Nobody has been to more XTERRA Championship events than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour - "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas. We lean on his experience here to speculate on how next Saturday's XTERRA USA Championship men’s and women’s pro races might unfold...
"The XTERRA U.S. Pro Series racers have had more than a month to get healed and recovered and do some road races, solid training and shorter XTERRA’s. The European crowd has just finished two races in August and a final in Switzerland. What does this mean? Can we compare it to a baseball team in the playoffs that won its first series in four games and had a lot of time to rest before facing an opponent that had a hard seven-game series? Maybe. Sometimes rest is good, and sometimes keeping in race mode is better.
No matter what the circumstance – any male pro has to get past the “Caveman” Conrad Stoltz before he can claim the USA title. There are a few names that have not raced the season in the U.S. and won’t be the 2012 Series champion but could contend to win this very important race.
First is an Aussie living in Colorado, Chris Legh. Legh had a fabulous ITU/XTERRA race in Alabama coming from way back with an unbelievable run to finish 3rd. Utah will pose less of a bike problem for Chris and if he arrives at Snowbasin only a few minutes behind the leader, get set for a run shootout.
The other non-series man who will contend is Frenchman Nico Lebrun. Nico is the 2012 European Tour Champ and remember he won in Utah last year. This is his kind of course. Climb and then climb and then climb some more.
Young gun Aussie Ben Allen returns and he has been having a great season. You can count on him leading early. Stoltz has won here, but it does not favor his technical and downhill skills as much as Maui or Alabama. But he is still A-number-1 and King of the Hill.
Josiah Middaugh will always give everyone trouble here. Mountain born and bred, Josiah can ride this course and has more than enough mountain running skills to be the first to the line. Craig Evans is having his career season and cannot be discounted. This is one of Branden Rakita’s favorite venues with a couple top 10’s in 2010 and 2011.
The local darkhorse has to be David Henestrosa, the Spaniard moved to nearby Clearfield, Utah a few years ago and rides the trails more than anyone. Plus, remember he had the fastest run split at this race last year, and was recently 4th at the XTERRA Mountain Championship."
Pro Men : Rank - Name - Age, Hometown
1 - Conrad Stoltz - 38, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 - Josiah Middaugh - 33, Vail, Colorado
3 - Craig Evans - 34, Hendersonville, Tennessee
4 - David Henestrosa - 35, Clearfield, Utah (Spain)
5 - Branden Rakita - 31, Manitou Springs, Colorado
6 - Will Kelsay - 30, Boulder, Colorado
7 - Cody Waite - 33, Lakewood, Colorado
8 - Chris Legh - 39, Lyons, CO (Australia)
9 - Adam Wirth – 33, Boise, Idaho
10 - Will Ross - 22, Anchorage, Alaska
11 - Damian Gonzalez - 35, Stockton, California
17 - Ryan Ignatz - 33, Boulder, Colorado
21 - Brian Smith - 37, Gunnison, Colorado
NR - Ben Allen - 27, North Wollongong, Australia
NR - Simone Calamai - 43, Florence, Italy
NR - Scott Gall - 38, Cedar Falls, Iowa
NR - Sam Gardner - 37, Surrey, Great Britain
NR - Denis Giovannetti - 38, Pistoia, Italy
NR - Nicolas Lebrun - 39, Digne, France
"For the women we have a few unknowns as well. Renata Bucher stayed in the U.S. this Fall to train for Utah and get ready for Maui. The “Swiss Miss of XTERRA” has been a winner of a major event every year since 2005 and has been staying in Colorado so the altitude will not be a problem. Austria’s tiny Carina Wasle is really back to form and this is her kind of course. She led Switzerland and was 3rd in the Euro champ series this year.
Melanie McQuaid is going very well, just won against a stacked field at XTERRA Canada, and has won the last two races in Utah. But as usual, she has to watch for 2011 World Champ Lesley Paterson, who was second last year.
Nobody is sure just how far back to speed Shonny Vanlandingham is. Shonny won Brazil and Japan and has been getting seriously fast as her recovery continues. Lesley won in Alabama and, like Chris Legh, if she is within a few minutes of the leader at T2, you know what can happen. Danelle Kabush has consistently been on the podium and with her breakthrough win at the Mountain Champs will be in the hunt. Jacqui Slack from Great Britain is here and she has a few wins this season and a great 2nd in the Euro series.
It is never easy to pick a winner in these big events, but as mentioned – if you intend to win the USA champs you have to beat Conrad and Mel. Yes there are fast contenders coming to unseat them, but like the Yankees; you can’t win it unless you get past the two fastest guns in the series."
Pro Women : Rank - Name - Age, Hometown
1 - Lesley Paterson - 31, San Diego, California (via Scotland)
2 - Renata Bucher – 34, Lucerne, Switzerland
3 - Melanie McQuaid - 38, Victoria, B.C., Canada
4 - Danelle Kabush – 36, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
5 - Suzie Snyder - 29, Fredericksburg, Virginia
6 - Sara Schuler – 31, Boulder, Colorado
7 - Heather Holmes - 31, Pocatello, Idaho
8 - Tamara Donelson – 36, Edwards, Colorado
9 - Shonny Vanlandingham - 43, Durango, Colorado
10 - Caroline Colonna - 46, Taos, New Mexico
12 - Kim Baugh - 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
NR - Brandi Heisterman - 36, Brackendale, BC, Canada
NR - Tammy Jacques - 46, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
NR - Christine Jeffrey - 39, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
NR - Jacqui Slack - 29, Stoke-on-Trent, Great Britain
NR - Carina Wasle - 28, Kundl, Austria