The 2014 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series opens next Sunday, April 13, at the XTERRA West Championship at Lake Las Vegas, Nevada.
Reigning XTERRA West Champ, Series Champ, and 9x National Champ Josiah Middaugh headlines a 20+ strong men’s field that includes the top six from last year’s Pro Series - Dan Hugo, Branden Rakita, Ryan Ignatz, Brad Weiss, and Craig Evans - the runner-up at Ironman Hawaii Luke McKenzie, another Aussie in Chris Legh (straight of retirement) and rookie phenom Mauricio Mendez from Mexico.
Hugo has already won three races on the XTERRA World Tour – South Africa, Philippines, and Guam – and has another big race in Saipan on Saturday. His traveling buddy Brad Weiss has been right behind at each of those races.
McKenzie, a six-time IM Champ, is looking to earn his elite qualification into XTERRA Worlds so he can compete in this year’s Double Competition (IM Worlds in Kona then XTERRA Worlds in Maui). Legh, on the other hand, realized he missed out on the fun of his “farewell season” last year by spending it all on the road and thus is back in the dirt to go out in style this time around.
Middaugh, Mendez, Evans, and Rakita all got a kick-start to 2014 at XTERRA Costa Rica last weekend where they placed 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th, respectively.
Notably missing from the bunch is Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz, who after 13 years racing the U.S. Pro Series will shift his focus to the adventures to be had on the XTERRA World Tour – starting with the XTERRA New Zealand Championship in Rotorua which is on April 12 (same weekend as Vegas).
“I’m spreading my wings and picking exciting-looking XTERRA World Tour races this year,” said Stoltz, who won an unprecedented 10 U.S. Series titles since 2001. “I want to keep my adrenaline spark alive so I’m chasing the excitement and passion - the reason I fell in love with the sport.”
Of note, Stoltz still has the XTERRA Southeast Championship in Alabama and the XTERRA East Championship in Richmond, Virginia – both notorious for having killer mountain bike courses - on his calendar of events.
Here’s a look at the tentative start list for April 13 (Rank = final 2013 Pro Series Rank):
Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 - Josiah Middaugh – 35, Vail-Eagle, CO
2 - Dan Hugo – 28, Stellenbosch, South Africa
3 - Branden Rakita – 33, Colorado Springs, CO
4 - Ryan Ignatz – 35, Boulder, CO
5 - Bradley Weiss – 25, Cape Town, South Africa
6 - Craig Evans – 36, Hendersonville, TN
9 - Nick Fisher – 28, Ogden, UT
10 - Will Kelsay – 32, Boulder, CO
14 - Andy Lee – 41, Lakeway, TX (Great Britain)
15 - Chris Ganter – 35, Boise, ID
19 - Matt Lieto – 35, Bend, OR
24 - Karsten Madsen – Guelph, Ontario, Canada
25 - Ryan DeCook – 33, Rochester, MI
NR - Chris Bagg – 34, Portland, OR
NR - Brendan Halpin – 29, Missoula, MT
NR - Chris Legh – 41, Lyons, CO (Australia)
NR - Luke McKenzie – 32, Encinitas, CA (Australia)
NR - Mauricio Mendez – 18, Mexico City, Mexico
NR - Jeff Smith – 31, Portland, OR
NR - Justin Thomas – 39, Reno, NV
NR - Alexander VanderLinden – 24, Ontario, Canada
2010 XTERRA World Champ Shonny Vanlandingham, who captured the XTERRA Costa Rica crown on Saturday, headlines the women’s field. She’ll be joined by Luna Chix teammates Danelle Kabush, Suzie Snyder, and Hannah Rae Finchamp (still racing amateur).
Emma Garrard, who was the top American at both the U.S. and World Championships last year, looks to build on last year’s success and Flora Duffy, who was third in Maui last year and won the XTERRA South Africa Championship in February, starts her chase for the U.S. Pro Series crown. Others of note include the “Big Fish” Christine Jeffrey, Jaime Brede, Tamara Donelson and Canadian Chantell Widney. There are also four newcomers to the women’s elite field on the start list with Rebecca Blatt, Solana Kline, Kara LaPoint, and Amelia McCracken.
Noticeably missing from the fray is defending champ Lesley Paterson, who is putting energy into the business side of tri during the first half of the year, and Melanie McQuaid who’s putting her efforts towards a successful go at IM 70.3 racing.
Here’s a look at the tentative start list for the elite women:
Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
2 - Shonny Vanlandingham – 44, Durango, Colorado
3 - Danelle Kabush – 39, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
5 - Suzie Snyder – 32, Fredericksburg, Virginia
6 - Emma Garrard – 32, Park City, Utah
8 - Christine Jeffrey – 41, Tucson, AZ (Canada)
11 - Jamie Brede – 36, Breckenridge, Colorado
14 - Tamara Donelson – 37, Edwards, Colorado (Australia)
15 - Chantell Widney – 34, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
19 - Flora Duffy – 26, Boulder, CO (Bermuda)
NR - Rebecca Blatt – 34, Lakewood, CO
NR - Solana Kline – 31, Bend, OR
NR - Kara LaPoint – 26, Truckee, CA
NR - Amelia McCracken – 30, Philadelphia, PA
For more information on the XTERRA West Championship visit xterralakelasvegas.com.