Eleven Years in Rotorua – XTERRA New Zealand Championship

The beautiful Blue Lakes area in Rotorua will celebrate the 11th edition of the XTERRA New Zealand Championship this Saturday with a few thousand of its closest friends.

NZ LakeIts reputation as being a well-organized race in one of the most scenic spots on the XTERRA World Tour is well deserved and annually attracts a growing field of international competitors.

“The trails in Rotorua are just simply AMAZING,” said XTERRA world traveler and famous British stunt woman Daz Parker.  “The XTERRA mountain bike course is one of the best I’ve ridden, a smooth roller coaster ride, almost like they’ve been tarmacked over and lots of fun, fun, fun.”

Renata Bucher, who has won XTERRA races in more than a dozen countries around the world, is quick to agree.

“Yes, it’s really true, that XTERRA New Zealand has one of the best bike courses in the whole XTERRA world! Fantastic trails in an amazing area!” exclaimed the “Swiss Rocket”.

XTERRA’s power couple – Aussie Ben Allen and Brit Jacqui Slack – have returned to defend their NZ crowns, perpetuate the “Live More” spirit of the sport, and keep striving towards their ultimate goal.

“Perform to the best of our abilities at every race, live life to the fullest & win the XTERRA World Championship in Maui this October,” said Allen, clarifying exactly what the ultimate goal is.

The pair is on track so far, claiming the XTERRA Triple Crown titles and sharing the top spot on the podium at two of the last three races with wins in Saipan and Guam, and runner-up performances at last weekend’s XTERRA in Australia.

“XTERRA Rotorua is one of my favorite stops,” said Allen, who’s got more than a dozen countries to visit on his ambitious 2013 XTERRA schedule. “New Zealand, and Rotorua especially, has some of the best mountain biking in the world. I love riding my Giant bike through the redwood forest & stopping by the local dairy for some hokey pokey ice cream.”

Slack feels the same, saying “I’m super excited to come back to XTERRA Rotorua and compete again. The setting around the Blue Lake is absolutely stunning and the mountain biking is out of this world.”

Allen faces South Africa’s Stuart Marais, and a contingent of Kiwi pros with the likes of Joshua Kenyon, Matt Randall, and Shane Vincent.

Slack’s competitors are familiar, as Bucher, Parker, and Austrian Carina Wasle have raced against each other in the last four XTERRA World Tour events in Philippines, Saipan, Guam, and Australia, and last year here at XTERRA NZ Annika Smail and Elizabeth Orchard finished 2nd and 3rd behind Slack.

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.

More information can be found at www.xterra.co.nz

Caveman’s Fire Still Burning Strong

Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz  enters his 13th year of XTERRA racing Saturday with an unprecedented four XTERRA World Titles, a pair of ITU Cross Tri World titles, and 50 XTERRA race wins under his belt.

Caveman CarHis very first of those 50 happened on August 19, 2001 at the XTERRA West Championship in Half Moon Bay, California, and he’s won the West regional nine times since including five of the last six.

When the XTERRA crew rolled in to Lake Las Vegas Resort on Monday to unload the container, the Caveman was the first person they saw, pulling a great big bike out of a little tiny car.  We cornered him, and got his thoughts heading into the 2013 season…

XTERRA: You raced a lot in the off-season, any injuries, or concerns?

Caveman: No, after three years of net being able to run much because of injury, I’ve finally been able to train some running. I really missed running- there is that something special about running you don’t get from other sports. Other than the great time/fatigue ratio…

For fun, I decided to do the Abu Dhabi long distance tri in Feb. The long hours’ training was definitely a shock to the system, but we think all those hours at tempo will have some interesting effects (positive!) on my long racing season.

XTERRA: Here in Vegas, you and Josiah Middaugh have had some pretty good battles. In the first three years of racing here a total of 12 seconds was the difference in your finish times.  Josiah won in 2011, you’ve won the other three, including last year. Any specific game plan for the 2013 showdown?

Caveman: Other than: “Keep it in the big blade?!” Josiah had a great race at Worlds last year and definitely ups his game every year (Clearly he too, trains scientifically). This Vegas bike and run course is quite hilly and non-technical, both aspects play into his hand, so the racing is guaranteed to be hard, fast and painful!

