XTERRA Chile is the first of 12 events in nine different countries on the 2018 Tour. It’s a Silver event, offering 26 qualifying spots into Maui for the top amateurs in each division along with points and prize money for elites.
For 2016 XTERRA World Champ Mauricio Mendez, it’s the first step towards redemption. Just minutes after crossing the finish line in second-place at last year’s World Championship, Mendez was already thinking about 2018.
“The truth is I have mixed feelings right now,” he said moments after the race was over. “Having a second place is great but from right now until October 28th next year, I am going to be thinking of one thing and that’s getting that title back.”
XTERRA Chile director Rodrigo Ballivian said he was thrilled to have Mendez in the field, adding that "the presence of Mauricio gives a tremendous boost to this event. He is a world champion as a person and a racer, and we look forward to watching him perform this weekend.”
Mendez has arrived in San Bernardo, met with Ballivian, and got to pre-ride the course yesterday.
“I am feeling great! Craving the dirt, I would say,” exclaimed the 22-year-old. “It’s been a good off-season where my main focus has been putting my mind in place to have a great season and that is what I came to show this weekend. The course is really nice, the people are amazing, and the atmosphere feels great. I just want to enjoy and push hard. Really hard!”
Both the men’s and women’s elite races will feature new winners, as neither inaugural winners Felipe Barraza or Barbara Riveros return to defend their crowns.
In the men’s race, 2017 Pan Am Tour runner-up Branden Rakita of the U.S. and third-place Tour finisher Kieran McPherson of New Zealand will join Maxi Morales of Argentina, Rafael Juriti of Brazil, and hometown favorite Gaspar Riveros in a wild chase to keep Mendez in sight.
“I had a phenomenal time in Chile last year,” said Rakita. “It’s a great venue. It is unique with the swim in a water skiing lake, the bike is very challenging with three different climbs and then you end up winding through vineyards heading back to transition. The run is tough as well, it starts flat and fast then there is a very steep climb and descent before going back to flat leg speed for the last bit.”
The main event features a 1500-meter swim in the lagoon “Lago Maipo” followed by a 30km mountain bike segment, and 10km trail run. The trails are primarily hard, packed earth and rocks, due to the arid environment, and the mountain bike course includes several technical sections, including an 1800-meter climb out of a dry riverbed followed by a quick drop.
“In the men’s race we have no doubt that Mau Mendez will be the champion, so the real battle will be for the top three,” said Ballivian. “It´s a tough course, especially on the bike. We modified some parts from last year, but Gaspar, Branden and Maxi have an advantage because they raced here last year.”
The women’s elite race features former Olympian and four-time XTERRA Mexico Champion Fabiola Corona of Mexico, Allison Baca of the U.S., Anne Sophie Marechal of Belgium, and Carolina Nieva of Argentina.
“I think it will be close between all of them,” said Ballivian. “I really think that anyone can win.”
Kara LaPoint, who was the runner-up on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour last season, was scheduled to compete but recently suffered an untimely injury.
“I was all scheduled to go to XTERRA Chile and Argentina again this year, which I have been very excited about all winter, but unfortunately I just broke and dislocated my big toe a couple days ago,” explained LaPoint. “These are some of my favorite races on the calendar, and a couple places that are very, very special to me, so it’s pretty heartbreaking to have to miss out.”
The XTERRA event is part of a three-day race festival, which includes open water swims, kids competitions, trail races, plus 30K and 60K mountain bike races.
Next week, there are two races on the XTERRA Pan America Tour with XTERRA Argentina on March 24 and XTERRA Costa Rica on March 25.
Learn more about the XTERRA Pan America Tour.