The XTERRA Mexico Championship returns to Tapalpa – an alpine town south of Guadalajara surrounded by forests, lakes and streams – on August 4. The rave reviews shared by all who went last year should be enough to inspire every XTERRA athlete with a taste for adventure and love of good food and good times to make it to Mexico this year.
“Just booked my ticket back to XTERRA Mexico,” posted former Mr. XTERRA Will Kelsay on his Facebook page today.
Kelsay was third last year behind Branden Rakita and Seth Wealing, and will compete for the top spot again this season.
“I had the quintessential Mexican experience last year," Kelsay said. "I can't say enough good things about the race, the organization, and the entire experience. To anyone out there thinking about doing it, don't hesitate, this is your chance to experience an international race at the expense of a domestic one. Seriously, that’s one of the things that surprised me, how easy it is to get there. Guadalajara is easier to fly to than the Northeast (from Denver anyways). Get there and the organizers pick you up for a picturesque drive from the airport to 6,700ft above sea level through the Taquila region of Mexico…it’ll take your breath away.”
XTERRA Managing Director Dave Nicholas, who’s been to just about every XTERRA venue on earth, couldn’t get over what he experienced in Tapalpa last summer either.
“Unbelievable. The awards ceremony and after party alone were enough to make the trip worthwhile. The entire village square of Tapalpa was transformed into XTERRA Village. About 7:30pm the announcer started awards and every category from kids to sport to champ racers took the podium with literally thousands of people cheering. The final awards, given at dusk, were to the elites and the roars were unbelievable. Shonny Vanlandingham is the new Rockstar of Mexico. After she stepped off the podium she was surrounded by hundreds of admirers taking photos, signing autographs, shaking hands,” wrote Nicholas after the race.
“In the center of the square was this huge metal tower which turned out to be a 50-foot high fireworks display. After about an hour of signing autographs and drinking Jalisco’s much better version of a Margarita (served in clay mugs) the locals fired up this monstrous display. Even more impressive was a 16-piece Mexican band that played wild music to the fireworks display. The best part was the final and top display which had two cyclists that had fireworks rockets propelling them round and round the huge tower – except the rockets were in wrong and the cyclists went backwards!! We all thought this was the end – but NO…. immediately after, on the upper level of the plaza a huge XTERRA fireworks display burned and lit up the town. Whew, we all thought, that was spectacular. No sooner did we think we should get something to eat but a 10-minute aerial display went off, and exploded right above our heads.
This is a fabulous event. The organizers are first rate all the way. The goody bag has loads of great things, the city of Tapalpa is unbelievably charming and classic Mexico. Jalisco is perhaps the most prosperous State in the country and Guadalajara is beautiful and very safe. XTERRA athletes must put this on their calendar for next year and come early and enjoy the fabulous culture and the unbelievable great deals on hotels rooms, cabanas (or little tourist houses) food and souvenirs. After the celebration in the plaza – 12 of us went to Paulina’s… a great little restaurant above the plaza and drank dos Equis beer and ate like kings. The tab? $70US. If that is not enough alone to bring you here I can’t imagine what would.
Kelsay described the experience in much the same way, and embellished on the course itself, saying “the bike course didn’t disappoint. The forest was pleasant and quiet, no sound whatsoever, and I realized that I am very lucky to be traveling the world, experiencing amazing sights, sounds, smells and tastes. One thing that really made the trip memorable were the people we met. Our hosts for this race kept making our stay better and better by showing us a great time in town and providing us with the most amazing home stay possible with fresh fruits, vegetables as well as an assortment of goodies to keep us going every day.
Kelsay added, “the race itself was exactly what I expected – AWESOME! The turnout was amazing, with people lining the hillside above the swim and crowds swarming the streets along the run and T2 (there were remote transition areas). The run was a 2 loop course with super steep (I’m talking walk city) hills, beautiful forests, and lots of stairs that lead you through town and had me smiling the whole way. If you ever want to feel like a rock star, go race in Mexico! Starting the second lap of the run and coming into the finish line, there were people 4 deep lining the streets. Andale! Arriba! The crowds shouted as we sprinted past. It’s a great way to finish any race!
At the awards ceremony, what felt like thousands of people filled the square, as athletes were given medals and pros were handed checks. All of the pros were asked for interviews and photos, to sign autographs, give high 5’s and were treated to “amazing enthusiasm for triathlon” as Shonny put it. It was so cool to see the excitement the Mexican people shared for racing, a very different experience than what we see in the States. The post awards fireworks and fiesta was nothing like we had ever seen before at a triathlon. It felt like the whole city was there for the party and the energy was through the roof!”