XTERRA Lock 4 Blast Celebrates 15th Year

It might be hard to believe, but the small town of Gallatin, Tennessee holds a piece of off road triathlon history. Gallatin is home to the XTERRA Lock 4 Blast which is tied with Richmond, VA as the second-longest running XTERRA in the continental U.S. (trailing only Ruston).  Saturday, June 29, 2013 marks its 15th year of existence.

Lock 4 Blast RiderSomething else you might not know is that 10 out of those 14 years, the event has been won by Hendersonville, TN resident and professional triathlete, Craig Evans. Evans competed in his very first off road triathlon at Lock 4 in 2002 on a dare.  He didn’t win that year and was even called the “fat guy” as he exited the water, but he said after the race, “I swear I’ll win it next year.” Not only did he win it in 2003, but also every year since!

This year the race is coming full circle with Evans and his business partner, Clifton Duhon, have taken over ownership of XTERRA Lock 4 Blast.

“As an athlete, you don’t really get a behind the scenes look at everything that goes into putting on a race. It’s been a fun challenge for me to see that side of things,” said Evans.

“For me, the most exciting part is owning a piece of history,” said Clifton Duhon. “I got a taste of the off road lifestyle last year as a sponsor of XTERRA and I immediately fell in love with the athletes. It’s exciting to be a part of the lifestyle.”

The course combines an 880-yard swim in Old Hickory Lake, 12-mile mountain bike, consisting of two loops on fast, sweeping single track, and a 4.2 mile run that has been called “one of the best on the American Tour.”  When asked if he planned on racing or winning the event again this year, Craig said, “I don’t know. This race definitely holds a special place in my heart, but being co-race director adds new stresses. You’ll just have to show up and see if I’m on the start line.”

One person that will be on the start line is Brent Bieshaar. Brent is doing “XTERRA Across America,” an odyssey to compete in an XTERRA triathlon every week of the 2013 season to raise awareness for the Blazeman Foundation For ALS.  ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  XTERRA Lock 4 will be his 14th race in 15 weeks, and he’ll have eight more races in the final two months of the regular season.

Whether you are racing for fun, racing for your 11th win in a row or racing for a reason, one thing is for sure, XTERRA Lock 4 will be a BLAST!

For more information about XTERRA Lock 4 or to register, visit www.beraceseries.com. To learn more about Brent and his journey you can see his blog atwww.xterraacrossamerica.com.

Inaugural XTERRA Greece at Lake Plastira Saturday

The second of eight races in the XTERRA European Tour takes place Saturday with the inaugural XTERRA Greece at Lake Plastira.  XTERRA’s managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is on-site for the event and brings us this preview…

Lake from Top of Bike in GreeceLake Plastira is not Athens nor is it an island in the sea.  It is mountains, fresh water lakes, tall trees, flowers, small wonderful villages and crisp clean air.  To get here is an easy 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Athens mostly on fast limited access highways.  The location is most known and very popular for winter sports so there are dozens of small hotels and restaurants in several villages spread throughout the area.  To say it is scenic is an understatement.

This is a first time race and everything is shaping up well.  Kostas Koumargialis limited the entry to 300 and is sold out.  Other organizers told him he would be happy to have 150 entries and as of now, XTERRA Greece is the biggest first-time triathlon in Greek Federation history.

The lake is huge.  It is the highest lake in Greece at 850m.  In World War II the area that is now the lake was a landing strip for Warbirds.  Greek General and later Prime Minister Plastira ran the show and had the futuristic thought that he could create a great reservoir and recreation place by building a dam.  He did, the lake was named for him, and has become a grand vacation spot.

This is not an urban setting.  The village is only a few hundred meters away but the race venue starts with a short run to transition in a big, grass field.  The bike is two laps of 15K.  Not too technical but it has lots of climbing and quick downhills.  The one who can ride the fastest without going over the limit will be at the sharp end of the field.  The trails run through forest and farms and riders will pass ancient watering places fed from mountain springs as well as true Greek shepherds and their flocks.  I did not get out on the run today as the daily 5:30pm thunderstorm came through and soaked us all.  I hear it is fast, fun and scenic.

