Reigning XTERRA World Champion Mauricio Mendez from Mexico will kick-off the XTERRA racing portion of his 2017 season Saturday at the third-annual XTERRA Tahiti Championship race in Moorea.
The 21-year-old won the Ironman 70.3 Texas title back in April, but this will be his first adventure on the trails this year.
“I am pretty excited for my first race in the dirt since Maui last year,” said Mendez. “I am actually really nervous about it, but it’s probably more excitement than nerves.”
Mendez is not alone in his excitement, as one-and-all have commented that the new course in Moorea is spectacular.
“Everything has been great! The course is really cool, and it's a totally new world here, and the islands are beautiful.”
Ben Allen from Australia, the reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion, is quick to agree.
“I've raced on almost every Asia-Pacific island there is, and I've never come across one so beautiful in every way,” he said. “The bike course is a truly organic course, with natural obstacles obtruding from the ground making it technical and challenging. Undulating and rocky but fast and flowing. The run is in the heart of the Tahitian jungle, you run under the canopy of big trees shadowing your every step and you climb up and down passed pineapple, avocado and banana plantations. It's going to make for a tough and challenging race, but it's hard to focus on the trail when you are surround by natural beauty!”
Sam Osborne, the current points leader on the Asia-Pacific Tour, will be looking to solidify his position in the rankings and see where he stacks up against the current XTERRA World Champ at the same time.
“Excited to see Moorea and race against Mauricio, Ben, and the other boys,” said Osborne. “I’ve done my bit of googling the spot and it just looks like an incredible location for a race.”
Tahiti’s own Cedric Wane is the top local elite, and will look to mix into the top three along with Frenchman Christophe Betard, who was second behind Josiah Middaugh at last year’s race.
In the women’s elite race, it’s all about Jacqui Allen, who is enjoying her time on Moorea.
“It's absolutely stunning, so green, lush, and beautifully maintained.” she explained. “The oceans are the clearest I've seen and there's just one road that separates the mountains from the sea. It's great to be here and despite so much travel, I'm feeling relaxed. The bike and run course is already marked so we've been around a few times now. You ride on bumpy fire road trails past farms and paddocks, the route is undulating, challenging all rideable with rocky and Rooty sections through the forest, it's lots of fun. The run has everything, to start and finish its flat and fast, in the middle you climb the mountain using a path of rocky stairs and roots once you pop out of the forest at the highest point it's downhill all the way home.”
While not racing in the elite division, Mimi Stockton from Michigan could prove to be a worthy challenger for Allen. She, too, is taken aback with the island’s natural beauty.
“This has got to be the world's most stunning island you've never heard of,” said Stockton, who is also one of the XTERRA Couch-to-Trail coaches from PRS Fit. “With it's out of this world scenery, warm, crystal blue waters and brilliant sunsets it's a place that is certainly worthy of the long trek. If it were up to me, I'd swim, bike and run all day long and stay forever. I still can't believe I get to do an XTERRA race here, and one that is incredibly well-run to boot. This should be a race on everyone's bucket list!”
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