XTERRA: Your next several months are jam-packed, is your spirit of adventure/competition still burning strong, ready to tackle the challenges ahead?

Caveman: I love adventure, adrenaline, lactic acid and visiting interesting places. A perfect fit for most XTERRA venues. Princess Hotstuff and I are going to Brazil and Italy for the XTERRAs there- which we are really looking forward. There is also ITU Cross Tri Worlds in Den Haag, Holland, I’m excited to race on the dunes and beaches. And defend my World title!

Other fun races this year:
– Sea Otter Festival Short Track and XC
– Rev 3’s in Knoxville and Main
– BE Off road racing in Craig Evans’ backyard
– TriLanai on the island of Lanai, Hawaii – perfect fun race the week after XTERRA Worlds.

What can I say- I love fun racing!

Catching up with Some Mr. XTERRA’s

There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding the current and former Mr. XTERRA award-winners here at the West Championship race.  Last year’s winner, Jay Heller, doubles as Mr. Las Vegas as well.

Jay HellerHeller, a long-time Las Vegas resident, has been instrumental in pulling all the pieces of the puzzle together so XTERRA can put on a good show here.  He’s gathered the volunteers, and the water, and the recovery food, and the bike tech, connected this person with that person and received and stored truckloads of miscellaneous shipments sent to his house over the past few months, all the while maintaining his own business and family life.

On Saturday he’ll get to relax…and race in the championship.  He’s been racing XTERRA since ’97, and will get the whole family dirty on Sunday as Elliana, Blake, Charles, Rebecca, and Michele join him in the trail run.

2007 Mr. XTERRA Will Kelsay is here – and has another killer racing schedule lined up that will take him all over the U.S. and to France, Italy, and Mexico as well.  This year he has even taken on the role of “American ambassador” to XTERRA Mexico. Seriously, all those wanting a great adventure south of the border need to write him, will@willkelsay.com. He’s got travel plans and itineraries brewing.

“I’m always in the mood for an adventure. Big or small, sane or crazy, if it sounds like it could be fun (or make for a good story), I’m always game,” said Kelsay.

Mr. XTERRA 2006 Courtney Cardenas is in town too – and will be making his inaugural ride and run as Guide to the great Michael Stone, a two-time XTERRA USA PC Champ.  Stone is legally blind, and if you want to see what it’s like to ride a bike through his eyes, check this out.  It’ll be Courtney’s job to keep him straight and keep him safe.

Billy AndersonThe 2004 winner is here too, and you can read what kind of impact Anthony Snoble has had on this race here.

Sometimes the Mr. XTERRA award goes to a “Mrs. XTERRA” and that applies to Barbara Peterson (2003) who is back on the start list and as fast as ever, having done over 100 XTERRA’s and pulling in her 10th regional championship in the West region 55-59 division last year.

Then there’s Billy Anderson, Mr. XTERRA 2003, who’s not in Vegas but you’d think he was based on this picture of him with the famous Guy Fieri of the Food Network yesterday in Chicago.  Apparently the two hit the town last night and at some point Billy got called out for his twitter handle, @mrxterra, and had to phone a friend to get a pic of the perpetual trophy with his name on it to prove he was indeed, Mr. XTERRA. Pic came thru, and he won that bet, we hope.

They are legends, one and all.

XTERRA West Championship Preview

Conrad StoltzThe XTERRA U.S. Pro Series opener at Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, Nevada next Saturday, April 13 will feature some of the sports biggest stars with Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh highlighting the men’s field; and Lesley Paterson, Shonny Vanlandingham, and Melanie McQuaid leading the charge for the women.

We caught up with XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas to get his thoughts on the upcoming XTERRA West Championship pro race…

“The long winter is over and Spring brings with it a new XTERRA season,” wrote Nicholas.  “The first two weekends of points series races is in the books, and the first Championship weekend is just a week away.

There is little doubt that Lesley Paterson has stamped her mark on XTERRA.  Now a two-time world champ and an amazing 3rd overall in the Philippines surely must make her the favorite going into the year.  The men have been all about Conrad versus Josiah and for Vegas I don’t see an obvious change.

