The 2001 XTERRA World Championship marked the beginning of the “Caveman Era.”
It was the rookie season for Conrad Stoltz, a year in which he won the first of his record-setting 51 championships, 10 U.S. Pro Series crowns, and four XTERRA World Titles.
There is one scene in the race’s televised broadcast that stands out amongst the rest. It’s of Stoltz, midway through the bike on the first real downhill, fearlessly flying past Eneko Llanos and into the lead. His speed and grace on the sharp, jagged lava rock of a course was unmatched and back in those days there was no pre-riding allowed so it was the first time he’d ever ridden on that terrain.
It was also the first time he was riding his very own mountain bike. In his previous four XTERRA races that season he was on borrowed bikes but just before Worlds two-time XTERRA Champ Ned Overend had the foresight to get Stoltz on a Specialized and in a matching jersey to boot. It was the start of something big.
Stoltz wasn’t the only South African to crush it that day, as the women’s race went to Anke Erlank. And those two didn’t just win, they dominated. Stoltz won by more than eight minutes over Kerry Classen, and Erlank won by more than 10-minutes over Cherie Touchette. To this day, those are the two biggest margins of victory ever posted in Maui.
Two thousand one was also a year of grit, carnage, and mechanicals. The opening montage showed racer after racer bloodied and battered. The narrator describes the event as a “torturous challenge” and a “brutal confrontation between man and nature.”
CBS broadcaster Bill Macatee would go on to explain how racers are “confronting that moment of epiphany that often defines their character. Do I go on and suffer, or do I quit. That, at its core, is the essence of XTERRA,” he says.
There are tears of determination as Kerstin Weule vows to fight through injury to defend her title, tears of resolve as Navy Captain Doug Perry recounts being at the Pentagon on September 11, and tears of prophesy in Melanie McQuaid’s words “there’s always next year.” (McQuaid, of course, would go on to win Maui three times.)
There’s also quite a few humbling moments – Jody Mielke’s bad luck, Mike Vine’s mechanical, Eneko Llanos chain disaster, and even Deadly Nedly trying to get his jersey on at T1 … “Biking is his specialty, dressing, apparently, is not.”