After 15 years of racing on Haleakala on the south shore in Makena the XTERRA World Championship moved to the northwest side of the island to their new home base at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in 2011.
The new course was dramatically different. From calm waters to raging surf, kiawe thorns and jagged lava rocks to lush tropical trails and epic views atop razor ridge.
XTERRA's new digs featured a brutal run and that was just fine by Lesley Paterson, who made her mark on the trails of Kapalua.
Due in part to a punctured tire on her bike, Paterson started the run course in fourth place – nearly six-and-a-half minutes behind then-leader Melanie McQuaid. Paterson quickly ran down the three women in front of her, fell flat on her face less than a mile from the finish, and still managed to take the women’s title by more than two minutes.
“I felt really good,” said Paterson that day. “I was so angry because I punctured on the bike, and I think that anger helped me to really sort of knuckle down and go as hard as I could and see where the chips would fall.”
Paterson, 31, finished with a time of 2:45:59, including a run time of 43:54, which was nearly three minutes faster than any of the other females.
“I had pre-run the course a lot,” she said. “I came out 10 days early just to make sure I knew the course really well, especially the run for me because that’s where I thought I could win it.”
It was a breakthrough win for Paterson. She had three previous top-10 finishes, including a runner-up showing in 2009. She got so excited after passing McQuaid late in the run course that she fell on the rocks leading to the stretch run on D.T. Fleming Beach.
“What happens is your heart rate is super high, it’s at the end of the race, you’re dehydrated and your legs are not quite sure what you’re doing with them,” Paterson said. “And I just got in the lead, so you’re kind of nervous with anticipation.”
Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet of France took second with a time of 2:48:08. She also got passed by the roadrunner legs of Paterson during the run.
“On the run, I was good, then I see ‘beep, beep’ and it was Lesley,” Lorblanchet said. “I think it was not possible for me to follow her. “I’m very happy because it was a good race for me. Last year, I was third, this year second, so maybe next year?”
Helena Erbenova of the Czech Republic capped an impressive XTERRA rookie season with a third place showing at Worlds. She finished with a time of 2:51:51 in her first appearance on Maui. Erbenova is a former Olympic cross country skier.
Renata Bucher of Switzerland placed fourth in 2:52:02, and Danelle Kabush of Canada was fifth in 2:54:35.
In the men’s race Michi Weiss was the overall winner, completing the course in 2 hours, 27 minutes, including an race-best bike split of 1:19:32. No other competitor finished with a bike time under 1:21:03.
Weiss was in the middle of the pack after the swim, but made his remarkable move to the front on the bike. By midway through the bike course, Weiss and South Africa’s Dan Hugo were riding next to each other in second place.
The only rider in front of them was the legendary seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who was competing in the XTERRA World Championship for the first time.
Weiss and Hugo actually talked about working together so that they could conserve energy in their pursuit of Armstrong.
“That was a critical moment for me, about three-quarters of the way through the bike and I was with Weiss, and we said let’s work together, but (Weiss) was one notch stronger and he kind of took off from me and he bridged to Armstrong,” said Hugo.
Shortly after breaking away from Hugo, Weiss closed in on Armstrong, and said it gave him an adrenaline rush that pushed him all the way to the finish line.
“It felt amazing,” Weiss said. “I had goose bumps. It’s something very special to catch Lance on a climb. It was an amazing feeling, and even motivated me more.”
Weiss used that motivation to do the unthinkable – he passed Armstrong on an uphill bike climb.
“I stayed a little bit behind him, I looked how he was doing, and I just gave it a shot and attacked and Lance couldn’t follow,” Weiss said. “It was cool.”