XTERRA America Tour pros Craig Evans, Mike Vine, Shonny Vanlandingham, and Suzie Snyder made their way to the beaches of Fortaleza in Northeastern Brazil earlier this month for the XTERRA Ceara off-road triathlon on November 20. Vanlandingham, the reigning XTERRA World Champ, won the women’s race with Snyder in second. On the men’s side Brazilian star Alexandre Manzan took the title, followed by countryman Cid Santos in second, Vine in third, and Evans in 5th. Well beyond just a race, the Brazilian XTERRA races are full-blown experiences. To elaborate, here is Craig Evans’ race report...
It is hard for me to explain the trip, it was so amazing.
I started my journey to Brazil on a Wednesday and landed at my temporary home for a few days in Fortaleza on a Thursday. I was greeted with huge smiles and hug by an amazing logistics coordinator named Niva and Jim Lovell, the timer for XTERRA (no I didn’t hug Jim). We hopped on a bus and drove through the outskirts of the city while I told stories about my in-ability to speak Portuguese to anyone in the airports, huge laughs on the trip to the resort!
The next morning I woke with the brightest sun I have ever seen, no clouds and ripping winds. This was the most beautiful sight I have seen in a while, white sand beaches with 6 foot swells in the Atlantic Ocean. Shonny V, Sarah T, and I went out to pre ride the mountain bike course. The first 3.5 miles were on chip and seal road with a dead head wind paralleling the beach, then the fun began, SAND and lots of it. We proceeded to attempt to ride basically a huge white sand dune and it was impossible, so we walked/jogged our bikes to the top of the huge sand dune. From the top was about a 100 drop off that you had to put your butt practically on your rear tire to stay on your bike, the coolest downhill I have ever played on, Shonny didn’t get enough the first time, so she climbed up and rode it again, this time I filmed from my I-phone, super cool! The rest of the bike was sandy roads and us trying to stay on our bikes. We didn’t do so well….more walking than riding.
Saturday morning, race morning, we awoke to 6 ft breakers on the beach and a perfectly hot scorching day. A few clouds to start but those quickly flew by with the high winds. It was a mass start from approximately 75 yards from the shore line, the funny thing was everyone was speaking Portuguese so I was looking around and asking “what is he saying, what is he saying”, however everyone around me didn’t speak English either, pretty comical when you think about it on a start line, so I just listened for the Horn.
Out of the water first for PRO’s and then a long run back to transition. I looked at the transition to road section before the start so I had to run my bike another quarter mile to the road where you could actually ride; the sand was too thick out of transition to ride. I was gaining on the two relay teams on the 3.5 mile road section and caught one of them on the right hand turn to hit the sand, however then the running began. I then proceeded to try to ride in the sand and kept getting stuck so my running/walking began in the white sand dunes pushing my bike. I started laughing a bit, because if I kept my hands on my handlebars while pushing, the front tire would just sink into the sand, so I basically grabbed my saddle and ran holding my saddle for a while. The suffering really began here for me. We then dropped off the sand dune and hooked up on a sandy road that you could actually ride on, well for a few minutes. Sharp right hand turn and huge mud puddle that I crashed into. I then re-mounted my bike and started charging on a hard packed double track road, next to a barbwire fence, that Mike Vine actually wrecked into while racing side by side with me. The most interesting part of the bike for me was the white mud we got sucked into, I yelled “what the hell is this”, because it smelled awful. At this point in the race with sand, mud and white mud my brakes are rubbing, my gears are not really shifting, so I basically am now riding a single speed in the sand, with about 4 miles to go. I then hit the chip and seal road and put down the hammer to catch a competitor ahead. I arrive in transition in 5th place and in desperate need of water. Luckily Jim came to my rescue with two bottles and they were the perfect temperature, freezing!
The run was a shorter run only 7K; however it was 85% thick sand with NO shade, so the whitest man in the race (me) was out on a death march. We then took a hard left on some back streets of a very scenic neighborhood with young local kids cheering and running with me, super cool to be supported by the local crowds for the race. The final kick was on the sandy hard packed beach with a 5th place in hand. Glad to arrive at the finish line!
The Night Run: This was the coolest event I have ever done! I feel XTERRA and Road Triathlons should start to include the NIGHT RUN in every event. We completed the same run course as the XTERRA race course; however it was at 7PM. When you signed up, you received a head lamp and a T-shirt to run in. Everyone was wearing the same outfit, totally cool. Mike Vine and I had a sprint race in the finishing shoot and Mike won. I can’t even beat him sprinting.
I would like to thank Bernardo and the entire XTERRA X3M team for putting up with a “good old southern boy” for the weekend! I will be back to more races in Brazil next year.
MIKE VINE ALSO WROTE IN WITH A FEW FUN THOUGHTS FROM THE EVENT
In Fortaleza the people are some of the friendliest around and the local shop loaned me a viable Trek hardtail. Race morning still had me scrambling to find more gear including a helmet, which didn't arrive until 15 min before the race start! So, so much for a warmup... but when it's this hot you don't want to warm up anyways.
It was one of the tougher ones right from start to finish, with sizeable surf and chop in the swim and once on land it was a whole lot of searing heat and trudging through soft and exposed sandy terrain. On this day it was all about surviving the heat. I kept a steady pace which is about all I could do in the 31C 75% humidity equatorial heat.
On the bike I moved up to 3rd by T2 and then the run was just survival with no shade and no breeze and more soft, white sand. The final 2km was the best with finish in sight running along the water's edge and nice breeze rolling in with the surf. At the finish with two Brazilian bombshells awaiting with chilled Red Bulls in hand the pain went away really quick!
There couldn't be a better spot to end the season in Fortaleza at the Beach Resort which includes a massive water park and the 'Insano', a 134 foot drop slide which is the tallest in the world.
Later there was a night run, which had 600 entered. Glad I listened to fellow Americanos Shonny V and Craig E and entered, because it was neato running through the sandy terrain and the beach by the light of the full moon.
Many thanks to Bernardo, Niva, Grace, Pierre, and the rest of the X3M producao crew for running another top shelf event. Brazil is the best!
Results - http://jtltiming.com/results/fo-tri.html