The pro entry is strong.  With Ruben Ruzafa winning two weeks ago in Spain but not here, the leaders are Ben Allen, Asa Shaw and Nico Lebrun.  As is not uncommon, there are strikes in France that are holding up flights.  Shaw waited all day before he could leave and Lebrun will not be in until late tonight.

Alexander Haas is over his illness and fellow German Felix Schumann are making their first race of the season along with Yeray Luxum from Belgium.  French first year pro and age group world champion Marvin Gruget will make his debut here to compete against regulars Jim Thijs, Francois Carloni, Tim vanDaele and Cedric Lassonde.

The women’s fight will be similar to Spain with Renata Bucher, unbeatable in her last four races facing off against 2012 women’s Euro Tour Champ Helena Erbenova, Jacqui Slack, Carina Wasle, Kathrin Muller, Brigitta Poor, and Greek Olympian Deniz Demaki.  South African Champion Carla Van Huyssteen is listed but I have not seen her as yet.  Hoping she is healthy and ready to race.

The 5:30pm storm has passed as predicted and now at 7:00pm the sun is shining and the roads are dry as if it never rained.  The forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy, mid 70’s with lots of passing and racing : )

XTERRA East Championship Preview

As the saying goes in XTERRA, Mother Nature is your toughest competitor – but you’ve got to watch out for Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz too.

Stoltz Richmond VictoryNot this Sunday, however, as the four-time XTERRA World Champ – winner of seven of the last eight XTERRA East Championships in Richmond, including four in a row, will not be able to race due to a lingering calf injury.

“I wasn’t able to finish in Alabama a few weeks ago and since then I’ve been here and getting good treatment but have done just two tiny little runs to see if it’s OK,” explained Stoltz.  “To me it’s not worth taking the risk of injuring it even further this weekend. It’ll be the first time since 2002 I won’t be able to race here and it’s very disappointing, I’d love to compete. I’ve been riding on the road quite a bit and can see my power is great on the bike and my fitness is really good so I’m tempted to go out there and just knock it, but it’s probably not the smart decision to make.”

On the bright side for XTERRA fans, Stoltz volunteered instead to be the race announcer for the live coverage Luck Stone is providing on Sunday, providing rare insight into the city, the sport and its competitors.

Also of note, XTERRA U.S. Pro Series leader Josiah Middaugh – the only man to steal a Richmond crown from Stoltz since 2005 – will stay at home in Vail, Colorado this weekend to defend his ultimate mountain challenge title, an event he’s won six years in a row.  Since pros can drop one of their scores from the four regional races – and with two wins and the XTERRA Mountain Championship in Vail up next, he’ll still have the opportunity to post a perfect 300 score prior to Nationals.

Dan HugoThat leaves Dan Hugo as the man to beat in Richmond and while he can appreciate the spotlight it’s not the manner in which he’d like to be the favorite.

“I’m bitterly sad Conrad is not racing this weekend,” said Hugo, who has been the runner-up in Richmond three times.  “I’ve had prime seats many a time to see him ride, especially on a course like this. Those are footsteps none of us can follow.”

In an interesting role reversal it is now 24-year-old Brad Weiss –five years the junior to Hugo – playing the “South African youngster” tasked with stealing one from his elder countryman.

“I think what Conrad was to Dan as he started his XTERRA career, Dan has been to me.  You need those role models to keep it going,” said Weiss, who has watched Stoltz career in awe as he amassed his unprecedented 46 XTERRA championship wins through the years.

“It’s difficult to realize how big of an impact Conrad has had on XTERRA back home.  Until he leaves the sport people won’t realize just how much he has achieved and how hard that will be to replicate when he’s done.  I would love to think I have the ability to do so, but until I’m 40 years old and still racing I can’t say the same.  Just to get one XTERRA victory would be massive for me.”

For the record, Stoltz has no intention of fading into the sunset just yet, as his passion for racing still burns bright.

“My fitness is still picking up and there are things you can do to get faster and faster every year which is very encouraging,” said Stoltz.  “I really enjoy being able to represent companies like Specialized and ride the best bikes around.  As long as I enjoy it and as long as the fitness keeps going I’m going to keep racing. I love racing.”

