The XTERRA U.S. Pro Series opener at Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, Nevada next Saturday, April 13 will feature some of the sports biggest stars with Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh highlighting the men's field; and Lesley Paterson, Shonny Vanlandingham, and Melanie McQuaid leading the charge for the women.
We caught up with XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas to get his thoughts on the upcoming XTERRA West Championship pro race...
"The long winter is over and Spring brings with it a new XTERRA season," wrote Nicholas. "The first two weekends of points series races is in the books, and the first Championship weekend is just a week away.
There is little doubt that Lesley Paterson has stamped her mark on XTERRA. Now a two-time world champ and an amazing 3rd overall in the Philippines surely must make her the favorite going into the year. The men have been all about Conrad versus Josiah and for Vegas I don't see an obvious change.
Craig Evans has shown fantastic bursts of speed and can never be taken lightly along with Branden Rakita who is oh so close at times. Will "the thrill" Kelsey gets stronger every year and at 31 - is the youngest of the five. Dan Hugo won't be in Vegas but will return to the U.S. for Pelham and Richmond and is always at the sharp end of the field.
For the women, former world champ Shonny Vanlandingham seems ready to return to the top step. She raced really well in South Africa on the bike and has had over a month to get her running legs under her.
Never to be dismissed is three-time world champ Melanie McQuaid. Mel started the season at the Oceanside 70.3 to get her season going and has not had a season without a win in a dozen years. Fellow Canadian Danelle Kabush broke through with a win of her own in Colorado last year and has always been a fierce competitor while the defending USA national champ Suzie Snyder, like Kelsey, is only 31 and getting faster every year.
There are 14 pro women scheduled with great names like Christine "Big Fish" Jeffrey; and Emma Garrard and Kelley Cullen return from becoming Mom's. Among the 14 pro men are some experienced XTERRA guys like Ryan Ignatz, Matt Lieto, youngster Will Ross and Chris Ganter.
Looks like a terrific start to the year and regardless of the outcomes a great after party Saturday at the Westin Pool deck should be a ton of fun with adult beverages and lots of war stories."
Here's a look at the tentative pro start lists. Note: Rank indicates their final position in the 2012 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, NR = not ranked.
Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
1 - Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2 - Josiah Middaugh – 34, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
4 - Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
5 - Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
6 - Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
9 - Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
11 - Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California
12 - Ryan Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado
28 - Chris Ganter – 34, Boise, Idaho
NR - Matt Lieto – 34, Bend, Oregon
NR - Matt Mangen – 30, Ivins, Utah
NR - Joshua Merrick – 42, Alamosa, Colorado
NR - Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado
NR - Erich Wegscheider – 27, San Jose, California
Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 - Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 - Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
4 - Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
5 - Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
6 - Tamara Donelson – 37, Edwards, Colorado
9 - Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
10 - Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado
12 - Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
14 - Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
22 - Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
NR - Jamie Brede – 35, Breckenridge, Colorado
NR - Rachel Challis – 37, Carlsbad, California
NR - Kelley Cullen – 32, New Castle, Colorado
NR - Lauren Harrison – 35, Los Altos, California