Craig Evans has shown fantastic bursts of speed and can never be taken lightly along with Branden Rakita who is oh so close at times. Will “the thrill” Kelsey gets stronger every year and at 31 – is the youngest of the five.  Dan Hugo won’t be in Vegas but will return to the U.S. for Pelham and Richmond and is always at the sharp end of the field.

For the women, former world champ Shonny Vanlandingham seems ready to return to the top step. She raced really well in South Africa on the bike and has had over a month to get her running legs under her.

Never to be dismissed is three-time world champ Melanie McQuaid. Mel started the season at the Oceanside 70.3 to get her season going and has not had a season without a win in a dozen years. Fellow Canadian Danelle Kabush broke through with a win of her own in Colorado last year and has always been a fierce competitor while the defending USA national champ Suzie Snyder, like Kelsey, is only 31 and getting faster every year.

There are 14 pro women scheduled with great names like Christine “Big Fish” Jeffrey; and Emma Garrard and Kelley Cullen return from becoming Mom’s.  Among the 14 pro men are some experienced XTERRA guys like Ryan Ignatz, Matt Lieto, youngster Will Ross and Chris Ganter.

Looks like a terrific start to the year and regardless of the outcomes a great after party Saturday at the Westin Pool deck should be a ton of fun with adult beverages and lots of war stories.”

Here’s a look at the tentative pro start lists.  Note: Rank indicates their final position in the 2012 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, NR = not ranked.

Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
1 – Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 – Josiah Middaugh – 34, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
4 – Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
5 – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
6 – Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
9 – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
11 – Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California
12 – Ryan Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado
28 – Chris Ganter – 34, Boise, Idaho
NR – Matt Lieto – 34, Bend, Oregon
NR – Matt Mangen – 30, Ivins, Utah
NR – Joshua Merrick – 42, Alamosa, Colorado
NR – Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado
NR – Erich Wegscheider – 27, San Jose, California

Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 – Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
4 – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
5 – Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
6 – Tamara Donelson – 37, Edwards, Colorado
9 – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
10 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado
12 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
14 – Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
22 – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
NR – Jamie Brede – 35, Breckenridge, Colorado
NR – Rachel Challis – 37, Carlsbad, California
NR – Kelley Cullen – 32, New Castle, Colorado
NR – Lauren Harrison – 35, Los Altos, California

XTERRA Great Ocean Road Up Next

As the XTERRA World Tour heads to Australia on Sunday yet another Olympian is taking to the trails and the adventurous side of tri with Aussie great Courtney Atkinson – a veteran of the Beijing and London Olympics – racing at the XTERRA Great Ocean Road in Anglesea.

Ben and Jacqui Great Ocean RoadHe’ll have all the competition he can handle in the form of Ben Allen – the hottest XTERRA athlete on the planet fresh off his Triple Crown title defense with consecutive championship wins in the Philippines, Saipan, and Guam.

“Great to have XTERRA “down under” and Jacqui and I are really looking forward to the race on Sunday,” said Allen, who is excited about the chance to show off his skills (and those of his girlfriend Jacqui Slack) in front of a big gathering of family and friends.

In addition to a handful of up-and-coming XTERRA pros including Stuart Marais from South Africa, Rory Downie from Scotland, and Oliver Shaw of New Zealand, Allen said there are other things to watch out for this weekend.

“It’s not uncommon to encounter some of the local wildlife whilst exploring the native landscape,” explained Allen.  “A kangaroo here…a wallaby there….but if you discover a slithering creature precede with caution as he might give you a nasty fright.”

Not exactly sure what he’s talking about there but will leave that to the reader’s imagination.   For his part, Atkinson posted a pair of course recon videos (bike here / run here) with a rolling commentary explaining a bit about the challenges that lie ahead for competitors.

The women’s pro race is particularly intriguing with nearly the full line-up of XTERRA women from the Triple Crown Series of events set to toe the sandy start line.  Newly crowned XTERRA Saipan and Guam Champion  Jacqui Slack has got to be the favorite, but Renata Bucher – with 29 championship wins in 12 countries over the course of her career – cannot be overlooked.   Austria’s Carina Wasle, Daz Parker from the UK, and Peri Gray from just up the beach are also in the mix.  You can read-up on all the Great Ocean Road pros here.

