The XTERRA Mexico Championship returns to Tapalpa – a mountain town south of Guadalajara on Saturday. A host of top XTERRA pros including Dan Hugo (RSA), Will Kelsay (USA), Chris Ganter (USA) and Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) will battle it out with local contenders Francisco Serrano (MEX) and Fabiola Corona (MEX) for $15,000 in prize money while 40 qualifying spots into the XTERRA World Championship will be up for grabs for amateurs.
XTERRA managing director "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas is on-site for the race and brings us this preview.
It has been two years since I came to XTERRA Mexico. We've been racing here for 5 years and the events and athletes get stronger every year. I had some fun on Tuesday with the head of administration, Selene Cano. She told me they had 496 entries; this about 4 in the afternoon. It is great news as this represents a very healthy increase over last year. I joked with her and said she could not go home until we had over 500 !! At 9 that evening she called The Grande Jefe Leonardo Moreno and told him to tell me she now had 501 !! This is the kind of spirit you find here in Jalisco, the home State of XTERRA Mexico.
In the US and abroad news outlets like CNN report that Mexico is dangerous; murders in the street; gangs with Uzi's and Mac 5's. This is the worst kind of sensational journalism and for 99.9% of Mexico it is a complete lie. Are there problems at the border towns? Probably yes. Here in the middle, in Guadalajara, I can say with absolute certainty there is no such problem. This is a big city of 2,000,000 people set in the central mountains about 5,000' above sea level on a level plain surrounded by mountains. It is green, there are beautiful parks everywhere. The centro or old section has fabulous sandstone buildings, opera houses, wide pedestrian plaza's, modern buildings, the huge well renown University of Mexico, shopping centers - everything you could ask for in a city that has survived since the 1500's, and survived well. It is not just Tequila that make the area; it is the silicone valley of Mexico.
The race city of Tapalpa is one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos (magical village) projects and is simply a great place. About 100 miles from Guadalajara, It is a jewel of old Mexico with cobble streets (wear good shoes, no 4" stiletto's allowed) great shops, covered walkways, typical, huge centuries old churchs alongside a tree lined central plaza. Just off the plaza is about 150' of food booths that open everyday where they will cook before your eyes, fish, meat, chicken tacos, breaded chili's, rice, beans and tasty stuff I have no idea what it is. They call it "hungry street" and you cannot leave hungry. Lots of sit down restaurants, many of them on old wood balconies above the town square and all serve great food at very reasonable prices.
This is a two transition race (T1 photo courtesy @dghugo). The swim is at a small community called Villa de Lago about 20 minutes from town and next to a natural phenomena called las piedrotas. These are huge rock formations that are a geological wonder. Set in a green valley there is no explanation on how they got there, but they are big and they are beautiful. Great to climb on and walk around or picnic it is a neat place and part of the XTERRA Mexico bike course. The bike travels up and down all the way to the central plaza of Tapalpa (better explanation tomorrow - for now you need to know what you are missing and get ready for next year) where T2 is set literally in the middle of town. There is a bar on the corner where the bikes come up one of the cobble streets and turn into the square. You will find patrons from old vaqueros to fashion conscious visitors from the city sitting and drinking cerveza or tequila and watching the action. The run heads out of the city, climbs the local mountains and returns for a second lap. There is no way to describe it other than fabulous chaos. A few thousand people are in the square and athletes must come running down stairs past the old church, turn into and run through the plaza simply making their way through the crowds. Will Kelsey does the race every year and has the biggest ear-to-ear grin bumping and jumping and making his way to the second lap. It is a bit easier when you return as there are barricades that lead to the finish line. The finish line closes the main street of the plaza and is resplendent with flags, music, banners, mariachi bands and usually a few Corona girls to greet the finishers.
After the race on Saturday night, Tapalpa has a huge XTERRA fiesta that is the best after party on the world tour. But don't think USA or safety conscious places - the fireworks here blow up 200' above you, the bands are playing wild frantic dance music and one simply has to experience it to understand what the word "fiesta" really means. Get down here and put it on your Must Do list for next year.
More to come. Jalisco is the home of Tequila and there is some siete leguas blanco with sangrita waiting for me.