Kieran McPherson from New Zealand and Fabiola Corona from Mexico captured the 3rd annual XTERRA Argentina off-road triathlon elite titles with winning times of 2:37:40 and 3:14:54, respectively, on a windy but wonderful day in San Juan, Argentina.
It’s the second career XTERRA World Tour win for McPherson, who was victorious at XTERRA Thailand last season, and at least the fifth for Corona, who has been racing XTERRA since 2005 and won XTERRA Mexico four times in her career.
The day started out with a reminder for all racers that at XTERRA, Mother Nature is your toughest competitor. On this day, it was in the form of heavy winds that turned the normally calm waters of Dique Ullum (the Ullum dam) into a stormy sea with white caps and rolling swells.
“The swim conditions were very difficult,” explained U.S. elite Branden Rakita, who handled it better than anyone else and was the first man out of the water in 25:37. “The wind whipped up a very tough chop and white caps and certainly slowed the times down as two of the three legs of the swim we were fighting against the chop.”
Last year’s race winner Gonzalo Tellechea, a two-time Olympian and hometown hero, was next out of the water followed by McPherson about 30 seconds later.
"I was really hoping that with the rough conditions on the swim I would be able to separate myself and open up a good gap to everyone else on the bike,” said Rakita. “Gonzalo is a very good ITU athlete and I knew it would be difficult, but I had to try, and I knew Kieran has always been able to swim closer to me in non-wetsuit swims, so I just hoped I would be able to open up a bigger gap with the conditions.”
The gap never materialized for Rakita. Instead, both Tellechea and McPherson attacked early and often on the bike and caught and passed Rakita by the end of the first lap.
“The ride was incredible, for sure my new favorite on the circuit with sand traps, flowy berms, and technical rock sections,” said McPherson, who posted the fastest bike split of the day and entered T2 roughly 15-seconds ahead of Tellechea and 30-seconds ahead of Rakita.
From there, the Kiwi and new Dad ran away with it, scrambling through the soft sand and rock river beds better than the rest (he posted the quickest split of the day in 44:42) to take the tape more than two-minutes ahead of Tellechea.
“I came out of transition hard and never looked back,” he explained. “I know Gonzalo is finishing his ITU season and in his backyard here in San Juan and he would be tough to beat, but I managed to stay away for the win. It’s my first win on the Pan Am Tour and first as a father, so pretty stoked.”
Maxi Morales, another Argentinian standout, who was second here last year, bolted past Rakita halfway through the run to take the third spot on the podium. Rakita held on for fourth, and Alejandro Sfriso from Argentina finished fifth.
|1||Kieran McPherson, NZL||2:37:40||75||0:26:13||1:26:02||0:44:42||$1,200|
|2||Gonzalo Tellechea, ARG||2:40:05||67||0:25:48||1:26:23||0:47:00||$900|
|3||Maximiliano Morales, ARG||2:43:28||61||0:28:51||1:26:36||0:47:04||$700|
|4||Branden Rakita, USA||2:46:53||56||0:25:37||1:27:58||0:52:29||$550|
|5||Alejandro Sfriso, ARG||2:54:59||51||0:31:52||1:32:06||0:49:45||$400|
|6||Lucas Mendez, ARG||2:57:19||47||0:28:24||1:32:20||0:55:53|
|7||Rafael Juriti, BRA||2:57:59||43||0:28:32||1:33:22||0:55:02|
|8||Pericles Andrade, BRA||3:52:56||39||0:45:57||1:49:57||1:15:18|
In the women’s race it was all Corona, all day, as the former Olympian posted the fastest swim-bike-and-run times and crossed the line more than 12 minutes ahead of runner-up Anne-Sophie Marechal from Belgium.
“I am very happy, especially because the day did not start out well,” exclaimed Corona. “The swim was very rough, with the wind and waves, and before the start I was sad because it was declared a non-wetsuit swim for elites and I did not bring my speedsuit like everyone else. But then, I felt really good in the water and had a great swim, I even passed a few elite men.”
After a quick transition Corona took to the bike course “like a fish to water.”
“This bike course suits me perfectly with great single track and technical sections,” said Corona, who is also a former national duathlon champ. “It’s motocross style, a Disneyland for mountain bikers with ramps and up and downs like a roller coaster.”
Corona said her strategy was to “die on the bike” in order to open a big gap on Allison Baca, who outran her to win XTERRA Chile last week.
“But then I did a fast T2 and decided to die also on the run part. It was so unique. Desert, rocks, cactus, sand, and it was hot. I just decided to push harder and harder, to think I was crossing the Mojave Desert and Allison was on patrol trying to track me down,” laughed Corona.
“I did not know how far back she was, but my mind and soul was in champion mode. I kept thinking, nobody stops me, this is my time, my moment, my Gold!”
Behind Corona was a good battle for the runner-up spot. While Baca had the early jump out of the water, Marechal made her move on the bike and passed Baca with about six kilometers to go until transition and never looked back.
"After a disappointing race in Chile because of the flat tire I was a bit angry and wanted to have a much better race in Argentina,” said Marechal. “In my pre-race training I really enjoyed the course, so I knew I would race my best but have fun as well."
For Baca, who is still in the beginning of her mountain biking life, XTERRA Argentina provided another great learning experience.
“The bike was really tough, and I am really trying to improve my technical riding, but I still have some work to do,” she said. “The whoop sections were a lot of fun, but the loose sandy corners and the loose steep descents were super tough."