There are several other XTERRA men in the pro field anxious to seize the opportunity to capture their first major XTERRA U.S. Pro Series win in Richmond.  The bike course suits Craig Evans, who is only a year removed from a brilliant runner-up performance at the ITU Cross Tri Worlds, and the Colorado contingent of Branden Rakita, Ryan Ignatz, and Will Kelsay are all capable of putting it together Sunday.

Pro Men
Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
2t – Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
2t – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
4 – Will  Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
5t – Nick Fisher – 27, Ogden, Utah
8t – Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
8t – Dan Hugo – 27, Stellenbosch, South Africa
10t – Bradley Weiss – 24, Cape Town, South Africa
10t – Ryan Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado
15 – Cody Waite – 34, Lakewood, Colorado
17 – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
18 – Andy Lee – 41, Lakeway, Texas
21 – Tim Snow – 37, Brockton, Massachussetts
NR – Ryan DeCook – 32, Rochester Hills, Michigan
NR – Brad Zoller – 36, Cincinnati, Ohio

The women’s race, despite Lesley Paterson’s recent dominance, seems just as wide open as the men.

Melanie McQuaidMelanie McQuaid has been on the podium in Richmond 12 straight years and won four times, including last year.

“This bike course, historically, has determined a lot of the finishing places where really good handling skills allow you to hold more speed.  This course is relatively flat and requires a lot of power and I’m a bigger triathlete so it plays to my strength because it comes down to pure power rather than power-to-weight ratio,” explained McQuaid.  “That said I’m certainly not going to rest on previous seasons.  Shonny is stronger this year, Lesley is going really fast right now and the overall level in the women’s race is quite high, not just for XTERRA but all the girls in XTERRA are showing they are strong no matter what kind of triathlon it is.”

Vanlandingham has also won in Richmond (2011) and her run is starting to get back to where it was when she was winning all the time after a tough couple years recovering from a knee injury.

Brandi Heisterman is also an accomplished mountain biker and it’ll be interesting to see how fast she goes – especially with the rain coming down in Richmond creating some slippery conditions similar to what she rides on regularly.

“When it’s rainy here in Richmond the course gets technical, it’s actually quite slippery and the clay is gnarly,” said McQuaid, who said the “wetter the better” – a sentiment that would be shared by Heisterman and Vanlandingham.

There is also Suzie Snyder and Danelle Kabush, both of whom have proven they could come out on top should things fall into place.

Still, Paterson is the target.  Since finishing third here last year the two-time XTERRA World Champ has won every XTERRA she’s entered, her bike handling skills have improved, and her run speed is unmatched.

Pro Women
Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 – Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
3 – Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
4 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 44, Durango, Colorado
5 – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
6 – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
8 – Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
9 – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
13 – Katie Button – 28, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR – Catherine Sterling – 36, West Boylston, Mass.
NR – Chantell Widney – 32, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

All-in-all the 15th edition of #xterraRVA promises to be an epic race and add to the legend of XTERRA’s finest urban adventure.

“It’s my favorite course, and probably globally my favorite experience,” said Hugo, who has been in town for nearly two weeks and written about its virtues on his blog. “The skyscrapers, great river and forest make for a ridiculously perfect XTERRA set-up that offers as much as any other.  And you don’t need to explain XTERRA to anyone here. The history & legacy of XTERRA in Richmond is at a very high level.”

Richmond Times Dispatch Race Preview

XTERRA Spain Championship Sunday

XTERRA managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is in Cieza for the XTERRA Spain Championship on Sunday which kicks off the 2013 XTERRA European Tour.  Here he brings us an update on the pre-race happenings.

The weather on Friday was perfect; partly sunny, light winds and temps in the mid-70’s.

Spain PressFor racers, there are lots of great things to enjoy, highlighted by the food and the most fantastic countryside.  This morning on the way to the swim start I had to stop and take a photo – 100 acres or so of grape vines just green and sprouting young grapes, right next to another 100 acres of long leafed Peach trees that had solid fruit just now beginning to turn colors and across the street another 100 acres of silvery olive trees, mountains in the backdrop, and small rural road running by.  You get the picture (pun intended); just beautiful.  Driving around is simply eye popping.

