On Saturday, May 6th, the XTERRA World Tour will stop in Tahiti for six races, on two islands over two days. Athletes will experience an amazing infusion of Polynesian culture paired with a brand new course on the island of Moorea.
Last year, the XTERRA race was on the island of Tahiti, where the XTERRA Trail Runs will still take place. This year, XTERRA athletes will board a boat on Saturday morning and will be ferried from Tahiti to the island of Moorea to run on an imaginative new course that will prove to be a test of technical skill, mental toughness, and physical endurance.
“We are delighted to expand the scope of this year’s race to two islands, to showcase our tremendous culture and unique landscape,” said race director, Jean-Michel Monot. “We will have over 500 athletes from all over the world competing in the weekend events, including some of the best in the world.”
Leading the pack this year will be the reigning XTERRA World Champion Mauricio Mendez. Challenging him are on course will be 2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Ben Allen and his wife, 2017 XTERRA New Zealand Champ Jacqui Slack Allen. Also at the start will be 2017 XTERRA New Zealand Champ Sam Osborne, and Frenchman Christophe Betard, who placed 6th in XTERRA Reunion in April.
For the past two years, Tahiti – and the island of Moorea – were included in the Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards. In 2015, The Huffington Post called Moorea “The Most Beautiful Island You’ve Never Heard Of,” alluding to how far away this paradise is. Travelers first must land in Papa’ete, Tahiti and then travel by ferry to Moorea, which is 12 miles away.
The Tahitian islands were formed by volcanoes and have the steep cliffs, gorgeous lagoons, and white sand beaches you might expect. However, beneath this extravagant beauty is an XTERRA course that has brought the pros to tears. Josiah Middaugh, the 2016 XTERRA Tahiti and 2015 XTERRA World Champ called the terrain “diabolical."
XTERRA Technical Director and Hall of Famer Nico Lebrun, who competed placed third in last year’s race, said, “We were all happy just to finish the bike safe, and happy to start the run, but that is only because we didn’t know what was in store for us.” Although this year’s course is new, Lebrun expects it to be just as beautiful and challenging as in previous years.
Last year, Middaugh took the lead almost as soon as he got on the bike, but he stressed that this was a race where Mother Nature stayed tough. He finished almost 10 minutes in front of Christophe Betard who came through in 3:05:48. Lebrun was third in 3:12:47.
On the women’s side, two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson won with a time of 3:34:19 and was 6th overall. She was over an hour ahead of runner up Alice Bourgeoisat, who was the first Tahitian. Bourgeoisat’s fellow countrywoman Yasmina Chenel completed the podium.
Watch the 2017 video:
2017 is the Tenth Anniversary of the Vieux Sportifs Oenologiquement Passionnés (VSOP), which translates into “Wine-Loving Old Athletes”. The VSOP has been the chief organizer of the the XTERRA Tahiti as well as its precursor, the TranStahitienne. Some of the members of the club have traveled the world competing in triathlons while others created triathlon clubs such as Club Avignon Triathlon and Kona Tri Tahiti. As the name of the club suggests, they also offer wine tastings to athletes after the race. Perhaps even more notably, VSOP wants all competitors to share equally in the joy and hardship of the race, no matter if they cross the line first or last.
The VSOP has traditionally donated part of the proceeds of the race to a charity.This year, the club is garnering awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Vice President of the club, Loic Lecottier, was struck by the disease at the young age of 43 and passed away in October, 2015.
XTERRA Tahiti is the 15th of 38 events in which amateur athletes around the world can qualify for the 22nd annual XTERRA World Championship in Maui on October 29th. XTERRA Tahiti offers 26 qualifying spots and $7,500 USD in prize money to the top six elite men and women.
XTERRA Tahiti will host a fun triathlon on Saturday after the race, and on Sunday, there will also be a 42 km Trail Run across the island of Tahiti through the Papenoo Valley as well as a Run & Bike. After the race, athletes will be served a light meal and massages will be offered with the proceeds going to charity.
Learn more at www.xterratahiti.com
View last year’s results.