Local star Carolina Nieva, who was third last week at XTERRA Chile in her elite debut, couldn’t overcome a dreadful swim that took her more than 40-minutes. She came close to catching Baca, however, the reigning 25-29 division XTERRA World Champion ultimately settled for fourth.
|1||Fabiola Corona, MEX||3:14:54||75||0:28:28||1:45:56||0:59:39||$1,200|
|2||Anne-Sophie Marechal, BEL||3:27:16||67||0:33:22||1:52:47||0:59:53||$900|
|3||Allison Baca, USA||3:31:25||61||0:29:27||1:57:12||1:03:18||$700|
|4||Carolina Nieva, ARG||3:33:23||56||0:41:44||1:48:02||1:02:09||$550|
ALL-TIME XTERRA ARGENTINA ELITE CHAMPIONS
2016 – Josiah Middaugh / Myriam Guillot-Boisset
2017 – Gonzalo Tellechea / Suzie Snyder
2018 – Kieran McPherson / Fabiola Corona
UPDATED XTERRA PAN AMERICA TOUR ELITE STANDINGS (After 2)
|1||Kieran McPherson, NZL||67||75||142|
|2||Branden Rakita, USA||61||56||117|
|3||Maximiliano Morales, ARG||56||61||117|
|4||Rafael Juriti, BRA||51||43||94|
|5||Mauricio Mendez, MEX||75||DNS||75|
|6||Gonzalo Tellechea, ARG||DNS||67||67|
|7||Alejandro Sfriso, ARG||DNS||51||51|
|8||Gustavo Torres, CHI||47||DNS||47|
|9||Lucas Mendez, ARG||DNS||47||47|
|10||Pericles Andrade, BRA||DNS||39||39|
|1||Fabiola Corona, MEX||67||75||142|
|2||Allison Baca, USA||75||61||136|
|3||Anne-Sophie Marechal, BEL||56||67||123|
|4||Carolina Nieva, ARG||61||56||117|
Learn more about the XTERRA Pan America Tour at xterraplanet.com.
More Quotes from the Elites about today’s race
Branden Rakita, USA
“After a couple of very warm days with the temperatures reaching 90 on Friday a front blew in with strong winds and cooled things down nicely, but the wind certainly made the conditions more difficult.”
“The water was a cool 70-degrees for a non-wetsuit swim for the professionals.”
“With the twisting and rolling bike route and being tucked into many of the valleys of the Martian landscape around the lake, the athletes did not have to deal with a headwind very often or for long periods, but the loose sandy conditions made the less technically skilled athletes slow down a bit more.”
“The run is brutal, it is very exposed and the soft rocky and sandy riverbed that the athletes run up saps the legs over a long grinding uphill, if you are feeling good it isn't not as bad but if you are struggling you feel like you are always just sinking in more and more and not going anywhere. It is a choose your own adventure as there is no defined track, but you are just trying to spot the next red flag as along the route. After a few steep rolling hills, you head back down a rocky but firm surface riverbed to the lake, the better technical runners can open things up and really fly down back to the finish.”
"Kieran and Gonzalo were very strong on the bike and the pure power climbs they could open up a gap to me but I was able to always close things back down and get right back on their wheel over any of the technical sections. I had one mistake at the worst time and could not close things back down to Kieran and Gonzalo. I tried to keep them in sight which is really hard on the twisty course and had to hope they over cooked themselves for the run. I had to keep riding very hard as well as Maxi is really strong I didn't know how far back he was but knew he would be racing fast."
"The first half of the run was really tough once I was in the riverbed, I could never get into a good rhythm and just was not able to get going uphill. It was tough when Maxi when by as he was just floating, and I felt like I was sinking. Once I hit the downhill section of the riverbed my legs felt much better and was able to open things up and ran well over the very uneven surface and finally felt good the last half of the run to the finish."
Allison Baca, USA
"I was swimming right with her in a group and then after the turn the chop separated the group and I lost the feet I was following"
"The run is normally a strength of mine but today was one of those days where I just didn't have it and was struggling through each leg of the race. I felt like I was sinking further and further into the sand."
"Though I struggled it was still a lot of fun and I can't wait to come back next year"
Fabiola Corona, MEX
“It was like the soccer final: MÉXICO VS USA, or El Chapulin Colorado vs. Captain America. The revenche! No mistakes and no falling down this time, everything perfect!”
“I want to fight for the Pan Am tour!”
"The conditions on the swim were great for me, I swam really well and enjoyed the rough conditions."
"The bike was great the technical track really suited me, I was riding scared though as I was not sure how well Allison was riding and just powered on trying to keep my gap."
"This run was much better than Chile, the more gradual climb up is much better for me and I was able to get in a nice rhythm and ran well."
Anne-Sophie Marechal, BEL
"After getting out of the water a little ways down I was riding hard but I was making sure that I was having fun. I wanted to get back on the podium but wanted to enjoy the race as well."
"The run was good, with my track background it is my strongest leg and I felt good and ran well."
"After a frustrating race in Chile it was great to race well here in Argentina, I had a lot of fun through the race and am very happy to be on the podium"
Chuck Fortier, CAN, amateur
"There was always something about South America that wanted me to head there. I remember sitting in Maui last year for worlds and seeing the vistas from the mountain bike course and thinking to myself, wow what a great view. I decided to come for Chile and Argentina and I was not disappointed. Beautiful countries, friendly people, and much needed sun. The Argentina course is majestic and, in a city, that I would have likely never visited."
"As I lined up this morning for the race I knew the gods of XTERRA were angry, never had I seen waves and wind in a race like that in many years."
"Although the swim was one of the toughest in years due to the conditions I am glad I forged on. The bike course is great, and the run is also challenging. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to experience the South American hospitality which also goes with the race in Chile."
"I am fortunate that I got to do both races who really encapsulates the spirit of #livemore with XTERRA. Highly recommend these races!”