The restaurants here are small and family owned and it is a pleasure to walk around and make a pick.  None are super hip gourmet buerre blanc with capers caramelized onion style restaurants.  You have your choice of great seafood or tapas.  Every place always has pasta and soups including the regional potato and bean soup which is to die for.  Certain places will have Paella and having had that dish in Barcelona on the ocean – the high priced places pale in comparison to one of these small, mom & pop restaurants.  The local red wine is fabulous and makes it silly to order a vintage which is twice as expensive and probably no better or not as good.  In this area the Spanish serve their beer super icy cold and the brands of Estrella and Mahou are tasty and cheap.  I have to say I am very impressed with Cieza, Murcia…. pronounced Thee-eh-the and murr- thee-ah.

There was a great press conference this evening in the auditorium at town hall.  There are over 20 male and about a dozen female pros here and the majority were at the conference.  The big unknown is the return of Ruben Ruzafa, the XTERRA World Champion from 2008.  Ruben has concentrated on world cup mountain biking the past years and now has clearance from his team to return to XTERRA.  The mayor had some nice words to say to the crowd of about 100 people and some good questions of the athletes on stage – Nico Lebrun, Ben Allen, Ruben Ruzafa, Raja (Roger) Serrano the local pro, Renata Bucher, Bubu Lorblanchet, and Jacqui Slack.

From my limited Spanish what I can tell you is Cieza and the area are thrilled with the entry of nearly 400 athletes and the impact on hotels and restaurants has been duly noted.  Organizer Eduardo Smuts and his team of Pepe and Diego and Catalina deserve the highest marks for the hard work and dedication to make this happen.

As for the course, the bike checks in on the non-technical side, and is very fast with the majority of it on farm dual tracks.  It does have enough climbing to make it a solid challenge, but the 35K should go fast.  The run on the other hand is tough with lots of hills and some very fast downhills where a slip or missed step could cause a nice tumble.  There are great views from both the bike and the run.

The main event is Sunday but festivities start up tomorrow with more Paella and cold beer and tasty red wine at the briefing.  Hey, long-time XTERRA age grouper Andy Duenow and his family made it here all the way from Alaska and are loving it.  Where are you?

XTERRA East Championship Pro Start List

With Conrad Stoltz – winner of six of the last seven East Championships – still uncertain if he’ll be able to race next Sunday due to recent injuries and the current Series leader Josiah Middaugh not on the start list in Richmond; the men’s pro race is up-for-grabs.

Lesley PatersonAt first glance Dan Hugo looks to be the favorite. In Richmond pasts he has placed 2nd to Stoltz twice (2011 and 2010) and was second to Middaugh in 2008. This year only Richard Murray (South Africa), Ben Allen (Philippines/Saipan/Guam/Malaysia) & Middaugh (Southeast Champs) have been faster than Hugo.

Stealing a major win on the U.S. Tour has been an elusive task for more than just Hugo, however, so trust that guys like Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Brad Weiss, Ryan Ignatz, Will Kelsay, and Francisco Serrano will take advantage of the opportunity and give it everything they have.

In the women’s race Lesley Paterson is the clear-cut favorite, and when you consider she finished fourth overall at the West Championship in April behind only Middaugh, Stoltz, and Rakita – she should be in the conversation to win it outright too.

That said, defending women’s East Champ Melanie McQuaid has some serious credentials in the River City with an unprecedented 12 straight podium’s on this course, including four wins.  Shonny Vanlandingham won the 2011 title in Richmond and is in good form, as are Luna Pro teammates Suzie Snyder and Danelle Kabush.

The women’s field is stacked with nine of the top 10 in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings on the start list.

Below is a look at the tentative pro field.  Click on their name to see an image of them in action and learn more about each one.  Click here for the full gallery.  Note: Rank indicates their position in XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, t = tied, NR = not ranked.

