XTERRA has been racing in Richmond since 1999, and the city has firmly established itself as the sports’ finest urban adventure with a hip city culture that compliments ripping trails and the unpredictable James River.
The course itself annually attracts professional and amateur racers from across the country and around the world to discover the epic trails in the James River Park System – where they are greeted by a raucous bunch of bike and trail fanatics who annually throw a trail party at the trickiest section in Buttermilk Heights known as “Rock Face.” They blast music, BBQ, dress in costumes, scream, shout encouragement, and blast on vuvuzela’s to the delight of riders all day long.
As for the run, it has been best described as the "Fugitive 10K" because of its similarity to some of the chase scenes in the movie The Fugitive including river crossings, rock jumpings, the "Mayan Ruins" stair climb, and train track crossings. There is simply no XTERRA course in the world like the one in Richmond.
A solid pro field is in RVA to take on the challenge highlighted by Josiah Middaugh, who won the 20-24 age group race back in 2002 before turning pro, won it all in ’08, and has finished in the top 3 here five times. Middaugh is fresh off his eighth straight GoPro Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge title in his hometown of Vail, Colorado last weekend (as is women’s XTERRA star Emma Garrard).
Middaugh will be up against Kiwi great Braden Currie, who’s been perfect so far this season. Middaugh and Currie had an epic race at the Southeast Championship last month, going neck-and-neck from the bike all the way through the run and into the finish line. Currie, who took the tape in Alabama, says he expects another close one on Sunday here in Richmond.
“The swim is a bit shorter so Josiah will be out of the water not too far behind, and the ride is so technical that there is only so much time you’re going to make on that ride and not a huge amount of long climbs that Josiah sinks his teeth into and really likes so that’ll play a little bit in my favor, so then it’ll come down to the run. We’ll see, should be a lot of fun,” said Currie.
After Josiah and Braden there are a lot of guys to mention, like Craig Evans who has been in the top 5 here five times and will be competing for the last time as a full-fledged pro.
“I’ve been close a few times here,” said Evans. “I’m excited to race, and I came to fight this weekend.”
Chris Ganter has been hot this year, finishing third at the first two regionals, the tall Canadian Karsten Madsen was riding great in Alabama last month before a crash and a trio of flats took him out of contention, Kiwi Olly Shaw has had some time to comfortable here in the U.S. and the new look courses, Branden Rakita - the consummate professional has lots of experience here, regulars Ryan Ignatz, Brad Zoller, and Alex Modestou are in the mix, plus Ian King in his first pro race and road tri star Ben Collins making his debut in the U.S. Pro Series.
The women’s race will see a new champion emerge as none of the past XTERRA East winners are here. There’s no Flora Duffy (last year’s champ), no Lesley Paterson (2013 Champ), no Melanie McQuaid or Jamie Whitmore (both four-time winners), no Shonny Vanlandingham (2011), no Renata Bucher (2010), nor Jody Mielke, Anke Erlank, or Kerstin Weule.
There is, however, Emma Garrard and Suzie Snyder, both eager to take home their first XTERRA U.S. Pro Series win. A couple fast Canadians - Christine Jeffrey and Brittany Webster – are sure to put them to the test. Five other women in the top 10 of the Series standings will start with Kara LaPoint (4th), Maia Ignatz (6th), Sara McLarty (7th), Debby Sullivan (8th), and Catherine Sterling. For local knowledge look no further than hometown favorite Emily Bashton, who’s been racing in Richmond since 2000, and Rebecca Blatt who got her doctorate in medicine at the University of Virginia.
It’s supposed to be a scorcher on Sunday, with temps in the 90’s and the humidity to go with it, so just to finish will be an accomplishment for all involved. Add in the unpredictable James River, the crazy fan-base in the forest, the one-of-a-kind obstacles and a host of finely-tuned XTERRA elites and you’ve got all the right ingredients for another amazing edition of XTERRA in Richmond. We’ll document the elite race on twitter @xterraoffroad #xterraRVA starting Sunday at 7:40am EST.
Here’s a look at the start lists…
No. - Name – Age, Hometown
1 - Josiah Middaugh - 36, Eagle-Vail, CO
2 - Chris Ganter – 36, Boise, ID
3 - Craig Evans – 37, Hendersonville, TN
4 - Branden Rakita – 34, Colorado Springs, CO
5 - Alex Modestou – 28, Durham, NC
6 - Brad Zoller – 37, Avon, CO
8 - Braden Currie – 29, Wanaka, NZL
9 - Ryan Ignatz – 36, Boulder, CO
11 - Olly Shaw – 23, Rotorua, NZL
12 - Karsten Madsen – 23, Guelph, Ontario, CAN
NR - Ben Collins – 31, Chicago, Illinois
NR - Ian King – 25, Virginia Beach, VA
No. - Name – Age, Hometown
2 - Emma Garrard – 33, Park City, UT
3 - Suzie Snyder – 33, Fredericksburg, VA
4 - Kara LaPoint – 28, Truckee, CA
6 - Maia Ignatz – 34, Boulder, CO
7 - Sara McLarty – 32, Clermont, FL
8 - Debby Sullivan – 33, Rocklin, CA
10 - Catherine Sterling – 38, Ayer, MA
11 - Brittany Webster – 27, Canmore, Alberta, CAN
12 - Christine Jeffrey – 42, Tucson, AZ
13 - Rebecca Blatt – 35, Lakewood, CO
17 - Emily Bashton – 35, Richmond, VA
No. = Rank in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series / NR = Not Ranked