In 2010 the Caveman proved he was not done clubbing the XTERRA competition. Not by a long shot.
He made history by winning the 15th annual XTERRA World Championship for the fourth time, a day after celebrating his 37th birthday.
“It’s the only finish I’ve been really emotional at,” recalled Stoltz. “My dad’s cancer had come back pretty bad and I wanted to go home and I spoke to him on the phone he said no stay and race. It’s the only picture I really have of winning a race that I thought I would keep and put up on the wall. You could see the emotion. Normally I’m calm and collected, but I thought about my Dad a lot that day, and he was proud. That was cool.”
Stoltz completed the course in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 7 seconds, which was more than five minutes faster than his closest competition. It was the second-largest margin of victory in XTERRA World Championship history.
“This feels the best by far,” said Stoltz after the race that day. “2007 was rewarding because I was able to come back from injuries. This year, there was a lot of emotional pressure.”
After crossing the finish line, Stoltz dedicated the win to his father.
“No matter what the outcome of this race, I think my parents would be happy for me,” he said. “But I think bringing this big one home … is going to be the biggest gift I could give them.”
Stoltz came out of the swim in seventh place 20 seconds behind swim leader Seth Wealing, but more than made up for it with a record time in the mountain bike. He passed all the leaders early in the bike stage, and had a four-minute lead halfway through the course.
“The course was harder than I thought,” he said. “It was looser here than it has been in years – really loose, so I knew I was making time with every stroke of the pedal. The 29er just rolled over this loose, bumpy stuff.”
By the end of the bike, Stoltz had a five-minute lead on the field, and he maintained it during a lonely run. His bike time of 1:23:48, beat the previous mark that he set in 2002 by 24 seconds.
Franky Batelier of France had his best XTERRA World Championship race, but had to settle for second place with a time of 2:36:14.
“When the bike began, I was close behind, and Conrad went faster and faster,” Batelier said. “Conrad is too strong. He is The Caveman, best in the world. Congratulations to him, and I am happy for me.”
Michael Weiss of Austria also had a solid bike stage, and finished third with a time of 2:36:45. Olivier Marceau of France continued his run of success on Maui with a fourth-place finish. It was the sixth time in his career that he has placed in the top five at the XTERRA World Championship, although he is still seeking a breakthrough win. He has finished in the top five in each of the last five XTERRA World Championship races.
“Not too good and not too bad,” Marceau said of his performance. “Just stay at my pace and not to worry.”
Nicolas Lebrun of France was the runner-up in 2009, but was not in rhythm this year and finished in fifth place with a time of 2:38:50. “Nothing in my legs to start – I felt like turning around,” said Lebrun, who still finished with the best run time of 44:01 and his fifth top five performance in Maui.
Every year in Maui mechanical disasters knock out a few of the top contenders, and 2010 was no different. Perhaps nobody had a rougher day than America's best hope for bringing home the title, Josiah Middaugh. Middaugh was two-minutes back out of the swim but passed 46 racers to move into second by about mile 10 despite a flat that he was able to quickly fix. The next three flats, two tubes, and CO2 cartridges delivered the knock-out punch, but in true XTERRA Warrior style, he shouldered his bike and ran a mile to the bike-to-run transition when he couldn't get his back tire to even turn. He soldiered on and finished 32nd. Also of note, Dan Hugo, who was in second-place early in the bike had his share of problems but stuck it out and crossed the line in 36th.
Fastest swim: Seth Wealing (19:29), Christine Jeffrey (19:41)
Fastest bike: Conrad Stoltz (1:23:48), Shonny V (1:40:22)
Fastest run: Nicolas Lebrun (44:01), Marion Lorblanchet (48:39)
In the women’s race the thee-year XTERRA plan of Shonny Vanlandingham finally became complete. After five consecutive years of top 10 finishes without an XTERRA world title, Vanlandingham broke through in 2010.
The Durango, Colorado native said that when she joined the XTERRA World Tour full-time three years prior she envisioned a three-year program that would culminate at the 2010 XTERRA World Championship on Maui.
“This is my third year on the XTERRA circuit, and I made it my goal, although it was a lofty goal, to win the championship in my third year at the age of 41,” she said. “I knew it had to come together today to be a special day.”
Indeed, Vanlandingham set a personal best for the Maui course, finishing with a time of 2:58:20. It was nearly 10 minutes faster than her previous best showing at the XTERRA World Championship.
“I set my PR on the course, and I was due for that; I knew I had to PR in everything to win,” she said.
It wasn’t easy. Three-time defending champion Julie Dibens of United Kingdom stayed near Vanlandingham the entire course. Dibens actually had the lead for the first 15 miles of the 20-mile mountain bike course.
“I passed Julie about mile 15 of the bike and went into T2 with a one-minute lead and I didn’t think that was going to be enough because Julie is such an amazing athlete,” Vanlandingham said.
Dibens could never make up ground during the run, and wound up in second place at 2:59:32 -- 1 minute, 12 seconds behind.
Dibens placed third in the Ironman World Championship just two weeks prior to the XTERRA World Championship, but she refused to use that as an excuse.
“She’s a demon on the bike,” Dibens said. “I was delighted with second. I got beat by a better girl today. Shonny is a true XTERRA athlete, the best mountain biker out here.”
Vanlandingham’s bike time of 1:42:40 was five minutes faster than any other woman. Still, she said she did not feel confident until the final mile of the run.
“I didn’t look back at all for the first six miles or so, and then at the black sand beach, I did take a peak and I didn’t see her,” she said. “That’s when it started to hit me. I’ve never won a world championship, not even in mountain biking, so this is really the pinnacle of both my XTERRA and mountain biking career.”
Dibens said she got as close as 30 seconds behind Vanlandingham early in the run, but then fell back toward the finish. “I had her in my sights, but didn’t have that extra gear.”
Marion Lorblanchet of France placed third in just her second attempt at the XTERRA World Championship. Making it more impressive, she overcame a broken pedal on her bike to make the podium.
“I crashed on the mountain bike, broke my pedal, so I lost a lot of time on the bike,” she said. “I just had to settle my nerves on the run. I was tired, but still knew I could run fast.”
Lorblanchet was as far back as seventh during the bike, before making up ground during the run. Her run time of 48:39 was the fastest among all the women.
Christine Jeffrey of Canada was the first female out of the swim, and went on to have her best finish at Maui with fourth place. “Super happy,” she said. “This is my best finish ever and way better than how I did last year.”
Suzie Snyder out-sprinted Austria’s Carina Wasle for fifth place.