Amateur Men World Champs Spotlight
In the last few weeks we’ve heard from the amateur women who won XTERRA World titles in Maui last month … here we share our QnA with some of the amateur men’s champs:
Hayden Wilde, 15-19, from Whakatane, New Zealand (pictured above at right)
The 18-year-old from New Zealand turned in a blistering run to catch last year’s 15-19 World Champ Max Chane in the late stages of the race to win his division and finish 31st overall.
“This was my first time in Maui and just my second-ever XTERRA race so I really had no clue what I was up against. All I knew was that if they were racing in Maui, they must be fast.”
XT: What did you think of the field?
HW: This was the first time I ever raced people on the world stage at my age, and it was awesome. I had no exceptions in this race, I just wanted to finish and do my best.
XT: What did you think about the swim course?
HW: Kiwis love to surf the waves so I really wanted big waves on race day, but being my first ocean swim it was a very cool experience just the way it was. I’ve only been swimming for 4 months so to come out top 20 I was very happy.
XT: Who was your inspiration out there?
HW: My inspiration was the people back home in Whakatane as they helped me from the start to get to Maui and I didn't want to let them down. Also my family, I really wanted to do them proud. By doing well at Worlds I was really chuffed.
XT: How’d you celebrate?
HW: I rang all my friends and family at home telling them the news, then went back to the hotel and just relaxed. Now I’m planning on coming back to defend my title and can’t wait to race the boys again as its awesome to be racing the best in the world.
Martin Flinta, 40-44, from Molndal, Sweden
The 42-year-old electrical engineer has known nothing but success in Maui. In his first-attempt two years ago he won the amateur Double title (fastest Ironman and XTERRA World Champ times) and the last two years he’s captured the 40-44 crown.
XT: When did you take the lead?
MF: I was in the lead from middle of the bike then a guy pass me just before the nice part with single tracks. Then I pass him on the run after 3 miles, just before it started to go downhill.
XT: Did you know who your main competition would be?
MF: I only know my countryman and sometimes teammate Jari Palonen. He finish 2nd at XTERRA Sweden two minutes after me and 3rd this year, but this time almost 10 minutes behind me. The course is harder on Maui and has more competitors!
XT: How cool was it to race against people from all over the world who were in your age group?
MF: It’s always very cool and it makes it feel like a real world championship, as it is
XT: When did you have to really dig deep?
MF: The middle uphill is always hard. I pushed hard to pass so many as possibly when it was wider there
XT: Who or what was your inspiration?
MF: The nature, at just have a chance to be out there is a privilege
XT: Coolest thing that happened on race day?
MF: I got a Swedish flag on the finish line from a friends little child and finished top 3 of all non PRO
XT: Are you planning on coming back to defend your crown next year?
MF: Yes, I think so. Is not only about the race. Is about the island of Maui and the week there is always awesome!
XT: What do you do when you’re not racing XTERRA?
MF: My main sport is Adventure Racing, I am the captain of the World Champion team Thule Adventure. We do team races all around the World. Follow us on www.thuleadventureteam.com. On the team is also the 3-time XTERRA European Tour Champion Helena Erbenova.
Benoit Lalevee, 50-54, from Saint Nazaire, France
2015 was a banner year for Benoit, a channel manager for schneider Electric in France. In a span of five weeks he won both the 50-54 ITU Cross Triathlon and XTERRA World Championship titles.
“I took the lead (but without knowing it) in the early part of the bike. Accelerations to overtake competitors and the heat put me in overheating mode and I had to manage the speed of progression. I quickly overtook my friend Nath and we did a big part of the bike part together. Arriving in the bike park, I saw I was in the 1st place as the complete row of my age group was empty,” said Lalevee, who has races XTERRA for four years and won the 45-49 division in Maui in 2012.
“I continued to manage during the trail to avoid problems and stop. Just before mile six, in the last climb, my friend Nath came back from the rear and overtook me, it was not possible for me to speed up. I was so tired when I passed the finish line that I forgot to savor the moment but was happy to see my friends Nath and Yannick arrived one minute before.”
Bruce Wacker, 65-69, from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
“This was the strangest Worlds yet for me,” explained Mr. Wacker, owner of three XTERRA World Championships now.
“About two months ago I went on a drastic low carb diet and ended up losing muscle mass and 25% power on a measured ride since December of last year. I was also having little cramps all the time, asleep, awake, regardless of activity or lack thereof. I was told it would level out in 2 to 6 weeks. Then I looked further and the limit went out to two years. Two weeks before XWC I went back to my old diet but was so discouraged that I almost didn't go.
I knew David Rakita would be there and I have raced him for years and never won. He beat me by about 1:30 last year. Another friend from Kona, Gerd Weber is a much stronger road cyclist and just did Ironman Kona, but I had no idea of his mountain biking/trail running. Then there's the random unknown foreigner that could come out of nowhere. So I figured I was a solid 3rd without surprises, but not expecting a podium finish.
I can never keep track of my competition. I had a good swim and it turns out was second out of the water and ahead of Rakita, but didn't know it. I saw one or two calves with my category number go by me on the bike, but was paying more attention to the trail. I walked a lot of hills, but am pretty fast on the downhills and passed a lot of people, but some of them repassed on the uphills. At the end of the bike I had no idea where competition was until I came into transition.
Entering transition my mind was blown and for a split second I thought the race was already over or I'd morphed to another planet. There were no bikes on the racks around mine! I've never seen that before! Even if it was unreal I figured I'd better keep on until somebody or something stopped me. By the time I had my running gear on Rakita had showed up and we left transition together.
A word about the beginning of the run: The first year I won at Kapalua it was because the run is very similar to where I used to train on Pikes Peak, an unrelenting climb that is like a tough old friend. I haven't lived in Colorado for 4 years, but starting the run this year I felt that same familiarity because it was so hot, just like my favorite training run along the beach at Kona!
So, I started the run just a few feet ahead of Rakita and just hammered up the hills as is my habit. I didn't even try to look back for a while and never did see him. My big worry was the downhills because I'd felt a little cramping at the end of the bike and knew I could seize up if I pounded down the run too hard. I tripped once and both hamstring and quad spasmed a little. After that I favored my right leg on all the downhill features. As usual a bunch of people passed me on the downhills, but I never saw Rakita and ended up gaining 13 minutes on the run for a solid win and a big pleasant surprise!”