This year, XTERRA Fruita was almost a no-go because of the forest fires in the west. Not only did the show go on, but the athletes were all in.
Lewis Ryan, 19, the scrappy Kiwi, was the day’s champ in 1:38:35, coming in just 30 seconds ahead of pro Branden Rakita. Ian King was third in 1:43:40. Fellow XTERRA regulars Michael Drackert, and reigning Pan Am Champs Johnny Davis and Libby Harrow were also racing in fine form.
“It was definitely a hard and fast battle between Branden and myself,” said Ryan. “I did my best to glue myself to him during the swim where Ian King was also pushing hard. We came out of the water in a little pack of three, but then I made a bit of a mistake in transition and they both got about a 20 to 30 second gap on me. From there I knew I had to chase hard. At about a quarter of the way through the bike, I managed to get back to Branden who had just broken clear of Ian. “
Ryan was comfortable on the flowy single track, which reminded him of the trails back home in New Zealand. He managed to open up about a 90 second lead on Rakita by the second transition.
“Striding out onto the run, I was certain that Branden would be determined to run me down, so I just had to set a comfortably fast pace then try to hang in there. He was charging hard and closed the final gap down to around 35 seconds but fortunately, I still had a bit of juice left in the tank and could hold him off to the finish. I was stoked to take the win on an awesome unique course at a fun event with a great low-key atmosphere. This was a great confidence booster going into this weekend’s Pan-American Championship.”
On the women’s side, pro Kara LaPoint did not disappoint. She brought it home in 1:52:35, ahead of runner-up Allison Linnell, who finished in 2:00:04. Reigning Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts was third in 2:09:10, and was the first female amateur. Pitts is also the Southeast Regional Champ in the 50-54 age bracket.
"For me this race was a final opportunity to test and really push the body before Pan-Am Champs next weekend, and it made for a perfect tuneup event," said LaPoint. "Taking a win is always fun, but my goals and objectives out there were all related to my prep for next weekend, and I am very pleased to see that all systems are go, and my body, mind and most of all heart are as ready as can be to throw down the best performance I can next week. See you soon Utah - I'm fired up!"