Photo: Jesse Peters
Fast, furious racing and a whole lot of fun was on display at the first-ever XTERRA Pro Relay Team Shootout, presented by Luck Stone. It’s long been said that at XTERRA, Mother Nature is your toughest competitor and she was bringing it on Thursday.
Right on schedule for the 12 noon start the skies opened up and a torrential downpour blessed the event. The racers themselves seemed unfazed, almost giddy about the conditions.
“We were gonna get wet in the swim anyway,” joked Craig Evans.
The James River was a warm 72-degrees and at the five-foot level, just about perfect for swimming. Evans, Christine “Big Fish” Jeffrey were the first two out of the water, with 16-year-old rocket Jessica Hevener of Richmond right on their heels. Hevener was a last-minute replacement to swim for Team RVAfrica, and the Poseidon swim club and Endorphin Fitness tri team member (who just finished the 10th grade) proved worthy of the invite.
“To swim the best in our sport, at just 16-years-old, that’s remarkable,” commented XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.
Out of the water and up the boat ramp Hevener tagged Dan Hugo, Evans tagged Shonny Vanlandingham, Big Fish tagged Karsten Madsen, Alex Modestou tagged Conrad Stoltz, and Mieko Carey tagged Takahiro Ogasawara and the bike portion got underway.
The mountain bikers crossed the River over to Belle Isle where they worked their way through ‘lost trail’ and into some pump tracks. At one point all five riders were in the track at the same time and it was fun to see all that skillful riding together in one spot (watch the video).
"It was raining so hard we were swimming on the bikes," said Stoltz. "Buckets of water were coming down the highway and you couldn’t see anything. It was some good fun and games."
Almost as if it was scripted the field came roaring into the bike-to-run transition one-after-another setting up an exciting final one-mile run leg to see who would come out on top. As all five runners - Brad Weiss, Suzie Snyder, Mauricio Mendez, Branden Rakita, and Charlie Epperson were off and running it took 18-year-old rookie pro sensation Mendez from Mexico no time at all to pull out in front.
“I don’t think Mauricio got the memo that this was a demo event,” laughed Jeffrey. “Seriously though, you can’t bring a group of athletes like this together for a race and tell us to take it easy. Mauricio proved that emphatically.”
Indeed, there was no stopping Mendez, who has posted the fastest run split at just about every XTERRA he’s entered over the last two years (read his story on Slowtwitch). He took the tape in just under 20 minutes to give team CanaMex the victory.
“It was great, it was really fun, what an experience,” said Mendez. “It’s fun to be around all of these incredible athletes. One of the things I really love about this sport is its people. It’s such a great atmosphere here.”
Luck Stone was streaming the event live online and despite some technical difficulties (no fun trying to shield really expensive equipment from driving rain) captured some great moments for all to enjoy.
“There is no place like Richmond so to be able to showcase the city and our athletes to the XTERRA Tribe around the world is really neat,” said Nicholas. “We can’t thank Luck Stone enough for all they do for us. Their motto is ‘igniting human potential’ and they live by that – clearly striving to do great things.”
The shootout was a prelude to Sunday’s 16th annual XTERRA East Championship, which is doubling as the USA Triathlon National Championship race.
Watch it live Sunday starting at 8am EST on http://www.luckstone.com/xterra-world-tour-2014
XTERRA Pro Relay Team Shootout Results
1. Team CanaMex (19:20) – Karsten Madsen (CAN), Mauricio Mendez (MEX), Christine Jeffrey (CAN)
2. Pacific Rim – Mieko Carey (JPN), Takahiro Ogasawara (JPN), Charlie Epperson (Guam)
3. RVAfrica – Jessica Hevener (Richmond), Dan Hugo (RSA), Brad Weiss (RSA)
4. Stars and Stripes – Craig Evans (TN), Shonny Vanlandingham (TX), Branden Rakita (CO)
5. Da Locals – Alex Modestou (DC), Suzie Snyder (Fredericksburg), Conrad Stoltz (South Africa)
See pics and videos at www.facebook.com/xterraplanet