XTERRA President Janet Clark, an Aussie herself, is merrily enjoying the sights and sounds of her sport on her turf, and will provide all the colorful details to the XTERRA Tribe over the weekend.

Mother Nature, Your Toughest Competitor

It’s well documented that in XTERRA, Mother Nature is your toughest competitor.  Look no further than the opening weekend of the XTERRA America Tour to find several stellar examples of this statement.

Hickory KnobIn Rocksprings, Texas it was a warm 86-degrees the afternoon before XTERRA Camp Eagle but during the night a strong front blew in and the temp dropped to 38-degrees with 30mph winds at the start.

“Luckily the spring fed water was still a warm 70-degrees,” said race director Joel Grimmett.

Weather aside, 26-year-old Grayson Keppler upset XTERRA’s Texas age-group legend Kyle Grieser by exactly one minute to win the men’s race while the better-half of the Etherton couple, Melanie, won the women’s race, placing 9th overall.  Etherton has won the SC 35-39 division two years running now, while her husband Steve (a regional champ himself) placed 5th overall and won the 40-44 division on a cold day at Camp Eagle.

XTERRA CAMP EAGLE

TOP 3 MEN  TIME
Grayson Keppler  1:48:39
Kyle Grieser  1:49:39
Jack Cartwright  1:52:02

TOP 3 WOMEN  TIME
Melanie Grote  2:05:24
Rebekah Trevelise  2:33:58
Lucia Colbert   2:45:48

Complete Results

Even colder, and perhaps more aptly described as “downright miserable” conditions, faced the fine folks at XTERRA Hickory Knob in McCormick, South Carolina.  Here’s how race director Andy Kennedy described it…

“The couple of days going into the race were gray, cloudy, and cold….high’s in the upper 40’s. On Friday, we had a sprinkling of rain; on Saturday around 2:00 pm, the skies began to crack a bit more and rain began to fall. The trails were a bit muddy heading into the race with the Saturday rain insuring that the bike ride would at least be a bit more difficult. The park service had been working to remove trees that were down on the trails due to prior storms but when the rains started, were hindered from removing them all. Three trees remained down on race morning making the 14.4 mile bike even a little more challenging.  The rain slacked off a bit Saturday evening giving a little hope of a respite from the ugly weather but that hope was short lived. Around 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning the rain started back….heavier than before. The thunder crept in and lightening streaks were dodging through the sky around 4:30 a.m. I headed out onto the bike trail for a dark run around 5:30 to see what it looked like. The trails had become downhill streams and there was still thunder rumbling in the distance. I kept checking radar and NOAA weather consistently…fingers crossed for a break.

The consistent theme weeks coming into the race was the swim water temperature. It had drifted between 49-53F for a couple of weeks and the freezing rain wasn’t going to help. Earlier I’d reduced the swim from 800m to 500m to cut down on the time of exposure. A couple of days prior to the race, I changed the start time from 7:30 am to 8:45 am, somewhat at the insistence of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and with hopes that the air temperatures would at least be out of the 30’s.  By 8:45 race morning, we had a little break in the weather, the air temperature was 41F-42F, the water temperature was 52F, and all were off! Oh, by the way, to be sure to get the race in with more severe weather approaching, the swim was cut down to 350m….no one objected…imagine that. The 14.4 mile bike and five-mile trail runs were mud baths that sent numerous competitors sliding and tumbling…..but I sure saw a lot of smiles out there!”

Dan Kimball and Marcus Barton from the newly formed Team Centimark-Tailwind tri team suffered the best on the day, finishing 1-2 for the men, with Misty Becerra of Clermont, Florida winning the women’s race.

“By all measure, it was a muddy, nasty, tough, successful race,” said Kennedy.  “All who even toed the start line are to be congratulated. I just told ‘em all it’s an XTERRA…suck it up buttercup!”

XTERRA HICKORY KNOB

TOP 3 MEN  TIME
Daniel Kimball  2:18:53
Marcus Barton  2:20:01
Joshua Schaffer  2:20:36

TOP 3 WOMEN  TIME
Misty Becerra  2:56:24
Tanya Houghton  3:00:08
Lila Bowers  3:27:03

Complete Results

At XTERRA Miami they didn’t have much to complain about regarding the weather, except that it was perhaps “too hot” with a high right at 90-degrees.  Diego Corredor and Jen Moos were the ones on fire, winning the men’s and women’s races.

