XTERRA Tsali - held on June 24th in Bryson City, North Carolina - was full of surprises this year.
For one thing, XTERRA's next generation was represented extremely well on the podium. In fact, Reed Legg, the XTERRA Tsali Champ, is only 15 years old. Fourteen-year old Joseph Urbanowicz was fifth overall, and Reed's 12-year old brother, Braxton, was seventh. In eighth place was 15-year old Will Stacey.
In many sports, youth has a distinct advantage, but XTERRA is one of the few in which it pays to be older. XTERRA Jersey Devil race director, Bob Horn, believes that older athletes have had more time to develop serious mountain bike skills, giving them an advantage over younger riders. In his race in April, seven of the top ten spots were held by someone in the 40-44 age group.
"Forty is a sweet spot for XTERRA racers because you finally have the skills on the mountain bike to get it done,” said Horn.
At XTERRA Tsali, the fastest swims of the day came from the teenagers. Braxton Legg came out of the water in 13.94, with his brother Reed right behind in in 14:09. Marcus Barton was third out of the water with a time of 16:06.
"We saw a lot more younger racers this year which is encouraging," said race director, David Berger.
"Those are some really talented boys," said runner up - and one of XTERRA's most consistent athletes - Marcus Barton. "They were super fast in the water. When I was approaching the second buoy, they were already rounding the third."
Like Berger, Barton was thrilled to see XTERRA's next generation tearing it up on the course. When Barton caught up to Braxton Reed on the run, he encouraged him.
"Another guy in front of me passed Braxton first, and I told the kid not the let the guy drop him," said Barton. "After Braxton yielded to me, I kept encouraging him to stay with me. "
The biggest news of the day, however, did not come from a teenager, but from 72-year old Charlotte Mahan, one of XTERRA's beloved warriors. Mahan completed her first Ironman when she was 70, and she is a inspiration for many XTERRA athletes.
Pan Am Champ, Deanna McCurdy, regards Mahan as a true mentor.
"I hope to be more like her," said McCurdy. "How many people do you know enter their first full distance Ironman triathlon after the age of 70, win their age group, then race XTERRA Worlds six weeks later? How I would love to spend a weekend at a cabin in the woods, hiking and biking on the trails with Charlotte, then listening to stories of her adventurous life while we sip wine and beer by a campfire. She has “Lived More” than anyone I have ever met and does it all with beauty, grace, and an adorably sweet southern accent."
Mahan announced her retirement before the race, according to Berger. "A crowd hung out to greet her as she finished and congratulate her on a long and successful racing career," he said. "There were lots of hugs and emotions on display. She is an incredibly special lady."
For complete results, visit www.goneriding.com.