While the West Champs in Vegas always serves as a nice early season reunion for the XTERRA Tribe, the Southeast Championship at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama next Saturday, May 18, is where the sport truly feels at home.
There is something about the lake, trails, trees, and rocks that scream XTERRA. It’s Conrad Stoltz’ “happy place,” so much so that earlier this week he posted a picture of his bike leaning against a tree alongside the trail with the caption “this XTERRA Alabama course is like Heaven on Earth.”
Craig Evans feels the same way, and has notched his best races on these twisty trails, including last year’s runner-up performance when the race doubled as the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships.
Those two, along with the U.S. return of Dan Hugo and perennial powerhouse Josiah Middaugh will make this men’s pro race worthy of the hype. While Stoltz has dominated here with six straight wins since 2007 (Brent McMahon won the inaugural race in 2006), Hugo has finished second twice and so has Middaugh.
Speed will be on display past just the men’s race too as Lesley Paterson returns to Oak Mountain, where she won last year’s race, on an incredible hot streak spanning XTERRA, mountain bike races, and road triathlons. This is a mountain biker’s course, however, so expect to see the likes of Melanie McQuaid and Shonny Vanlandingham (pictured) – each with two wins on this course - bridge the gap.
The age group race is set to be a sizzler as well with Mexico’s young gun Mauricio Mendez, who at just 18-years-old won the amateur title in Vegas where he was seventh overall, against SoCal’s Brandon Mills (a Paterson-coached prodigy).
In the women’s amateur division Melanie Etherton comes in hot having just won back-to-back races in Ruston – the Epic and Gator Terra titles.
Note: Rank indicates their position in 2013 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series standings, NR = not ranked.
Rank – Men – Age, Hometown
1 - Josiah Middaugh – 34, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
2 - Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa
3 - Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
6 - Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee
7 - Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado
8 - Matt Mangen - 30, Ivins, Utah
9 - Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado
10 - Brian Astell - 32, Gualala, California
12 - Nick Fisher - 27, Ogden, Utah
15 - Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California
NR - Tom Eickelberg - 24, Cortland, New York
NR - Chris Ganter - 34, Boise, Idaho
NR - Dan Hugo - 27, Stellenbosch, South Africa
NR - James McCurdy - 28, Auburn, Alabama
NR - Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska
NR - Tim Snow - 37, Brockton, Massachussetts
NR - Cody Waite - 34, Lakewood, Colorado
NR - Bradley Weiss - 24, Cape Town, South Africa
Rank – Women – Age, Hometown
1 - Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California
2 - Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
3 - Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado
4 - Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada
5 - Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
7 - Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
11 - Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada
12 - Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico
14 - Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
NR - Chantell Widney - 32, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
NR - Katie Button - 28, Victoria, B.C., Canada
NR - Hallie Blunck - 28, Birmingham, Alabama
NR - Heather Holmes - 32, Atlanta, Georgia