XTERRA MIAMI

Top 3 MEN TIME
Diego Corredor, 33  2:07:21
Rafael Lee, 37  2:10:51
Reinald Garcia, 41  2:11:20

Top 3 WOMEN TIME
Jenn Moos, 30  2:17:20
Beata Wronska, 38  2:30:39
Melissa Scott, 43  2:35:15

Complete Results

Introducing the XTERRA Epic Series

XTERRA racing fans that like to go long will have a series’ all their own this year as four epic-distance off-road triathlons have joined together to form the inaugural XTERRA Epic Series.

The races include the XTERRA Epic – Rustman on May 3 (Ruston, LA), the XTERRA Epic – Marquette on Sept. 13 (Marquette, MI), the XTERRA Epic – ASP on Sept. 27 (Salamanca, NY), and the XTERRA Epic – Iron Mountain on October 18 (Arkadelphia, AR).

All four races will feature a one-mile swim, 30-to-35 mile mountain bike, and 9-to-11 mile trail run.  The Series will be scored in 10-year age groups starting from 18-29, where racers count their best two scores to vie for the 2014 XTERRA Epic Series Championship.

The four events will also award XTERRA Points Series level points into the XTERRA America Tour, with the Rustman counting for the 2014 season while the other three will count towards the 2015 season.

Fred Phillips from DLT Events hosted the first-ever XTERRA “Epic” distance race at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, Louisiana back in 2010, and the concept has gained traction since as other race directors expressed interest in hosting long-distance off-road events.

“As other XTERRA organizers have come forward it was only natural to tie the events together and make something our longer distance, endurance-minded athletes could compete in,” said XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.

One such athlete is Kyle Grieser, a 10-time XTERRA South Central Region Champion from Marble Falls, Texas.  Grieser won three of the past four XTERRA Epic races, including the first two in Ruston and the inaugural Iron Mountain race in Arkansas this past October in a little more than four hours.

“What I like most about the Epic races is you really get a chance to see what you are made of; to see how your body will act when you have to push it longer than normal; to see how well you are really training and if it is paying off,” said Greiser.

Those taking part in the first Epic race this year in Ruston can also race in the XTERRA Gator Terra traditional distance off-road tri the very next day and double-up on points – assuming your body (and equipment) can handle the rigors of 40+ miles of dirt-inspired racing.

“The best advice I can give somebody is to really pace yourself,” said Grieser.  “You also need to have the right nutrition before and during the race.  As far as racing on the same course two days in a row, I really like that Ruston course – its fun and fast with some technical stuff, switchbacks, climbs, and some downhills – so getting on it twice in two days is no big deal.”

The Epic series is another step forward in bringing new and exciting events to the XTERRA family.

Triple Crown “Good for the Soul”

Saturday’s XTERRA Guam Championship race is serious business.  At stake is prize money, titles, pictures in magazines, qualifying spots into the XTERRA World Championship, points in the America Tour, bragging rights, and that simple, golden feeling of having all your hard work rewarded.

Daz ParkerYet look around the beautiful beaches of Tumon Bay and all you’ll see here are a bunch of super tan, happy, smiling triathletes.

“I tell people that it is so much more fun and friendlier than the average triathlon,” said Daz Parker from the UK, who originally had planned on just competing at the first race in the Philippines but ended up finding a way to stick around for all four.

“You get to meet amazing people and see such amazing, remote places that you would never know about otherwise.  We’re running through jungles, WW2 caves, waist-deep rivers, in fact through history, it’s a beauty that you can never experience in a normal triathlon.  Before and after the race, it is a big happy family and addictive, as soon as you get here and experience it for yourselves you want to come back again and again.”

XTERRA President Janet Clark was at the second stop of the circuit in Saipan, and said the experience was good for her soul.

“Agreed,” said three-time XTERRA South Africa Champ Dan Hugo.  “The month away, especially time on Saipan and Guam, have been at “island speed” which is a full notch calmer than usual day-to-day back home. Have enjoyed the people that choose this quieter way. People make a place, and we’ve met some terrific characters on this trip. Plenty ocean sunsets, stellar views, and even some snorkeling.”

