Four of the top five ranked men in last year’s 2011 XTERRAU.S. Pro Series will wade into the frigid Lake Las Vegas water to bring in the start of the 2012 season on Saturday, April 14, but if history has anything to say about - it’ll come down to two guys - Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh.
Since the XTERRA West Championshp moved to the desert at Lake Las Vegas Resort in 2009 those two have had some of the best battles the sport has ever scene. Consider this, in three years of racing a total of 12 seconds (advantage Stoltz) is the difference in their finish times.
- 2009 Stoltz edges Middaugh by 32 seconds
- 2010 Stoltz edges Middaugh by 39 seconds
- 2011 Middaugh edges Stoltz by 59 seconds
That said, the headliner is nine-time series champ Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz, who already has a championship win in his pocket from his backyard race at XTERRA South Africa in February.
Middaugh won this race last year, and in the off-season he won another USSSA Snowshoe National Championship, the Mt. Taylor Winter Quad title again, the Teva Mountain Games uphill and snowshoe races, a couple Beaver Creek snowshoe races, and the Pedal Power Winter Tri in Leadville.
Branden Rakita was busy getting in race shape by competing in the XTERRA Asia Pacific triple crown with three consecutive weekends of championship races in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan last month.
Dan Hugo, who fell just 33 seconds short of winning the XTERRA World Championship in October, won another Totalsports Challenge back in South Africa.
Missing from the top five is Nico Lebrun, who will focus on the XTERRA European Tour, USA and World Championship races this year. In the off-season Nico grew some serious facial hair and did some big-time training in the RhoneAlpes region of southeastern France.
Lebrun also placed third at the ETU Winter Triathlon European Championships, so it’ll be fun to see how fast the reigning XTERRA USA Champ is this year when the European XTERRA season starts in late May in Sardinia.
Fans can also expect strong years from Waite, Evans, and DeBoom, and if Chris Legh is within striking distance coming off the bike he’s deadly. As proof, he posted the fastest pro run split for the fourth time at XTERRA Worlds last year.
All in, Vegas odds would probably favor Stoltz, with Middaugh and Hugo getting plenty of the action. We’ll find out who’s the big winner by high-noon on Saturday.
XTERRA West Championship Pro List, as of 4.6.12
Rank = 2011 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Rank
Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 - Conrad Stoltz – 38, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2- Josiah Middaugh – 33, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
4 - Branden Rakita – 31, Colorado Springs, Colorado
5 - Dan Hugo – 26, Stellenbosch, South Africa
7 - Cody Waite – 33, Lakewood, Colorado
8 - Craig Evans – 34, Hendersonville, Tennessee
12 – Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho
13 - Patrick Valentine – 26, Colorado Springs, Colorado
14 - Brian Smith – 36, Gunnison, Colorado
18 - Will Ross – 22, Anchorage, Alaska
19 - Damian Gonzalez – 35, Stockton, California
25 - David Henestrosa – 35, Clearfield, Utah
29 - Tim DeBoom – 41, Boulder, Colorado
NR - Chris Ganter – 33, Boise, Idaho
NR - Doug Hall – 24, Bath, United Kingdom
Veterans, injuries, rookies, and newborns define the women’s pro start list in Vegas.
Three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid, who is coming off a convincing win at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, will be shooting for her third win in four years at this venue. McQuaid is also the reigning XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Champ, and will be looking for series crown No. 5 - in additon to road tri glory this season.
She’ll have to contend with the reigning XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson, who sports the bulls-eye on her back having won off-road tri’s ultimate crown last October.
2010 XTERRA World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham will miss the first race of the season while recovering from off-season ACL surgery but has high hopes to be ready to race at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships / XTERRA Southeast Championship on May 19. Riding the bike is not an issue for Vanlandingham, however, so expect to see her join in the fun in Vegas as part of a relay team.
Christine “Big Fish” Jeffrey and Jessica Noyola will start the season on the injured list as well, and Kelley Cullen will take the season-off to have her second baby which should come around, get this, Labor Day! “I’ll be back in action in 2013, though,” said Cullen, who posted three top four finishes in her first year with XTERRA in 2011.
The “Swiss Miss” of XTERRA Renata Bucher is coming in hot after sweeping the XTERRA Asia Pacific triple crown of races in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan last month.
Emma Garrard was second at the USAT Winter Tri Nationals this winter, and Suzie Snyder – who was a three sport state champ (cross country, pole vault and slalom waterskiing) in high school, just signed with Team Luna Chix. You can also count on veterans Danelle Kabush and Sara Tarkington to come in hot.
Several roadies are giving XTERRA a try for the first time, or the first time in a while, with Ironman stand-out Kate Major, Courtenay Brown, Kathryn Ross, Rebecca Staynor, and Jennifer Todd joining the fray. And, Tamara Donelson, the reigning amateur XTERRA World Champ, will make her pro debut at Lake Las Vegas.
Tune-in to @xterraoffroad on April 14 to see how it all plays out.
Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 - Melanie McQuaid – 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada
4 - Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
5 - Suzie Snyder – 30, Fredericksburg, Virginia
7 - Caroline Colonna – 47, Taos, New Mexico
10 - Lesley Paterson – 31, San Diego, California
11 - Renata Bucher – 34, Lucerne, Switzerland
12 - Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
13 - Sara Tarkington – 31, Boulder, Colorado
NR - Courtenay Brown – 33, Boulder, Colorado
NR - Tamara Donelson – 36, Edwards, Colorado
NR - Heather Jackson – 27, Carlsbad, California
NR - Kate Major – 34, San Rafael, California
NR - Kathryn Ross – 21, Boulder, Colorado
NR - Rebecca Staynor – 21, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR - Jennifer Todd – 37, Newbury Park, California