XTERRA East Championship – June 9 – Richmond, VA

Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
2t – Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
2t – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
4 – Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
5t – Nick Fisher – 27, Ogden, Utah
8t – Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
8t – Dan Hugo – 27, Stellenbosch, South Africa
10t – Bradley Weiss – 24, Cape Town, South Africa
10t – Ryan Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado
15 – Cody Waite – 34, Lakewood, Colorado
17 – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
18 – Andy Lee – 41, Lakeway, Texas
21 – Tim Snow – 37, Brockton, Massachussetts
22 – Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California
NR – Ryan DeCook – 32, Rochester Hills, Michigan
NR – Francisco Serrano – 33, Monterrey, Mexico

Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 – Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
3 – Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
4 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 44, Durango, Colorado
5 – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
6 – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
7 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
8 – Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
9 – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
13 – Katie Button – 28, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR – Catherine Sterling – 36, West Boylston, Mass.
NR – Chantell Widney – 32, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The Many Sides of Lesley Paterson

There’s never a dull moment in the life of Lesley Paterson.

To say the athlete, coach, producer, director, model, mentor, speaker, philanthropist, and entrepreneur is marvelously multifaceted would be an understatement.

Lesley PatersonSince finishing third in Richmond last June she has won every XTERRA she’s entered, including the USA and World Championship, and the XTERRA Philippines, West, and Southeast titles.

But that’s just XTERRA.

In the last three months alone the “Scottish Rocket” has done 13 races (3-XTERRA, 2-70.3’s, 3-pro mountain bike races, 4-running events, 1-Oly distance tri) and won nine of them.

And that’s just racing.

Lesley is also a film producer that recently signed a movie deal and has a reality series in the works; a coach that leads 27 athletes every week; a fitness guru who just shot a workout DVD; a beautiful model that graced the cover of three magazines recently; a volunteer at four charity events, a business woman who just inked a few new sponsors (including Paul Mitchell and Sony), and a corporate motivational speaker.

As the old saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

With all the things on her upcoming ‘to-do’ list one event sticks out above the rest. This July, Paterson is hosting a fully-funded three-day Braveheart Bootcamp triathlon challenge for young adults 18-to-22 who are at a crossroads in their lives and for participants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  The goal is to help them overcome fears and reach their full potential and ultimately compete in a race this October.  Beyond just the camp, the athletes will be teamed-up with adult mentors for an entire year.

“It’s so emotionally fulfilling to do these kinds of camps and it just puts everything in perspective.  For me, giving back and helping others embark on an emotional and physical journey like this is what it’s all about,” said Paterson.  “What’s funny is that you’d think that putting something like this on my schedule would add to the exhaustion, but it’s the opposite, it’s rejuvenating.”

On Tuesday Paterson will make her way to Richmond, Virginia for the 15th annual XTERRA East Championship race.  It is one of the few events she has yet to conquer. In her first year in the River City back in 2008 – still new to mountain biking – she placed 7th.  Last year, after “crashing all over the place” on the bike, she was 3rd.

“Really excited for another go at that course,” said Paterson, whose improvement on the mountain bike was highlighted by leaving world cup mountain bikers in the dust at a Pro XCT event earlier this year.  “Richmond is a tough course for me because there is not a lot of climbing and a bunch of tricky little sections.  I just plan to go out there, have a solid swim, be aggressive on the bike, and be within spitting distance of the leaders for the run.”

Should that plan succeed, the women’s field will be racing for second-place as Paterson is the best trail runner in the sport right now.  She might also be the best at personifying XTERRA’s motto – “Live More”

To read more about Lesley’s fabled background as a pint-sized Rugby player on an all boys’ team growing up in Scotland, check out Susan Grant Legacki’s terrific cover story featured in the May issue of LAVA Magazine.

There’s also a fun video of Les posted on xterra.tv, and for the really ambitious – you can try to keep up with the champ on her website, www.lesleypaterson.com.

XTERRA Southeast Championship Saturday

Ryan DeCookSaturday’s XTERRA Southeast Championship, the second of four regional stops on the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series, takes to the trails at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama at 8:30 a.m. CST.

Those interested in following the race can check out XTERRA’s live text updates on twitter @xterraoffroad.

