Professional off-roaders Brent Mattison and Julie Baker won the 2018 XTERRA REAL elite titles on Sunday, March 25, while Tim Helms and Sian Turner captured the amateur crowns.
XTERRA REAL opened the season for the XTERRA West Region and the XTERRA America Tour on a chilly spring day in Granite Bay, California.
Baker – a phenomenal swimmer - was third out of the water, just in front of Mattison. She had the fastest swim, bike, and run splits for the women.
“It's always an adventure to race early in the season, and even though it's a little shorter than some of the races on the XTERRA Pan America Tour, this race is definitely a real challenge, just like the name says. That was one of the colder swims I've done, and my feet were numb for the entire race. All the athletes, race staff, and volunteers who braved the cold and wet conditions deserve a big congrats.”
Baker’s winning time was 1:54 flat, almost six minutes ahead of runner-up and amateur winner Sian Turner, who finished in 1:59:58. Alexandra Yakovleva was third in 2:11:33.
Baker, who was third last year at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship behind Lesley Paterson and Jacqui Allen, has another promising season ahead of her and will race at XTERRA Oak Mountain, XTERRA Beaver Creek, and again at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship. A soil scientist at UC Davis, Baker is a pro without the luxury of a professional athlete’s schedule.
“I’m just doing what I can,” she said of her double life. “During the winter, when we are in the office, I have a regular schedule and fit in training before and after work like most people who are out there racing. The more challenging part is during the summer field season when we are out in the Sierra Nevada backcountry for a week or two at a time. So, yah, maybe not always ideal training conditions, but I’m glad to be able to race and work in a beautiful place.”
Last year, Baker began working with Josiah Middaugh, who has been strategic about making the most of her training time. She also has the support of the Michael David Winery.
In the men’s race, Mattison was fourth out of the water but had the fastest bike and run splits of the day.
“Swimming hasn't been my strength in XTERRA, but I've been logging the meters this off season and feeling good about my progress, so my goal was to be first out of the water,” said Mattison. “I figured with an 800-meter swim, and with a wetsuit, I had a chance of making that happen. But rounding the last buoy and on the home stretch, I had two guys right in front and Julie Baker coming up on my right. She was pushing a good pace and my only goal at that point was to exit the water with her. Getting out of the water and into transition was a blur. The cold water made me feel like I'd just woken up, and it was hard to feel my hands and feet.”
Mattison made a wrong turn and went off course for about 100 meters to start the race, and by the time he backtracked he was down by a minute.
“The early race gaffe upped my intensity, and within the first half mile, I was able to pick off the four or five guys who had passed me. Once back in front, I focused on pushing a hard pace to gap the chase group, which I knew had some fast riders like Tim Helms. I felt great on the bike and was able to push a hard pace without dipping too deep into the tank. Not having anyone to chase down made setting the pace a challenge, but I knew the chase pack wasn't far behind, so I didn't let up.”
Mattison finished in 1:41:21. Amateur winner Tim Helms placed second overall in 1:44:20. Both athletes had nearly identical bike splits of 1:05:47 and 1:05:58, respectively, which were the fastest on the course. Niels Vande Casteele was third in 1:45:54.
The race was Mattison’s first as an XTERRA elite.
“I have five XTERRA races on the calendar this year with Ogden being my primary focus,” added Mattison. “I’ll also be racing at XTERRA Oak Mountain, XTERRA Victoria, XTERRA Beaver Creek, and XTERRA Portland. One race I don’t plan on doing this year is the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. I’ve raced there in 2015 and 2017 and it’s such a brutal race for me. The heat and humidity there are my Kryptonite while the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in Ogden is a course that better suits my strengths and doesn’t require me to train in a heated room for three weeks prior.”
2018 marked the 18th year of XTERRA REAL, which earned its name because race director, Bill Driskill, wanted an off-road course that felt authentic. Baker, who won last year’s race as well, appreciates that race’s soil is authentic as well.
“If I can be super nerdy for a second, it's also nice to have trails available on soils that can handle all the water and still remain rideable.”
The next stop on the XTERRA America Tour is XTERRA ATX on April 21st. Learn more at xterraplanet.com.
View complete results for XTERRA REAL at http://totalbodyfitness.com.