One of America’s fastest all-around triathletes, Ben Hoffman, winner of his last three IM races (most recently Coeur d’Alene on June 23) will compete at the XTERRA Mountain Championship next Saturday, July 20, at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado.
Hoffman is no stranger to XTERRA having won three XPS races since 2008 and finishing third at the Mountain Champs behind Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh last year.
“The Hoff” has been in the news quite a bit lately, from winning IMCDA and chasing down an apparent road rage driver to strength training insights and warming the hearts of triathletes everywhere in the classic Nils Nilsen photo “The Kiss.”
We caught up with the 29-year-old Colorado native today to get his thoughts leading into XTERRA’s high altitude challenge – and the beast of a bike course that climbs to 9,400-feet up in the Rockies.
XTERRA: Congrats on CDA, 4th IM title and third in a row, and a course record no less. Think you're as fast as you've ever been right now?
Ben Hoffman: I think I am certainly as fast as I have ever been at the Ironman distance, and as fit as I have ever been. To take down a record held by one of the best Ironman triathletes of all-time (Craig Alexander) showed me I have made good gains this season.
XT: How will your endurance and IM speed translate to XTERRA distances 1.5K/26K/10K?
BH: In the past I have been able to utilize my IM fitness to be competitive in XTERRA, but I know all the guys are getting faster every year, so I won't know until I race in Beaver Creek. They are certainly different styles of racing, but I feel confident that I can get in there and do battle with some of the top guys. It also helps that I won't be at a complete disadvantage with regard to altitude, since Boulder sits at 5400 ft.
XT: Was cool to see you write on your blog (benhoffmanracing) that to relax after your win you went MTB'ing with friends in Montana. I imagine you must've done your fair share of that growing up in Grand Junction and while at school in Missoula. Safe to say MTB'ing is something you do for fun?
BH: I have always looked at mountain biking as a good escape. No roads or cars, just open trails. It's something I grew up doing in western Colorado, and something my girlfriend and I love to do together. Of course, I do like to push hard every now and again in an XTERRA, so it's not all fun and games!
XT: Read about the tough road rage incident that got Richie banged up a bit, must be of some comfort to do some training on trails in the next few weeks then?
BH: Absolutely. As much as we train, we don't have that many incidents on the roads, but it only takes one bad apple. I'm just gutted for Richie, as it's his job, and he's out for a while now. It will be a good mental break to hit the trails a little more and not have to worry as much about the cars for a while.
XT: No bad drivers on trails, but there are bears sometimes! You saw one last year during the race, didn't you?
BH: Yeah! That's the beauty of these races. You really feel like you are getting intimate with the landscape, seeing a side that you otherwise wouldn't. Can't beat the Colorado high country in summer!
XT: You had a great race last year, taking 3rd. What's the biggest factor in you coming back to give the Mtn Champs another shot?
BH: The biggest factor is to give myself a mental break from road racing before I begin my Ironman Hawaii build. Well, that and the desire to take a couple steps up on the podium! It's a great race that is essentially in my back yard, and I love to mix things up a bit, so it's a perfect fit of a highly competitive event backed by a more fun and relaxed vibe.
XT: You're not that new to XTERRA, I know you've done a couple before - Four Corners and XTERRA REAL...can you run your XTERRA history by us real quick?
BH: I think I have done 4 races now. The first few I won, as they weren't the championship caliber, starting with XTERRA Arizona Xtreme back in 2008, then XTERRA Four Corners in 2010, and XTERRA REAL in 2011, and then Beaver Creek last year.
XT: In BC you'll be up against a bunch of really fast XTERRA guys, highlighted by Josiah Middaugh racing in his back yard on a course he designed and Dan Hugo, fresh off a win at the East Championship in Richmond last month. What'll it take to give them a run for the win?
BH: Well, with Dan all I have to do is distract him with some good coffee or wine! Josiah will always be tough on his home course, but I think it helps that I know the course now from racing last year. To beat these guys will take a special race, but I really believe that this particular race is won on the bike, so I will have to push very hard to get a gap.
XT: I know you've got Kona in your sights, any thoughts on doing the double - Kona then Maui?
BH: I never like to do too much planning beyond an Ironman, but it would be great to spend some extra time in Hawaii and tackle the course in Maui too. If the race in Beaver Creek goes well, I'll certainly be thinking more about it! With guys like Javier Gomez coming over to race it, the event just keeps getting more world-class all the time, and that definitely gets me excited. ### www.benhoffmanracing.com