A wild weekend – literally and figuratively – is in store for several hundred XTERRA warriors taking part in Sunday’s XTERRA England Championship race on the storied grounds of Vachery Estate in Cranleigh.
On offer is the rare chance to swim, ride, run, race, eat, sleep, and dance in the serene and seductive ancient wooded countryside of Surrey. On a private estate, no less, where huge open fields of grass will welcome hundreds of campers, bands, caterers, and racers.
The atmosphere is teeming with excitement and the course itself is simply terrific. It starts with a swim in the strictly private and extraordinarily clean spring fed Vachery Pond. A special ramp has been built just for the event to allow access for swimmers, officials and water safety. The bike course – thanks to great efforts led by Surrey-bred XTERRA pro Sam Gardner (the first Brit to win a major XTERRA) – has riders twisting in-and-out and up-and-down the dense tree-lined forests. It’s incredible how much turning is involved, most on perfectly tacky dirt.
“It’s awesome, I love it,” exclaimed four-time XTERRA World Champion Conrad Stoltz after pre-riding just the first third of the bike course. That’s exciting to hear coming from a self-proclaimed “course snob.”
The run is just as fun, crossing over creeks, hopping over logs. There will certainly be a primal feeling for those being chased, as well as those being chased down by others through the dark, cool forest.
The championship distance combines a 1.5K swim / 30K bike / 11K trail run. There is also a half-distance sprint race option.
Spectators are in for quite a treat as well with both the bike and run courses filtering through the “arena” several times making it quite easy to track the action. They are certain to bear witness to a race worthy of the hype as the field is steeped in both quality and quantity featuring 37 elites representing 13 countries including some of the fastest triathletes from the United Kingdom.
The men’s race features the iconic “Caveman” Conrad Stoltz of South Africa - a seven-time world champ - who is shooting for his unprecedented 50th career XTERRA Championship race victory.
His challengers include last year’s XTERRA England Champion Ben Allen from Australia and five of the top eight ranked elites in the XTERRA European Tour; Francois Carloni of France (3rd), Yeray Luxem of Belgium (4th), Asa Shaw of the UK (5th), Jan Pyott of Switzerland (6th), and Kris Coddens of Belgium (8th). Carloni won XTERRA Greece this year, Shaw was second to only Ruben Ruzafa at XTERRA Worlds last year, and all of those guys have finished on the podium within striking distance of the top step at some point.
The men’s field also features Roger Serrano of Spain – who has shown flashes of brilliance this season –Americans Branden Rakita and Noah Wright, and a wealth of home grown ringers.
Some of England’s top “roadies” are taking to the trails in hopes of cracking into XTERRA’s gauntlet of off-road specialists. There’s Joe Skipper – who finished 2nd at Ironman UK this year and won the Vachery Road Triathlon last year. Rhys Davey, training partner and roommate with one of the worlds best triathletes Jonathan Brownlee. Davey was 4th at the Ironman UK 70.3 this year. Richard “the Fish” Stannard is in the field and certain to be at the front coming of the water. He’s won several aquathon world titles and holds all kinds of British Masters records.. Greg Shrosbee was 5th at XTERRA England last year. Rory Downie, Doug Hall, and Graham Wadsworth are all proven XTERRA racers that will feel right at home on their mountain bikes through these twisty trails. Three-time British Duathlon Champion (2011, 2012 and 2013) Mark Buckingham will give it a go, as will elite mountain biker Henry Sleight, Rich Sumpter, and young-guns Matt Dewis, Liam Lloyd, and Beau Smith. Clearly plenty of guys for the hometown crowd to pull for on Sunday.
