On the eve of the XTERRA World Championship a severe tsunami warning was in effect and all racers staying in low-lying areas were evacuated and many slept in cars up on the hill. Not ideal pre-race prep and there was much concern that the swim, even the whole event, would have to be cancelled.
Those fears and the tsunami warning for the Hawaiian Islands was canceled early on Sunday morning, and then Javier Gomez and Lesley Paterson went out and stormed the competition.
Gomez was the overall winner, completing the course (1.5-kilometer swim, 30K mountain bike, 10K trail run) in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 50 seconds. Paterson was the top female, not only repeating her accomplishment of a year prior, but bettering it. She finished with a time of 2:44:11, which was nearly two minutes faster than her winning time in 2011.
Coming into the race all of the XTERRA pros knew who Javier Gomez was. He is, after all, a two-time ITU triathlon world champ in addition to the 2012 Olympic silver medalist. They just didn’t know how good he might be on an XTERRA course. He turned out to be exceptional.
“I didn’t expect that,” Gomez said. “I had a really good swim ... but I knew these guys like Conrad (Stoltz) and the good mountain bikers, they are much better than me, especially on the technical sections, so my tactic was try to push really hard uphill because then you can go hard uphill and then on the downhill just not even try to go crazy fast, just try to recover and avoid crashing. It worked pretty well.”
Gomez won it with an astonishing swim and a strong finishing run. He exited the water by himself, with the others more than a minute behind. He maintained the lead for most of the bike, before Conrad Stoltz passed him late on the course.
“I was surprised they caught me so late,” Gomez said. “It was mile 14, maybe something like that when Conrad came. The last technical section before transition, he made a little gap, maybe 30 seconds.”
Stoltz’s lead would be short-lived, as Gomez regained control early on the run course. “Javier is an amazing all-around athlete,” said Stoltz, who owns a record four XTERRA world titles. “When I heard he was going to do this race, I knew he was definitely going to be a factor. Apart from his amazing physical abilities, his mental game is top notch.”
XTERRA USA Champion Josiah Middaugh from Colorado also passed Stoltz during the run and finished second in 2:27:40. He has been chasing the XTERRA world title since 2001, and this was his best showing to date.
“I’m very happy with my race, I felt like I had the best day that I could with the skills that I have,” said Middaugh, 34. “Lost a ton of time in the water and I knew that was going to be the story.”
Middaugh came out of the water nearly four minutes after Gomez, and the difference proved to be too much, even though Middaugh had the fastest best bike time of the day (1:23:34).
“We knew he was the most talented guy here, we just didn’t know how his skills were on a mountain bike,” Middaugh said. “We had a really hard time making back time on him. He raced really smart.”
Stoltz (pictured) placed third in 2:30:03, and held off Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon late in the run. “I didn’t see Josiah until 2K into the run,” Stoltz said. “He came flying by.”
Chacon finished fourth, just 16 seconds behind Stoltz. Victor Del Corral from Spain was fifth, just four seconds behind Chacon. It was the XTERRA World Championship debut for Chacon and Del Corral.
The top 10 men were an indication of the international diversity of the field. Eight countries were represented in that top 10, including sixth through 10th: Brent McMahon (Canada), Asa Shaw (France), Tim Don (United Kingdom), Yeray Luxem (Belgium) and Olivier Marceau (France).
Former XTERRA world champs Nicolas Lebrun from France and Eneko Llanos from Spain placed 11th and 12th, respectively.
Sebastian Kienle from Germany placed 14th just two weeks after placing fourth at the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island to win the Double award.
In the women’s race Paterson said “It was perfect from start to finish for me. I’ve done some great training leading up to this. This was my big focus of the year, and it panned out exactly how I wanted it to.”
The 32-year-old from Scotland took the lead early in the bike and then ran away from the other women. She finished more than four minutes ahead of runner-up Barbara Riveros (2:48:18) from Chile. Marie Rabie from South Africa was third in 2:53:55, and Heather Jackson from Carlsbad, Calif., was fourth in 2:54:12.
Paterson’s reputation has always been as a running specialist, but she has taken her mountain bike skills to a higher level in recent years and she now has two XTERRA world titles (and an ITU Cross World Championship) to show for it.
“I’ve done a lot of running off the bike, a lot of strength running off the bike, so I was prepared for that,” Paterson said. “To be honest, the bike felt real comfortable and I didn’t push it too hard so I knew I could come out and do a good run. I knew these ITU girls are quick runners so I had to really have my A game for that.”
True to form, Paterson had the best run time of the day (40:51), but for the first time in her five years of entering the XTERRA World Championship, she posted the fastest bike time among the women.
It was also an impressive debut for Riveros, who was the only female to get remotely close to Paterson. “I’m pretty happy,” Riveros said. “To race XTERRA was one of my dreams, so I really enjoyed it.”
Third-place Rabie proved her worth on the trails, following a fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympics. She got off to a quick start, leading the women out of the swim, and then got passed only by Paterson and Riveros.
Heather Jackson had a strong run to finish in fourth place, and Jacqui Slack from the United Kingdom took fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were (in order): Magali Tisseyre from Canada, Renata Bucher from Switzerland, former XTERRA world champ Shonny Vanlandingham from Colorado, Helena Erbenova from Czech Republic, and Marion Lorblanchet from France.
Neilson Powless from Roseville, Calif., was the top overall amateur with a time of 2:42:35, while Hannah Rae Finchamp from Altadena, Calif., was the top female amateur in 3:05:55.