Tate Haugan could ride a bike before he could talk. "I never had any proper training on a mountain bike, but my younger brother and I spent a lot of time on dirt bikes when we were younger, so I've always felt quite at home on a bike," said Haugan. At home on a bike seems to be an understatement. This year at the XTERRA World Championship, 16-year old Haugan had the 18th fastest bike split of the day riding against the greats like Ruben Ruzafa, Bradley Weiss, Francisco Serrano, and Josiah Middaugh. Only two amateurs - Arnaud Taurelle and Jordi Gil - were faster. And he is just as quick in the water. At the XTERRA Pan Am Championship, Haugan had the fourth fastest swim split of the race and was beaten only by Ben Allen, Mauricio Mendez, and Branden Rakita.
"I had a lot of energy when I was younger so my parents signed me up with our local swim club when I was six years old, along with my older sister and younger brother," said Haugan. "I think they hoped I would burn some of that energy off." Haugan swam competitively until last year when he started focusing more on triathlon. Although he is young, Haugan has been competing in XTERRA since he was 11 when his mother first raced with him at XTERRA Canmore, in Alberta, Canada. Haugan and his family live in Fort St. John, British Columbia, where there is snow on the ground for more than half the year. He admits that the heat is always a concern for him at XTERRA Worlds, as the temperatures in Fort St. John don't get much higher than the 70's, even in the summer. However, heading from snow to sand didn't bother Haugan this year. "I felt quite relaxed at Worlds and raced within my comfort zone," he said. "I learned from the past that you have to be patient and just take the race as it comes in Maui. Your race day heavily depends on what the island throws at you in terms of ocean conditions and weather, and that changes daily, so you have to be prepared for anything."
Despite being decades younger than some of the top competitors, Haugan kept his cool and found himself in the top amateur spot as he headed out of transition into the run. "I put my head down on the bike and tried to pass as many people as I could," he said. "When I headed out onto the run course as the first overall amateur, I was really hoping that I could hold onto that spot, but there were just too many strong runners. I did my best though, and I was happy with how my run went." Now that his season is over, the 15-19 XTERRA age group world champ is fat biking with his younger brother and snow-shoeing with his family, who all love the outdoors. "My family has been really great about organizing their lives around my schedule to make it as easy as possible for me to race at a high level while still living a somewhat normal life. My family is very active, so I do as much of my training with them as possible, which keeps it fun. Most of my friends are athletes too, which is good because I have so little spare time, my socializing has to happen at the pool."
It's easy to forget that Haugan is still a teenager and has yet to finish high school. "I've been so busy since Maui that I haven't really even taken the time to sit down and set solid goals for next season yet," he said. "Up until this year, I was just racing triathlons for fun and wasn't really sure where it would take me. After this past season though, I know that I want to pursue a career as a professional triathlete and stay in the sport as long as possible."