It's a busy weekend on the XTERRA World Tour with three majors - the XTERRA Guam Championship and XTERRA Costa Rica on Saturday, and the XTERRA Great Ocean Road off-road tri in Australia on Sunday.
There are several great match-ups to look forward to, highlighted by the Leonardo Chacon vs. Josiah Middaugh showdown in Costa Rica. Chacon, an Olympian from CR, ran past Middaugh in the final stretches of the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last year to take the title, and their is no doubt Middaugh would like to return the favor on Chacon's home turf.
"Leo is undoubtedly the favorite, but since he beat me on my turf at altitude, I would like nothing more than to return the favor in the heat and humidity. Since nothing about my winter training could prepare me for hot and humid, I am feeling very optimistic," deadpanned Middaugh from the midst of a blizzard in his hometown of Eagle-Vail, Colorado.
XTERRA managing director "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas is in Costa Rica and gives us this insight into the race venue and course details...
The first XTERRA in Costa Rica was in 2006 and while it was nice, it did not last. One might say we were eight years ahead of our time. For this edition there are already 258 entries and 20 teams for the two distances. The location is on the west side of this Central American country on the blue Pacific, with headquarters at the very posh and luxurious Reserva Conchal which has hundreds of great condos, a grand Westin Resort and a full championship golf course as its focal points. No more than a few minutes away are campgrounds and very inexpensive small hotels, literally everything from $25 a night to $400 a night and all in between.
The swim will be a typical XTERRA 2-lap with short beach run. Today the wind was at least 20 mph with gusts even higher. Forecast says that will die down on Friday. The ocean currents are changeable and we'll decide the direction, clockwise or counter, based on what Mother Nature gives us.
Transition is a short beach run away and is there for both bike and run. The first few K of the bike are tough. Some really, really, really steep climbs in the first 3K and our advice is to play it easy until you get over these hills and save your power for the rest of the course. A great combination of dirt roads, gravel, lava rock, some single track but mostly loose brown dirt trails.
There are some technical downhills and more short, steep and loose climbs that many will choose to walk, especially near the end. We're driving 4WD vehicles on as much as we can to pack some of the trails down. There just has not been a lot of rain recently. A good set of eyes and experience will have a lot of benefit in finding the packed line around much of the course.
Back at the beach transition and out on the run you'll find it much flatter and fast, but don't let the elevation profile kid you, that first climb is not so bad - even I can run it! There are two loops inside the Reserva and as it should be - some beach running near the finish.
We'll start early, 0645 to avoid the heat of midday. Costa Rica is a pretty amazing place. We had breakfast with a couple Iguanas one of which was over 2-feet long. Another usual sight are these fat, furry animals that are a cross between a raccoon and an anteater called a Pizote. Lots of howler monkeys out in the morning and late afternoon hanging out in the tree tops and noisy birds deep in the forest. I hope to get out a bit further into the bush in the next day or two to see what else is there.
A big pro field here headlined by the very fast Costa Rican Leonardo Chacon. Also from Costa Rica, Rom Akerson is making his return to XTERRA after a few years off and if he is back in form, Rom can be very fast. From the U.S. we have The Champ Josiah “Beast Mode” Middaugh with Branden Rakita and Craig Evans. Shonny Vanlandingham and Suzie Snyder are here for the Luna team along with Christine"Big Fish" Jeffrey. First year pro from Mexico and future superstar Mauricio Mendez has made the trip and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his unbelievably quick age group finishes as a pro. Toss in Brits’ Llewellyn Holmes, Brazil's Laura Diaz, Italy's Simone Calamai and Fabrizio Bartolin, Sebastian Neef from Germany and hopefully Jan Kubicek from the Czech Republic and we have one great field for the first year.
We also have a strong over 75 age group with a current and former World Champs Ron Hill versus Nat Grew in the field. Many-time XTERRA champion Kerry Classen is living in Costa Rica and we're trying hard to get him off his bar stool and back in the water. He says no, but I think he'll be on the line come Saturday morning.