A Decade Ago in Maui
Ten years ago at the 2005 XTERRA World Championship Nico Lebrun broke his arm in a hard-to-watch fall on lava rock just before winning his first world title and Melanie McQuaid became the first woman to win two.
We caught up with both of the champs from ’05 to see what they remembered from that day…
“I remember the swim in Maui that year started with a beautiful rainbow,” said McQuaid. “2005 was a great Worlds because I was very confident in my ability going into that race and I wasn't off the mark. It was special because I had both Peter Reid and Brent McMahon, two Canadian legends, there to help me celebrate along with my dad and some of my best friends from Victoria. The 2005 season was excellent because Jamie and I had an amazing battle and went into the finals tied with two wins (my first time winning at high altitude thanks to training with Josiah) and a 2nd apiece- but she was stronger and took the top spot in Tahoe. I spent a lot of 2005 traveling with Danelle Kabush as she became a regular on tour and we did a bunch of the big Canadian mtb races together along with her becoming more regular in XTERRA. In 2003 when I won my first one in Maui I found a Canadian loonie and some quarters on the way to the start line on the beach. It began a weird superstition that if I see any coins (silver or higher) it meant a good race was coming so I HAVE to pick them up even if it means stopping on my bike and turning around. I’m pretty sure I found money before 2005 as well : )”
For Lebrun it was all in the master plan to win that one race…
“I remember a lot, and it's full off emotions,” he wrote. “I knew from the previous years that I was strong at this race, and always strong enough for the podium, but two times flats stopped me but I was always there … just never enough for the victory. So, in 2005 I changed my season. I stopped longer, started the season slower, I wasn’t competitive in winter tri, and then I trained more slowly with more body weights during the Spring and I was not winning anything. Then in July, I said, now I start, and I built slowly in July and did a crazy month of August where my smallest week was 35h and biggest 40h with long ride on the road bikes, with many passes. I wanted to climb, climb, climb.... and wanted to do 40000m+ (120000ft+) in the month on the bike plus in the run, but I really focused on the bike. Then in September I slowed down my training to race more, and started to be really fast by the end of the month. And it worked, I had my only big peak right in time and was full of energy. But I was lucky too, because with the hard tail I was riding all out, like I knew that nothing bad could happened. But in another side I was so stressed about flatting again on the last part of the bike when I took the lead. Then I hit the paved road and I knew it was for me, nothing could happen now! Nobody will run me down but I stayed focused, my body was at 100% and this feeling was amazing, to lead this race, with the helicopter on the side, I thought about the all way to get to this point. And we know the story after that. I lost my concentration a little bit too early on the last Km and crashed! At first it was embarrassing because everybody is watching you... then you get up and start to feel the pain and then I said to myself, what an idiot! I crossed the line and my friend René jump on me, saying, you won it, you won it... and I was thinking “fuck its painful, my arm, my elbow!! It was my biggest success and my worst body problem at the same time. But now we remember the story, I wanted to win again with no pain to enjoy more, and I was close in 2009, but already so happy with one title and 3 podiums. And to be part of this family for almost 15 years, and I hope for the next 15 again minimum ;)”
Here are some excerpts from the official race report:
Overcast but warm conditions and a welcoming rainbow that touched down on the Pacific Ocean greeted 500 athletes at the sandy start line to the XTERRA World Championship at the Maui Prince Hotel in Makena. Nicolas LeBrun of France and Melanie McQuaid of Canada found the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, capping a magical day for both as they won their respective pro divisions.
The fifth time’s a charm for LeBrun, who had the best bike of the day (1:29:13) in a field full of great mountain bikers. “He crushed the bike!” is how it was best described. LeBrun came out of the water more than two minutes behind the leaders in 55th place but went out on the run in first place by more than a minute. He finished the grueling 27-mile off-road adventure in 2:38:19, three minutes and twenty seconds faster than runner-up Eneko Llanos of Spain.
