the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship to be held April 18 at Callala Beach in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

“It will be my first off-road triathlon and I’m so excited about it,” said Steffen, winner of Ironman Australia (2011), Challenge Roth (2013), two ITU Long Course World Championships (2010/12), two IM Asia-Pacific titles (2012/14), and two IM European Championships (2011/12).

She joins a women’s elite field that includes reigning XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, four-time XTERRA European Tour Champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland, former XTERRA USA National Champion Suzie Snyder, XTERRA Triple Crown champ Jacqui Slack of the United Kingdom, and eight-time World Tour race winner Carina Wasle of Austria.

As for her expectations, Steffen says she plans on “having heaps of fun and gaining some insight into a new sport.”

“I’m just coming off a huge block of training and raced the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships two weeks ago in Melbourne (where she finished third). I had some well-deserved rest and will start ramping up my training again next week. With two weeks to go, I’ll spend some time on my bike to improve my bike skills and will add some open water swims to my usual swim training. Will keep my run the same, nice balance between off-road/track/concrete.”

Although Steffen is new to XTERRA she’s no stranger to mountain bikes and the great outdoors and with a nickname like “Xena the Warrior Princess,” should fit right into the XTERRA scene.

“I was an outdoor kid from a young age and before I started with triathlon I spent most of my time on the mountain bike exploring the Swiss Alps,” said Steffen, who grew up in a small village in Switzerland surrounded by mountains. “Sadly, however, as I moved towards triathlon and relocated to Australia I had to leave my passion – my mountain bike – behind.”

Steffen has made Mooloolaba her home base for six years now but having never visited Callala Beach before said she’s looking forward to discovering the beauty of New South Wales.

As the most prestigious event in the XTERRA Asia-Pacific series that includes championship races in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Guam, Tahiti, and Saipan – the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship offers $50,000 in prize money to the sport’s top professional athletes and a television show for international distribution.

The men’s elite field is equally stacked with seven-time World Champ Conrad Stoltz of South Africa, hometown hero and two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson from the Gold Coast, Kiwi adventure racing star Braden Currie, and Australian XTERRA superstar Ben Allen from Wollongong leading the way.

The main event combines a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim at Callala Beach, approximately two and a half hours south on Sydney, with 30-kilometers of mountain biking followed by 10-kilometers of trail running.

The event lures amateur and professional athletes from around the world to New South Wales, and locals flock to the event in pursuit of XTERRA Australia Championship honours. The off-road sports festival weekend also includes a sprint distance off-road triathlon, trail runs, and relay team competitions attracting more than 500 competitors of all ages.

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, which again doubles as the XTERRA Australia Championship, is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

For more information and links to registration for the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship visit www.xterraasiapacific.com.

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. Presenting sponsors include John Paul Mitchell Systems, the world’s largest privately owned professional salon hair care company, Outrigger Resorts – one of the largest and fastest growing privately-held leisure lodging, retail and hospitality companies in the Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions, 220 Triathlon Australia/NZ, and XTERRA Wetsuits & Boards Australia – the official swim sponsor.