2012 Highlight Video / Press Guide

Here’s a look at the pro start list.  Rank indicates their current  position in the 2013 Pro Series standings following the West Championship race in April. NR = not ranked.

Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
1 – Josiah Middaugh – 34, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
2 – Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
3 – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
6 – Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
7 – Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado
8 – Matt Mangen – 30, Ivins, Utah
9 – Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
10 – Brian Astell – 32, Gualala, California
12 – Nick Fisher – 27, Ogden, Utah
15 – Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California
NR – Tom Eickelberg – 24, Cortland, New York
NR – Chris Ganter – 34, Boise, Idaho
NR – Dan Hugo – 27, Stellenbosch, South Africa
NR – James McCurdy – 28, Auburn, Alabama
NR – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
NR – Tim Snow – 37, Brockton, Massachussetts
NR – Cody Waite – 34, Lakewood, Colorado
NR – Bradley Weiss – 24, Cape Town, South Africa
NR – Ryan DeCook – 33, Rochester, Michigan
NR – Andy Lee – 40, Lakeway, Texas

Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 – Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
3 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado
4 – Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
5 – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
7 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
11 – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
12 – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
14 – Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
NR – Chantell Widney – 32, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
NR – Katie Button – 28, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR – Hallie Blunck – 28, Birmingham, Alabama
NR – Heather Holmes – 32, Atlanta, Georgia

XTERRA England Secures TV Distribution

The XTERRA England Championship triathlon, held in Cranleigh, Surrey, on 7-8 September will be televised across mainstream UK TV station Channel 4, and Sky Sports & Eurosport. The one-hour highlights package will incorporate the entire weekend of off-road fun, including the XTERRA England Championship race, Try-a-Tri X-triathlon, 6-hour endurance mountain bike race and the open water lake swim races.

England Lake“We are really excited that Channel 4 will be filming XTERRA England and our festival of off-road fun. It demonstrates the prestige of the event and it is the biggest off-road triathlon event in this country,” said Race Director Mark Davis.

XTERRA England is set in the stunning grounds of the Vachery Estate, Surrey, in an ‘Area of Outstanding Beauty’. Age-groupers and elite triathletes will compete over the 1.5K spring-fed lake swim, before taking on the 30K mountain bike course through the untouched Vachery Estate, before hitting the trail runs in the surrounding private woodlands.

There will be great drama on the day as the elite racers battle for the XTERRA England title (the European series finale), whilst the best amateurs will be racing for world championship qualification at the subsequent XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii on 27 October 2013.

So far, confirmed to race are former XTERRA World Champion Nico Lebrun, two-time XTERRA Asia-Pacific Triple Crown Champion Ben Allen, local-resident and the most successful XTERRA Champion in British history, Sam Gardner, and also international athlete Jacqui Slack.

Behind the fast-racers are hundreds of amateur triathletes of all shapes and sizes ready to take on the fun yet challenging XTERRA course.

Pro-triathlete and a favorite for the win, Australia’s Ben Allen said “The variety that XTERRA offers is amazing. You get a beautiful swim, an ever changing environment and the turns and obstacles are great. The pristine, untouched run is very unique to XTERRA.

“My top tip for someone is to come in to XTERRA England with an open mind, looking forward to the challenge and enjoy the atmosphere and cool vibe.”

The XTERRA England weekend festival will be filmed by Dream Team Television on behalf of Channel 4. The 1-hour highlights program will be screened soon after on the Sunday morning and the following Tuesday. There will be regular repeats on associated channels including 4+1, 4oD and 4Music.

The program will also be repeated throughout the year on the Sky Sports network and also Eurosport – up to 40 times throughout the year. As a result, the event will be exposed to millions of sports fans and will introduce XTERRA England to a wide audience.

www.xterra-england.co.uk

The Resilient Ryan DeCook

In the past decade XTERRA has both literally and figuratively left its mark on Ryan DeCook.

It all started in 2002 when the 22-year-old Rochester, Michigan native who had recently graduated from Michigan State University discovered XTERRA at the Stony Creek off-road tri just down the road from his hometown.

Ryan DeCookDeCook entered that first race with some credentials – he had swam his freshman year at Troy High School and went on to run cross country and track for the Spartans – but he was brand new to mountain biking.

