Last year’s XTERRA Pan Am Tour runner-up Branden Rakita is a man on a mission.
“I would love to win the 2018 XTERRA Pan Am Tour and it’s what I’m aiming for, but there are a number of guys going for it this year and it will be a big battle,” said Rakita from his home in Colorado Springs. “You can’t just race all the races and expect to come out on top. You have to race well. That was evident last year – I made Josiah work for it but I didn’t race well enough.”
Rakita is naturally modest. He raced exceptionally well in 2017 and led the XTERRA Pan Am Tour for most of the year. 2015 XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh eventually took the lead in the standings, at the last race of the season in Utah, but only by 66 points.
But Rakita is also a professional and has a laser sharp focus on what he needs to do to reach his goals this season.
“I do think I have great consistency at races,” he said. “But then I look at guys like Josiah and know that I still need to be better. I have come close to winning an XTERRA championship race and that has been my goal for a while. I want to be on that top step.”
For 2018, Rakita is not messing around. His first race will also be the first race of the Pan Am Tour at XTERRA Chile, this Sunday, March 18th in Romeral, San Bernardo. Rakita will also be facing off against 2016 XTERRA World Champ Mauricio Mendez, who was the runner-up at XTERRA Worlds in 2017 as well as New Zealand’s Kieran McPherson.
Rakita is coming off a solid off-season, which included a winter training camp in Tucson, Arizona as well as his typical workouts with his coaches, professional mountain bikers, triathletes, trail runners, and cyclists who also call Colorado Springs “home.” Yet, he admits that the XTERRA season is long, and it’s of no use to peak in March.
“We all would like to get in top form in March and hold it to October but it just isn't possible,” he said. “I focus on trying to gradually build my form at the start of this year to hopefully peak later in the season when it counts more.”
For Rakita, XTERRA Chile is the perfect race to kick off the season. He welcomes the three challenging climbs on the bike and the tough run course, which starts off deceptively flat, climbs, descends, and then demands a strong kick.
Rakita says that he gets his love of tough from his father, whose name – David Rakita – is well known in triathlon circles.
“My dad has been a major reason for why I do what I do,” said Rakita. “He has raced marathons and triathlons since the early 80's and it rubbed off on me. He started racing XTERRA's in ‘98 or ’99, and has been going strong since. Josiah and I both think our first XTERRA was XTERRA Keystone in 2000. But he focused on XTERRA while I went and raced road triathlons and on the ITU circuit trying to qualify for the Olympics. In 2008 I came back to XTERRA and it has been my focus ever since.”
This year, Rakita plans on starting in Chile and continuing onto XTERRA Argentina on March 24th. He may toe the line at XTERRA Brazil on May 13th, and he will definitely be at XTERRA Oak Mountain on May 19th before continuing on to XTERRA Dominican Republic on June 3rd.
“It is up in the air if I will be at XTERRA Victoria on July 8th, which became my favorite new race last year, or if I go to Denmark as part of Team USA for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Champs. Then it is back to XTERRA Beaver Creek and of course XTERRA Mexico on August 4th. I am looking forward to XTERRA Quebec as well as I have heard great things about the course up there before wrapping it up at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship on September 15th.”
Rakita is doing more races than most athletes, which can take a huge toll on the body. Not only is he racing in one of the hardest disciplines, but he is traveling from Canada to South America to do so.
However, Rakita never focuses on the negative and instead, embraces the challenges and the love of the game.
“In addition to be able to compete in sport that I love, one of the benefits of racing XTERRA is the ability to travel all over the world,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to be able to not only see and experience different countries and their respective cultures and customs, but also to build friendships all over the world.”
Learn more about XTERRA Chile at www.xterrachile.com/
Learn more about the XTERRA Pan Am Tour.