It’s good to be Melanie McQuaid right now. On Sunday she finished 2nd in her Ironman debut in Whistler, and today we relive the 2006 XTERRA World Championship – the year she became the first pro to win in Maui for the third time.
“XTERRA girls and Canadian girls are tougher than a $3 steak,” wrote McQuaid on her blog about Sunday’s race (read the whole thing at racergirl.com). In the same blog post she gives a special mention to Danelle Kabush, saying “You are the best- not just as a training partner but also for the mindset! Look her up for mental training because she will make you unstoppable.”
Interestingly enough, Kabush finished 2nd to Mel in Maui in 2006, finishing eight minutes back despite posting the fastest run of the day.
In the men’s race Hamish Carter, the 2004 Olympic triathlon gold medalist, came across the line just 19 seconds ahead of Olivier Marceau, who he passed with less than a mile to go on the run.
“That course wasn’t meant for human consumption” were the first words Carter spoke after crossing the line. “It’s honestly the hardest, meanest course ever. The rocks and the hills don’t go away. You get rid of them on the bike and you get stuck back up there on the run,” he said, referring to the more than 3,000 feet of climbing on the bike and run up the dormant Haleakala Volcano.
Carter spent the entire day in a cat-and-mouse chase with Marceau, who was also the runner-up in 2004. The chase started in the water as the two exited the 1.5k swim course in a little under 20 minutes alongside a handful of Olympic triathletes in Brent McMahon (CAN), Carter (NZL), Marceau (SUI), Eneko Llanos (ESP), plus his brother Hektor Llanos, American XTERRA Champ Seth Wealing and Honolulu’s Chad Seymour.
From the beach it was Carter that hit the bike course the hardest and pulled away from the field. Behind him, in the first downhill section before the famed Heartbreak Hill less than three miles into the course, leading challengers Mike Vine, Dominic Gillen, Francisco Serrano and Chris Legh all suffered flats. For Vine and Legh, it would mark the beginning of the end of their day and for Gillen and Serrano – serious setbacks that took them out of contention.
While Carter powered to the front Marceau let him go, knowing the beast of a climb Haleakala had in store later on. Midway into the bike Marceau caught Carter and the two rode together for most of the second half of the course. A couple minutes back was Wealing and the hard charging Josiah Middaugh – who had the best bike split of the day in 1:33:18 to move from 38th out of the water to second into the bike-to-run transition.
About a mile before T2 Carter got a flat of his own, but rather than fix it he skidded and weaved the remaining distance into transition. “I couldn’t corner the last downhill but I figured I’d lose one-minute if I just tried to ride it in and I’d lose three minutes if I tried to stop and change it, so it was quite funny coming in because I had no control,” said Carter.
Marceau took advantage and headed out on the run a little over a minute ahead of Middaugh, Carter and Wealing.
Carter caught Middaugh straight away and Wealing too. “I was around some pretty fast runners so I had my work cut out for me, and I wasted myself on the bike but that’s what I had to do.” said Middaugh, who finished 4th for his fourth straight top 10 finish.
For more than five miles into the run Marceau was golden, but his legs were running out of gas. The ultimate stopper on the run is the “Makena Mile” – a near mile long stretch of soft white sand just a mile from the finish. It was here, at the end of that stretch, where Carter took over.
“I went down and looked for the hard sand because he was running up on the beach and I thought that I had to try and do something different. I had looked at the beach the day before and it was definitely harder down by the water and trying to find some hard sand was important,” said Carter. “Once I caught him I thought if he comes with me I’m in trouble because I got nothing left, but I just had a little bit more gas than him but man, that was so hard.”
“I think Hamish deserves the first place,” said Marceau. “He had a great run and came back on me at the end of Makena Beach. For sure I could’ve won this race if Hamish hadn’t come, but he was the strongest today.”
Wealing was strong too and put together the third best bike and run to place third as the top American in just his first-ever attempt on the Maui course.
“I’m very pleased. I felt awful when I got here and was aiming for a top six so third is better than I could expect,” said Wealing. “It was fun running through the people on the beach but that first sand section is ridiculous. There’s no line at all. The run is so bloody hard, it’s just a strong man’s run. You get off the bike and your legs are just shot and they shove you right up that hill and then to add insult to injury that beach is just unbelievable. I can see that this is the premier race and why it’s the World Championship.”