“I had a good swim, not my best, but good,” said LeBrun. “And I was able to start the bike with a good group, Josiah Middaugh, Nico Pfitzenmaier, and Robert Latschen and we go very fast together, but I did not feel very good at the start. It was because ‘Pfitz’ was very, very strong so I had a hard time to stay with him. After Heartbreak Hill (the first big climb on the bike) I could push more on the uphill and catch everybody and felt better and better.”
Better and better until he eventually caught and passed everybody, including Josiah Middaugh, Greg Krause, Francisco Serrano, Conrad Stoltz, Brent McMahon, Olivier Marceau, Eneko Llanos, and finally Mike Vine.
“When Nico caught me I could tell he had some horsepower today,” said Vine, who finished in 4th place. “The last traverse he put a minute on me and my chain jammed and I had to get off the bike but even if I didn’t have that problem I think he still would’ve gapped me. When I got to T2 1:25 back I knew I was running for second place.”
LeBrun’s strength is his run, and with the elusive world title (he finished 2nd here in 2003 and 3rd in 2002) waiting at the finish line motivation wasn’t an issue.
“When you know you might win this race it’s not about your legs, it’s about your head, and your heartbeat,” said LeBrun, who might’ve broken his arm just a half-mile from the finish after taking a nasty tumble on lava rock (X-rays are tomorrow).
For the first time in a few years, two-time XTERRA World Champ Eneko Llanos had some bad luck.
“You never know what’s going to happen here. A flat tire, a broken chain, a crash…that’s the magic of Maui,” said Llanos. “I hit a rock and had a flat before halfway on the bike. I fixed it with air because I have the liquid inside of the tires, but I didn’t want to put another tube inside because I was going to lose a lot of time. But the tire was losing so much air I had to stop four or five times to refill and put more air and it made the downhill very dangerous.”
First-year XTERRA pro Brent McMahon made a splash in his Maui debut by coming out of the water first in 19:42 and posting the fastest run, reeling in Pfitzenmaier, Marceau, and Vine and getting on the heels of Llanos before settling in for third place overall. McMahon’s 10k split was 44:01 (8:18 per mile), so you can tell it’s not your average run. There was roughly 1,500 feet of climbing and descending involved.
Australian Chris Legh turned in his best ever XTERRA thanks to the second fastest run of the day. He came into transition somewhere around 8th place with nearly a dozen other guys before turning on the jets.
McQuaid Makes History. In the first nine years of the XTERRA World Championship there were nine different women’s winners. In year 10, Melanie McQuaid won her second.
“This is the best race I’ve ever had,” said McQuaid, who was also victorious in 2003. “I knew it was going to happen today. I knew it yesterday, I knew it last week. I knew I had the form and the only thing that was going to stop me was a mechanical.”
But there were no mechanicals, just Melanie McQuaid in perfect form. She was the fourth female pro out of the water, had the second-fastest bike and the sixth best run, just enough to cross the finish line first and in one piece.
Early on, however, it looked like the string of new champs might continue as Sibylle Matter came out of the water first by a minute and held off all challengers on the bike until McQuaid caught up about halfway through the 20-mile course. Out on the run Matter impressed again, posting the fastest run among women in 51:53. McQuaid’s winning time of 3:07:16 was less than a minute faster than Matter’s 3:08:00.
“I had a very good swim and on the bike I just kept my rhythm,” said Matter, who won at XTERRA Spain last month. “Melanie went by me like a rocket but I never knew where the others were.”
The others, like last year’s champ Jamie Whitmore, were well behind and never did catch up. Whitmore settled into the third spot on the bike and held off a pair of great runners, Renata Bucher and Jenny Tobin, to finish there. It’s her fourth straight year in the top 3 (was 2ND in 2002 and 2003).
“Gave all that I had and it wasn’t enough,” said Whitmore.
Bucher, who was happy to just survive the swim (she was the 33RD woman a full six minutes behind) capped a great rookie season that included wins at XTERRA Saipan, Czech, and Austria. She needed a strong sprint to the finish to hold off XTERRA veteran Jenny Tobin, who fell just three seconds shy of
The 10th annual XTERRA World Championship.