(Honolulu, HI) - Ruben Ruzafa and Helena Erbenova won the XTERRA European Tour opener in La Manga, Spain on Saturday.
XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas was on-site and brings us this report…
To quote Dickens; It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
The location at La Manga resort is fantastic; the area in Murcia is Cint Eastwood spaghetti western wild. Steep climbs, gnarly downhills, lots of power and rhythm riding. A run everyone loves. And then there were the worst of times.
The local "guardia" was late; the ambulance was late; a lot of local authorities were late. Hence, the start was 20 minutes late. The authorities also deemed what appeared to be a calm, no surf day as too dangerous and would not permit the swim. We substituted a wicked 4.5K uphill and back downhill run. The swimmers hated it, the runners loved it.
The grand story must be Albert Soley Castells. Albert was first age grouper last year and upgraded to elite for this season. He was incredible today. He came off the first run in 3rd and quickly caught and passed his way into a bike long battle with two-time world champion Ruben Ruzafa (pictured). Soley posted the fastest bike split and came into T2 in first place. I was watching the action at a very fun double drop downhill near the finish. Xavier Jove' came through a bit later followed by fast improving Swiss Jan Pyott. Then nothing. When nobody came by for over 10 minutes I knew something was wrong.
The bike was perfect for 95% of its length. But near the end, and just after the first 3 went past, a marshal started sending people the wrong way on a steep hike-a-bike hill. Pyott recognized quickly this was wrong and turned around. Roger Serrano went all the way up the climb only to find a 6m drop and realized the mistake. He came down and warned others it was the wrong way but it was too late. The field was shattered with perhaps as many as half being sent the wrong way. To further matters, a local crazy man took a bunch of red/white XTERRA branded run tape off the run course the night before and then took the blue direction arrow and sent more the wrong way at a second location.
While it is the athlete's job to know the course, this double disaster was beyond anything I have ever witnessed.
We are still working out the results. The elite women and I got together after the race to work out what the finishing order was. I know full well that missing or cutting the course is cause for DQ. But in this case, all but one woman would have been DQ'd and it was my decision to get everyone together and try to get a 100% consensus on the finish order. To the great credit of the elite women, we all agreed and their results are confirmed.
A disastrous result to an otherwise wonderful experience. Organizers are deflated and have humbly apologized for the problems. More after they gather themselves and make some decisions about next year.
So we go on to Portugal next week. It was wonderful watching a new face challenge the established champion and to see what a great physical course they have created here. It was no fun taking the anger from disappointed athletes. As the Kahuna has said in his famous book "Kahuna's 17 great rules of life and putting on events" - Tomorrow the sun will come up and life will go on.
Ruben Ruzafa, 2:37:32
Albert Soley, 2:39:48
Xavier Jove', 2:40:01
Jan Pyott, 2:46:49
Rich Sumpter, 3:01:48
Will Kelsay, 3:02:17
Helena Erbenova, 2:59:51*
Merce Tusell Quevado
*official time only for first place as other times disputed