“Showed up with my GT bike with chromoly frame and platform pedals and fell all over the place, but I had a blast.  It was so much fun I couldn’t sleep that night, just started dreaming of all the races I could do,” said DeCook, who ended up moving within a stone’s throw of those very same trails at Stony Creek Metro Park just so he could be close to the magic.

His dream turned into reality in 2003 with a full slate of XTERRA races – Dino, Torn Shirt, General Butler, East Champs, Nationals, and Worlds.

At Nationals (where he finished 3rd in the 20-24 division) DeCook learned that the sport was about more than just racing.

“I met Will Kelsay and a bunch of the guys in my age group and after the race somebody grabbed a few bottles of champagne and we all walked down to the beach at Lake Tahoe and started throwing the frisbee around and trading stories. I’ll never forget that day.”

He’ll also never forget that year because of “all the new scars I got.”

There was Richmond, where he was so beat-up that he won the award for “most battered” from the guys in the med tent, but that was trumped in Maui.  He fell hard early and smashed his face and knees on the infamous lava rocks on the lower slopes of Haleakala. He fell again later and landed on his knees in the same spot. His bike took a beating too which resulted in DeCook having to survive “a shocking ride down the mountain on only one rim.”

“I hobbled through the run spitting out lava rock that was lodged in my tooth and gums and eventually finished, but not without some amazing scars including one in my gum that still has bits of lava rock in it.  My dentist said I could keep it.”

In 2004 DeCook started to come into his own and was among the top age groupers in the nation. He faced his demons in Richmond to win the 20-24 division and entered Nationals as one of the favorites, and found some unlikely motivation from one of his race roommates.

Ryan DeCook“I was staying with Jamie Whitmore and Jan Rehula, the bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics.  He said he’d trade me his Olympic jersey if I won the 20-24 age group so I was super motivated,” explained DeCook.  “Despite my best plans I ended up cramping halfway through the ride. Still thought I had a shot if I could just get to the run so I started bombing the downhill and did an endo, face hit the ground, broke my handle bars in half, it was bad.”

Not bad enough to keep him from carrying on, which he did, bruised and battered and with half a handlebar.  Not surprisingly, the initial crash was followed by a few more and the XTERRA TV crew was there to capture it all.  The footage made national news when it was featured on ESPN’s “Not top 10”.

At transition staff and medics tried to stop him but he refused and ended up finishing the race.

“I was pretty out of it though. It wasn’t until Barbara Peterson passed me on the run when I realized I probably wasn’t going to win my age group.”

In what will become a recurring theme, DeCook came back to Nationals in 2005 to take care of some unfinished business.

“Can’t let yourself be scared of this thing, I told myself.”

After a year filled with success that included his second straight North Central Regional Championship, DeCook won Nationals. For his efforts he was rewarded with his off-road professional racing license.

Enter 2006 and his first pro race at the XTERRA Saipan Championship in the Northern Marianas.  DeCook was reeling in Olympian Olivier Marceau on the big when … he crashed.

“Not a big surprise,” smiled DeCook.  “Hurt my quad though and I couldn’t flex my quad muscle.”

Again, he wasn’t deterred.  Instead of calling it a day he grabbed a stick and limped his way through one of the toughest run courses on the World Tour.

“One of the most incredible places I’ve ever been,” said DeCook after race, explaining that his memories from the experience went far beyond having a tough race. “I was really intrigued to see the World War II relics and experience a place so rich in U.S. history.  I enjoyed hearing stories of locals that lived through the war by hiding in caves deep in the jungle.  Swimming around the tanks stuck in the sandy shallow waters was eerie and running through the caves sent a chill down my spine as I thought about the incredible struggle that defines the island.”

Over the next three years DeCook was a regular on the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series, learning tricks of the trade from the sports biggest stars and continually improving until the 2010 season rolled around and something happened – he was FAST.

At the second race of the season in Waco, Texas DeCook finished fifth behind only Conrad Stoltz, Josiah Middaugh, Nico Lebrun, and Craig Evans. It was his best career finish, and put him in an elite class of XTERRA racers.

