In 2008 Ruben Ruzafa, a 24-year-old from Malaga, Spain, became the youngest and most unexpected XTERRA World Champion in race history.
The Spanish mountain biking champion had only started swimming a year before, and had never done an XTERRA, but after words of encouragement from fellow countryman Eneko Llanos, a three-time XTERRA World Champion, he gave it a shot.
“I didn’t know I could do so well, but I thought if I didn’t lose too much time on the swim I would be able to catch up on the bike and hopefully hold on during the run,” said Ruzafa after the race.
It turned out he didn’t lose too much time in the swim (just two minutes) and was able to make his way to the front of the pack by mile 14 of the bike. While race favorite Conrad Stoltz had suffered a flat that ultimately took him out of the hunt, Ruzafa’s race-best bike split and strong run carried him to victory and took the triathlon world by surprise.
Trust he will be overlooked by nobody in his return to XTERRA at the European Tour opener in Cieza, Spain on June 2nd.
Following his retirement from professional mountain biking in the off-season Ruzafa said he would turn his attention to triathlon and XTERRA.
“I am very proud and excited to race XTERRA Spain,” said Ruzafa. “It is a great start to the season and a good way to become more familiar with the format and also to discover the rest of my rivals.”
Ruzafa will collect a full cast of rivals with his planned XTERRA schedule this year that includes races in his home country of Spain, Germany, plus the U.S. and World Championships.
While Ruzafa has been dedicated to the World Cup mountain biking since winning XTERRA World in 2008, he has dabbled in local triathlons and was the runner-up at the ETU Cross Tri championship in ’09. With a full season of focus on the sport only time will tell just how fast Ruzafa can be.
One thing is certain; the addition of Ruzafa adds even more excitement to the XTERRA Spain Championship. To learn more about the event and see some truly amazing images of the countryside in Cieza like their Facebook page.