Middaugh, who had been the top American the past two years, had a brilliant race in any circumstance, let alone having come back from major knee surgery in June.
Two-time XTERRA World Champ Eneko Llanos (2003 & 2004), fresh off a fifth place finish at Ironman, was amazingly fresh for this one and finished 5th here too. “I didn’t have the speed to stay with the guys in front. My legs are o.k. but not fresh. 5th today, 5th at Ironman, I think it’s been a good week.” That’s an understatement, and he became the first guy not named Peter Reid to win the Hawaiian Airlines Double award since 2001.
McMahon had the best swim and the best run to place 6th. Greg Krause was solid in 7th, and 2005 XTERRA World Champ Nicolas Lebrun finished 8th.
At 49-years-young Scott Tinley finished as the 44th pro. Tinley became the second inductee into the XTERRA Hall of Fame (Ned Overend was the first last year) at the pre-race dinner on Saturday night. He also had one of the better finish line quotes on the day, “It’s not a race fit for man nor beast.”
Coming into the race the women’s field was considered one of the deepest in recent memory with a handful of hopefuls given full consideration for the race win. In the end it was simply McQuaid, strong on the swim (5th), devastating on the bike (1st) and steady on the run (5th).
“Today all the preparation I put in during the last month came together and I felt like when I asked my body to do something it responded,” said McQuaid, who won her second straight and unprecedented third overall XTERRA World Title.
At the very beginning the strong swimmers – Sibylle Matter and Candy Angle – put some time on the field and surged up the course, but before they could get comfortable there was McQuaid. Less than three miles into the bike she had already passed them both and set out on a blistering pace that left the closest riders more than six-minutes back by the midway point.
Several major crashes behind McQuaid – one involving 2004 Champ Jamie Whitmore on the plunge and the other taking down 2002 Champ Candy Angle near the Crossroads section – changed the dynamics of the race. Both Whitmore and Angle were done for the day with cuts and abrasions that left them unable to continue.
Filling the gap was Matter, Danelle Kabush, Jennifer Smith and Renata Bucher. Smith, as expected, had a magnificent bike – second only to McQuaid’s, and entered the bike-to-run transition in second, followed by Bucher, Kabush, and Vanlandingham.
With such a commanding lead McQuaid just had to keep moving. “I didn’t worry about what was going on behind me I just did my race and pushed myself as much as I could,” she said. “This year I had the luxury of riding well within my limits. I could’ve gone harder on the bike but I thought why not save some for the climb on the run. So I did and that paid off because the run was really hot and really hard.”
Nobody handled the run better than Kabush, who caught Bucher right away then Smith just before the end of the long climb and sailed into her best XTERRA finish – 2nd place. It was a great way to end the season having just come off a third place finish at the XTERRA USA Championship.
“I’m peakin at the right time feeling stronger and stronger as the season went on,” said Kabush, who was 6th in ’05 and 3rd in ‘04. “Today everything went smooth and I was loving it on the bike because I had fast tires, no knobs, and that was good because it was hard packed, so I was lovin’ it. It was fun.”
Matter showed great form as well coming off a 19th place finish at Ironman and still having the legs to chase down Bucher and Smith on the run for 3rd.
“I’m so happy that I forget about all the things that are sore now,” said Matter. “I’m really surprised about this because I never thought I’d be on the podium again. This is such a great race and there’s a lot of support from all the spectators and volunteers.”
Smith held on for fourth, Bucher followed in fifth, and Jenny Tobin had the second-best run to finish in 6th and come in as the top American.
Fastest swim: Brent McMahon (19:41), Sibylle Matter (20:51)
Fastest bike: Josiah Middaugh (1:35:08), McQuaid (1:49:55)
Fastest run: Brent McMahon (45:05), Danelle Kabush (53:51)
Of note, Rom Akerson from Costa Rica and Suzie Snyder from Colorado Springs, Colorado won the men’s and women’s amateur world championships.
The 11th annual XTERRA World Championship.