Nobody has been to more XTERRA Championship events than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour - "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas. Having been to every World Championship race in Maui since creating the sport back in 1996, and having been onsite to see this years races unfold all over the world - the Kahuna is more than qualified to speculate on who might win it all this year. That doesn't mean he'll get it right, in fact, he hardly ever does (just 2 for 16 in picking winners over the last eight years).
So, with a grain of salt, but some tasty insight nonetheless, here are the Kahuna's 2010 Maui prognostications:
Another fall is here and the triathlon world focuses on Hawaii. Last year's XTERRA World Champs - Eneko Llanos and Julie Dibens - have already been in the spotlight at Ironman Hawaii, and as Llanos proved last year, competing in Kona doesn't mean you can't win in Maui. This year 3-time XTERRA women’s world champ Julie Dibens will give it a shot after a brilliant 3rd place finish in her first Ironman World Championship.
Don’t think for a moment they won’t have competition. Conrad Stoltz has had another totally dominant year, crushing the field on the definitely Un-Conrad course in Utah to win the USA Championship. Franky Batelier had a very strong year in Europe, Olivier Marceau is sporting a new beard, won easily in Switzerland and is rested and ready, and Nico Lebrun, the third man in the French connection, is always a threat to win.
Melanie McQuaid said it early and has kept her promise to peak in the fall. While winless during the summer, she won handily in Canada and then again at the USA Champs and has had this wicked little smile as if she knows something we don’t. Scottish lass Lesley Paterson is having her finest year. With her new biking skills keeping her close at T2 and her unbelievably fast running, whoever is in front of her coming onto the run had best be ahead by a comfortable margin or they will see a flashing red suited Paterson going past.
The womens field is deeper than ever. The Maui course is perfectly suited for Dibens. No wetsuit swim, not too technical a bike. However 2010 will bring a host of women ready to take her down. As stated, McQuaid is at her peak, Shonny Vanlandingham won everything early but has had time to rest since being crowned US Champ again. Renata Bucher and Marion “bubu” Lorblanchet tied for the Euro crown and Bubu is a fast swimmer who will not give up gobs of time to Dibens. Climbing is what Bucher loves to do and along with petite Austrian Carina Wasle can get to the front of the pack if they can pass the faster swimmers early on the bike course. Throw in Lesley’s fabulous running with Danelle Kabush returning after her second child and the experience of a few 2nd overalls at Maui, mix in Kiwi Jen Smith who is always strong on Maui and there are nine true contenders.
The men are equally deep. The top favorites have to be Llanos, Stoltz, Marceau, Batelier and Lebrun, in no particular order. But Austrian Michi Weiss has been super strong on the road this year and has had two podiums in two attempts. Sebastien Kienle from Germany is joining XTERRA German Champ Felix Schumann and while Kienle has concentrated on road long distance the past few years, he did win XTERRA Germany in 2006. Schumann has had a good race season, has finished his studies and has everything in place to make his mark on Maui. England’s Ian Leitch and Kiwi Richard Ussher are both as fast on the run as Nico Lebrun and if they can keep close on the bike – well they could be the male version of Lesley Paterson.
From the States Josiah Middaugh loves Maui and he and Weiss had the two fastest bike splits last year. Seth Wealing is always potent when he has a good day. Canadian Mike Vine has taken most of the year off but was impressive winning the Canadian championship. Mike knows Maui and has had many good days there.
A huge entry of age groupers from all around the globe – literally every Continent except Antarctica will be fighting every bit as hard as the pro’s and could easily play a role in what happens.
We have two men and two women with 3 World Champ titles and all are here for 2010. Each of them want to be the first to hit 4 and Stoltz, Llanos, Dibens and McQuaid have to be the favorites. But there are others who will be in the mix so don’t put all your money on this quartet.
We know there has been no rain on Maui. The roads and trails are dusty and loose. Perhaps these conditions will make things fast – but never assume anything from Madam Pele. What she gives, she can take away and the winner will be the person who treats her with respect and stays error free.
The Kahuna's picks - Conrad Stoltz and Melanie McQuaid.