The very next weekend in Richmond DeCook was at again, and poised to make a statement.

“Josiah and I were riding together doing really well. I felt confident on his wheel and had never been in that position before.  Ended up in a pack with Branden Rakita and when there was an opening I took it and went as fast as I could to break away,” explained DeCook.

“I remember that moment well,” said Rakita.  “He was on fire and flew by Josiah and I so fast we just watched him go.”

Moments later disaster struck.

“Turning the corner and going on an uphill real quick my foot came out of the pedal and ended up dislocating my knee. When my foot came down it got stuck but the bike kept moving forward.  By far the worse injury I’ve ever had. Tore my LCL and ACL ligaments, my hamstring needed reconstruction, and meniscus was also torn.”

Despite the agonizing pain, DeCook lay on the ground cheering for his friends as they rode by.

“That was ridiculous,” said XTERRA Pro Christine Jeffrey.  “Here he was on the side of the trail with his leg pointed in the wrong direction and he’s yelling, ‘go Chris, go’.  He was cheering for all of us. We had driven down together in his truck from Michigan, and the only thing he was concerned about was getting back to Rochester so he could get back to work the next day.”

“That was a huge setback for me. I really thought that was going to be a podium day for sure, without a doubt. After that I didn’t know if I was ever going to get back. There were days I just didn’t know.”

All those that know DeCook, however, knew that quitting wasn’t an option for the resilient young man.

It took three surgeries and two years but DeCook did get back.  His return – which came at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama for the 2012 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships – was an emotional one.  Not only was it his first race back since that fateful day in Richmond, it marked the one-year anniversary to the day his father and mentor had passed away from cancer.

“There was a big void in my life.  Not only was I not able to race and do the things I loved, but my best friend left me as well.  It was challenging for me to move on from that point.”

Move on he did though and in Alabama, despite not having the best fitness level on the day, he said his father’s spirit carried him through. He finished 15th in a stacked, international pro field, and ended up within 8% of Stoltz’ winning time (to the second) that allowed him to maintain his pro card.

DeCook’s impact on the sport reaches far and wide.  Last year when someone asked Chris Scott, a standout age grouper from the Midwest, who his favorite XTERRA pro was he noted that he loved seeing Stoltz’ and Evans battle it out, but what was really special to him was seeing Ryan DeCook return to racing.

Ryan DeCookThe feeling is universal among the XTERRA Tribe, and when DeCook rolls into Oak Mountain State Park on Saturday trust there will be an army of friends waiting to welcome him to his first race of the 2013 season.

“The people of XTERRA are incredible, I have friends I’ll never forget,” said DeCook.  “We’re family. It’s such a close knit group we check up on each other.  After I got hurt Will came and hung out with me to see how I was doing. I’ve fished with Conrad on rivers in Utah, toured Spain with Vito Henestrosa and his family, stayed with Mark Leishman in New Zealand, and have been continually inspired by Jamie and her remarkable comeback from cancer.”

Two weeks ago at a local 5K race to benefit cancer and support a high school mate of his going through treatment now, DeCook clocked a 16:06 – his fastest 5K ever.

“Significant because two years ago I was having my second major knee reconstruction and the passing of my father. Special day thankful to be alive and healthy. Ryan Humphrey was so inspiring today and I’m so glad to have been part of his race,” posted DeCook to his Facebook page after the race.

XTERRA caught up with DeCook in his hometown this week to find a vibrant, healthy, and happy young man in a nice suit at a new job as a financial advisor at Edward Jones in the beautiful countryside near his hometown of Rochester.

When he’s not racing DeCook likes to ride his Ducati, fish and hunt.  He can shoot a bow-and-arrow like nobody’s business and has a plethora of trophies to prove it.

“XTERRA is a lifestyle.  It’s about being healthy, pushing boundaries to see where you can go, see who you are and what is important to you.  Through the years I’ve made so many good friends and found out so much about myself that has transferred over into my life.”

While it is true XTERRA may have left his mark on DeCook, the Michigan kid has also most certainly left his mark on XTERRA.

Watch the “Resilient Ryan DeCook” Video