Jacqui Slack, the XTERRA Saipan and PIC Double champ, said “the races here are not just about the awesome courses. It’s about getting involved with the local lifestyle and inspiring the people.  The young kids on the island are in awe of what we do and it’s very humbling to know we can be roles models and help them accomplish their dreams.”

As for the courses themselves, from the Philippines to Saipan to Guam – they are pure adventure.

“Adventure to say the least!” replied Ben Allen, the king of the Triple Crown two years running now.  “Imagine the toughest, roughest, most grueling race you have done. Now add in heat and humidity and unexpected down pours to make you push and challenge yourself to the limit and beyond.”

“Cebu, Saipan and now Guam – they share a common thread of non-commercialized, homely, raw untamed race routes that are quite out there,” added Hugo.

Slack says it’s exactly that untamed nature of the beast that makes it so rewarding.

“These races are the most extreme triathlons I’ve ever done. It’s not about the fastest swimmer, biker or runner, it’s about the challenge both mentally and physically and how you deal with those challenges.  Everyone comes back with a story, and these are the races you remember for that reason,” said Slack.

Come Saturday the 30+ triathletes from around the world that have taken part in the tropical trio will put their race faces on and give it their best, but trust that for better or worse they’ll be sharing a laugh in the hours, days, and months to follow.

“Anyone who wants a holiday with adventure together with training should think about coming over. Those who love the chance to come out of their comfort zone and experience another culture far removed from their own, with smiling friendly faces should join us,” said Parker.

“Save your pennies and make these races a goal for the season,” added Slack.  “I will guarantee you will have the time of your life. Do your research, speak to one of the pros and plan your trip well.  You will most certainly make friends for life and it will be the best race/holiday experience you’ve ever had.”

ALL-TIME XTERRA GUAM CHAMPIONS

Year  Men  Women
2006  Courtney Cardenas  Jamie Whitmore
2007  Olivier Marceau  Julie Dibens
2008  Andrew Noble  Mieko Carey
2009  Sam Gardner  Julie Dibens
2010  Sam Gardner  Renata Bucher
2011  Sam Gardner  Mieko Carey
2012  Ben Allen  Renata Bucher

The Return of Ruzafa: June 2 at XTERRA Spain

In 2008 Ruben Ruzafa, a 24-year-old from Malaga, Spain, became the youngest and most unexpected XTERRA World Champion in race history.

Ruben RuzafaThe Spanish mountain biking champion had only started swimming a year before, and had never done an XTERRA, but after words of encouragement from fellow countryman Eneko Llanos, a three-time XTERRA World Champion, he gave it a shot.

“I didn’t know I could do so well, but I thought if I didn’t lose too much time on the swim I would be able to catch up on the bike and hopefully hold on during the run,” said Ruzafa after the race.

It turned out he didn’t lose too much time in the swim (just two minutes) and was able to make his way to the front of the pack by mile 14 of the bike.  While race favorite Conrad Stoltz had suffered a flat that ultimately took him out of the hunt, Ruzafa’s race-best bike split and strong run carried him to victory and took the triathlon world by surprise.

Trust he will be overlooked by nobody in his return to XTERRA at the European Tour opener in Cieza, Spain on June 2nd.

Following his retirement from professional mountain biking in the off-season Ruzafa said he would turn his attention to triathlon and XTERRA.

“I am very proud and excited to race XTERRA Spain,” said Ruzafa.  “It is a great start to the season and a good way to become more familiar with the format and also to discover the rest of my rivals.”

Ruzafa will collect a full cast of rivals with his planned XTERRA schedule this year that includes races in his home country of Spain, Germany, plus the U.S. and World Championships.

While Ruzafa has been dedicated to the World Cup mountain biking since winning XTERRA World in 2008, he has dabbled in local triathlons and was the runner-up at the ETU Cross Tri championship in ’09. With a full season of focus on the sport only time will tell just how fast Ruzafa can be.

One thing is certain; the addition of Ruzafa adds even more excitement to the XTERRA Spain Championship.  To learn more about the event and see some truly amazing images of the countryside in Cieza like their Facebook page.