Name, Age, Hometown
Ben Allen, 29, Wollongong, Australia
Mark Buckingham, 29, Holmfirth, United Kingdom
Francois Carloni, 29, Frejus, France
Kris Coddens, 33, Torhout, Belgium
Rhys Davey, 23, Leeds, United Kingdom
Matt Dewis, 22, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Rory Downie, 25, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Doug Hall, 26, Marshfield, United Kingdom
Liam Lloyd, 20, Carmarthenshire, United Kingdom
Yeray Luxem, 28, Merksem, Belgium
Jan Pyott, 32, Oberageri, Switzerland
Branden Rakita, 33, Colorado, USA
Roger Serrano, 23, Cataluna, Spain
Asa Shaw, 30, Frejus, France (United Kingdom)
Greg Shrosbree, 23, Poole, United Kingdom
Joe Skipper, 26, Lowestoft, United Kingdom
Henry Sleight, 25, Banbury, United Kingdom
Beau Smith, 20, Carnforth, United Kingdom
Richard Stannard, 40, Surrey, United Kingdom
Conrad Stoltz, 40, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Rich Sumpter, 32, Galgan, France (United Kingdom)
Graham Wadsworth, 31, Bristol, United Kingdom
Noah Wright, 40, Texas, USA
The women’s race promises to be just as exciting, highlighted by last year’s winner Jacqui Slack from Stoke-on-Trent. She’ll have lots of familiar faces to deal with as six of the top 10 women in the XTERRA European Tour are on the start line. Chief among them is Helena Erbenova, the two-time XTERRA European Tour Champion who has a chance to win a third Tour title if she can capture Sunday’s England Championship then the XTERRA Denmark Championship on August 31.
Chantell Widney from Canada has had a magnificent season, winning the XTERRA Mountain Championship in the Colorado Rockies last month to go with three top four finishes on the XTERRA European Tour this season. America’s best Emma Garrard is here with her own contingent and while she’s fighting for the overall her cousin Nikki, father Dick, and brother Ross will be racing as a relay team in the sprint race.
Brigitta Poor (6th in XET) from Hungary, Maud Golsteyn (8th) of the Netherlands, Lenka Cibulkova of the Czech Republic, and Nicole Olivari from Italy are up for the challenge along with a host of British female elites featuring Louise Fox (10th in XET), India Lee, Bethan Fowler, Jessica Roberts, and Natasha Barry.
Name, Age, Hometown
Natasha Barry, 33, Waterlooville, United Kingdom
Lenka Cibulkova, 33, Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic
Helena Erbenova, 35, Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic
Bethan Fowler, 35, Caldicot, United Kingdom
Louise Fox, 33, Lower Early, United Kingdom
Emma Garrard, 33, Utah, USA
Maud Golsteyn, 34, Nieuwstadt, Netherlands
Alice Hector, Windsor, United Kingdom
India Lee, 26, Winchester, United Kingdom
Nicole Olivari, 19, Montese, Italy
Brigitta Poor, 25, Sopron, Hungary
Jessica Roberts, 25, Northallerton, United Kingdom
Jacqui Slack, 31, Stoke on Trent, United Kingdom
Chantell Widney, 34, Alberta, Canada
Pros are fighting for their share of the $15,000 USD race purse plus XTERRA European Tour points towards the final standings split of $20,000 USD to the top performers in the Series. The XTERRA England Championship is the tenth of 11 events on the European Tour.
For amateur racers there are 41 qualifying spots into the 19th annual XTERRA World Championship in Maui this October 26. For all involved, win or lose, there will be a big party with live music, drinks, and dancing after the race and loads of competitors are camping overnight so its sure to be a festive scene.
“Surrey offers great freedom and space,” said Surrey resident and famous Beatles drummer Ringo Starr to Surrey Life Magazine recently. “There’s no nicer view than an uninterrupted vista over the immaculate Surrey countryside.”
Some 500 XTERRA racers will have their own chance to experience said countryside this weekend.
For more information visit www.xterraengland.com (Note: New registration available on-site only from 2-6pm on Saturday, August 24 at Vachery Estate).
About TEAM Unlimited
TEAM Unlimited is a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, founded in 1988. It owns and produces XTERRA and in 2014 will offer more than 300 XTERRA off-road triathlon and trail running races in 25+ countries worldwide. In addition, TEAM TV has produced more than 300 adventure television shows resulting in three Emmy’s and 42 Telly Awards for production excellence since 1990. View samples at www.xterra.tv, and learn more at xterraplanet.com and xterratrailrun.com.