The middle of spring means the beginning of non-stop racing action on the XTERRA World Tour as events in Florida, Chile, Malta, and Phuket send off-roaders on a wild chase for points and prize money.
On Saturday XTERRA Chile hosts the second stop on the Pan Am Tour, XTERRA Phuket hosts the second stop on the Asia-Pacific Tour, and XTERRA Blackwater (Milton, FL) hosts the second race on the America Tour. Then on Sunday, XTERRA Malta (pictured) opens-up racing on the European Tour.
“Every race counts, so what happens this weekend is every bit as important as what happens in July,” said XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas, who will be overseeing all the action at the inaugural XTERRA Chile in Santiago. “The advantage goes to those who put in the work during the off-season and come out swinging.”
XTERRA CHILE ELITE PREVIEW
After a quick celebration in San Juan, XTERRA Argentina elite champions Gonzalo Tellechea and Suzie Snyder (pictured) packed their bags and headed to Santiago for a shot at winning their second XTERRA major in as many weeks.
For Tellechea, a two-time Olympian, there will be many familiar faces and race kits lining up beside him as nearly the entire men’s field from Argentina have made their way to Chile including Maximiliano Morales (2nd at Argentina), Jean-Philippe Thibodeau (3rd), Branden Rakita (4th), Leon Drajer (5th), and Julien Buffe (7th).
There is also a strong contingent of Chilean home country greats itching for the opportunity to raise their flag on home soil, led by Felipe Barraza, who finished 4th at the Pan Am Championship race last year.
“It’s going to be a great race,” said Barraza. “The race place is epic and the course is pretty tough. I look forward to racing XTERRA here in my home country.”
Other Chilean elite men include Benjamin Munizaga, Gaspar Riveros, and Diego Moya.
In the women’s race Snyder, the reigning Pan Am Tour Champ, is looking to add a gem from Chile to her international trophy case resume that includes gold medals from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and New Zealand.
“As much as I enjoy winning, rather than making that my focus, I prefer to concentrate on my own progress and journey and not worry about my competitors because my ultimate goal is always to feel as though I performed MY best,” said Snyder. “There is always a solid chance that any number of strong women will be on the line with me at each race which will push all of us to race harder and it excites me to see that the women’s field is growing in size and quality.”
In Chile, Snyder will match-up against one of the sports very best in hometown hero and three-time Olympian Barbara Riveros. Riveros, who placed 5th at the Rio Olympics, is no stranger to XTERRA having twice finished as the runner-up at Worlds (2012/14), and she just recently captured the IM 70.3 Taiwan title.
The depth of the Pan Am Tour elite women will be on display as well with 2016 No. 3 Kara LaPoint (USA), No. 5 and XTERRA Brazil Champion Sabrina Gobbo (BRA), and No. 9 Laura Mira (BRA). Morgane Riou, fresh off a career-best 2nd-place finish at Argentina, is also in the line-up.
XTERRA THAILAND ELITE PREVIEW
Reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour champion Ben Allen (pictured from Australia headlines the elite men’s race at the inaugural XTERRA Phuket off-road triathlon.
Allen finished third behind Sam Osborne and Bradley Weiss at XTERRA Saipan two weeks ago, but neither the Kiwi nor the South African made their way to Thailand for this one. Kieran McPherson (NZL) and Markus Benesch (AUT), who were 4th and 5th in Saipan, did make the trek and look to be Allen’s toughest challengers.
It’s a colorful international cast of elite men with the likes of David Ballesteros from Spain, Fabrizio Bartoli from Italy, Michal Bucek from Slovakia, Aleskandr Dorovskikh from Russia, Peter Pouly from France, and Will Kelsay from the U.S. Of course, the locals will be cheering for hometown great Jaray Jearanay.
In the women’s race the “Swiss Miss” Renata Bucher (pictured) is looking for win No. 34 in her illustrious 14-year XTERRA career. She’s won an XTERRA major in 14 different countries, and is looking to make Thailand No. 15.
“I still love it, but every year it gets harder and harder,” said Bucher, who is more active now as a coach and mentor than a racer. “Now-a-days I am just trying to join new races and keep a good balance in my life.”
On the other end of the spectrum is XTERRA first-time Marika Wagner, a Swedish adventure racer with big potential. “I'm very excited for this,” said Wagner. “I'm a multisport, swim-run, and adventure racer but new to XTERRA. I used to race triathlon when I was younger so for me this is a combination of my career both now and before.”
Joining Bucher and Wagner on the start line is APAC Tour No. 9 Belinda Hadden from Australia, and former XTERRA amateur World Champ Kelli Montgomery who is making her elite debut.
"This is a truly unique event combining the crystal waters of the Andaman sea with the forest and farmland of the island,” said course designer Fausto Izquiel. “It’ll be a great challenge for competitors, but very scenic as well as it goes through the tropical forest.”
XTERRA MALTA ELITE PREVIEW
Brigitta Poor from Hungary and Roger Serrano from Spain (pictured) are hoping to start 2017 in the same way they started 2016 – with wins at XTERRA Malta.
“The women’s field is really strong, and includes the last three Euro Tour winners” said XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun. “It includes Poor (the 2016 Tour Champ), Helena Erbenova, who has been the strongest overall female athlete in Europe for the last few years and was the 2015 Tour Champ, and we are happy to see the return of our 2014 European Tour Champion Kathrin Mueller. She was very busy working for Skinfit the last two years, and it’s good to have her back. She was one of those girls who could challenge Helena more often than others in the past. We also have Carina Wasle, who is fit and ready coming off a win at XTERRA Saipan, Euro Tour No. 7 Louise Fox, No. 8 Maud Goldsteyn, and No. 14 Kristina Lapinova. It will also be interesting to see what young Mendito from Italy can do in the full XTERRA distance. Last year in Switzerland in the ETU Junior race she smashed the field so I am looking forward to seeing them all starting the season.”
In the men’s race the stage belongs to the friendly bearded man named Serrano, who will also serve as the race director for XTERRA Spain this year.
“He is a great character, very good in communication but now also in this new role as the organizer of XTERRA in Spain, I’m interested to see if he is fit and ready to rock,” said Lebrun.
“I think he’ll be ready. I saw him last month working for his race in Tarragona and he looked fit. Karl Shaw, the 2016 XTERRA Costa Rica Champion, looks like one of his main contenders as he started strong last season coming off of training camp, and Francois Carloni, Tour No. 5 is here as well.”
The young guns are headed to Malta looking to establish their place on the European Tour with the likes of Peter Lehman (No. 6), Max Chane (No. 14), Hannes Wolpert (No. 23), and Max Sasserath (No. 41).
“This race was good for those guys last year when the top five men were all under 25-years-old, but don’t forget Pyott, Thijs, and Kubek are also here and will fight for the top 10,” said Lebrun.