The only thing better than being in the mountains of Colorado is being in the mountains with friends. And that’s exactly what the days leading up to XTERRA Beaver Creek feel like. As athletes fly into Denver, hang out at the XTERRA Night at Colorado Multisport in Boulder, and begin to make the climb into the mountains, it’s a reunion of new and old friends as well as a celebration of 10 years of XTERRA Beaver Creek. While the athletes are checking out their competition, they are also checking out photos of their competitor’s kids, catching up on life, and swapping stories of their adventures on the dirt.
Here we talk about just a few of XTERRA's amateur stars racing this Saturday…
For the women, the best news so far comes out of the 65-69 division because Libby Harrow is back and better than ever! She has been racing XTERRA for almost 20 years but missed the XTERRA Pan Am National Championship and the XTERRA World Championship last year because she was recovering from hip surgery. In Harrow’s first year, in 2001, she qualified for the XTERRA World Championship and won her 50-54 age group. Since then, she’s been an eight-time regional champ and a three-time world champ. Even after surgery last year, she competed in XTERRA Fruita, XTERRA Indian Peaks, and XTERRA Beaver Creek.
Harrow’s secret? “I guess I’m just not willing to give up,” she said. “I enjoy racing too much.”
On Saturday, Libby will be up against last year’s 65-69 winner Jo Garuccio from Utah.
The 60-64 division is full of talent which includes XTERRA World Champ Martha Buttner, who won her age group here last year, and Liz Kollar, who was on the podium at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May.
Janet Soule and Grace Bollinger highlight the 55-59 division. Buttner hasn’t raced much since XTERRA Fruita last year, but she trains with some of Boulder’s best and will be tough to catch on the mountain bike. Bollinger was second at XTERRA Deuces Wild in June, while Soule, the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Champ, won her division here last year and was tops at XTERRA Tahoe City last month.
In the 50-54 division, it’s hard to find anyone who can top Margo Pitts, who won her age group at this race last year and at XTERRA Oak Mountain this May. Paula Maresh and Michelle Blankenship are also long-time XTERRA racers, so expect another fun showdown for these athletes, and especially for those looking to qualify for Maui. Last year, Pitts had a disappointing finish at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship, but she finished second in her age group at Worlds behind France’s Catherine Gance. Pitts can ride like the wind, so if you see a mountain bike with two braids flying over it, that’s her.
The 45-49 age group is led by Anne Nevin from Norway who was the 7th overall female across the line at this race last year, and the 2nd amateur behind only former XTERRA pro, Genevieve Evans. Also, expect Kiki Silver and XTERRA Northwest athletes Cindy Skelton and Jennifer Burtner to be making tracks. Silver won her age group at XTERRA Lory in June and was second last year in her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek behind Jennifer Isom who won’t be racing this year. Burtner hasn’t raced yet in 2018, but last year, she finished behind Silver at XTERRA Beaver Creek, and in Maui, she was third behind Mimi Stockton, who won the age group.
As usual, the 40-44 age group is stacked and led by Deanna McCurdy. If you’ve seen her guns lately, it’s obvious she’s as fierce and fit as ever. And that huge smile on her face is evidence that she is still very much in love with this sport. Look for her to be out there with local superstar Jen Razee, as those two have traded age group titles in the past (and even won some other races on the same team together).
McCurdy is just about impossible to beat running, but Razee is a talented mountain biker and Beaver Creek is her backyard. SherriAnne Little, XTERRA Couch to Trail contributor, will be flying in from Michigan to check out the mountain air as well. She is the only one of the three who lives below 5000-feet but given her job as head coach at Next Level Endurance, she probably has a few altitude hacks for that. And finally, making her XTERRA debut this Saturday in the 40-44 women’s division is USA Triathlon’s chief of staff Victoria Brumfield. She just moved from New York to Colorado, and just got a mountain bike too so it’s a whole new world for Brumfield and it’ll be fun to see how she goes.
The 30-to-40 divisions feature many new names, which always creates a lot of buzz to see which athletes will make their mark. In the 30-34 age group, look for Melanie Willard, a San Diego-based athlete who went to XTERRA Costa Rica with Kristen Wade and wants to take on the course at Maui this year.
In the 25-29 division, Kat Marks is back to defend her title. She had a bit of a rough start at XTERRA Oak Mountain but quickly redeemed herself with a great race at XTERRA Lory. The Coloradoan has been training with Lesley Paterson and has clear goals for herself.
In the 20-24 age group, look for young Emma Coakley to be out of the water first. Coming all the way from Kentucky, this talented swimmer has won her age group at XTERRA Tsali, XTERRA Knoxville, and XTERRA Fort Yargo. She clearly has many XTERRA years before her and she is extremely fun to watch.
The same goes for 2017 XTERRA Pan Am Champ Sophie Allen in the 15-19 age group. Although she lives in Florida, one of her top college choices is CU Boulder, so she is clearly at home on the hills. Her last race was a sprint triathlon on the roads in March, but she finished first for the women and fifth overall.
Moving on to the men’s amateur race, in the 15-19 age group young guns Robbie Day and Benny Smith will be duking it out on the trails. They are both excellent swimmers and on each other’s six on the mountain bike. At XTERRA Lory this year, Day beat Smith on the run, but some of that could be attributed to Smith cramping up. Day, who didn’t wear a wetsuit at XTERRA Lory, may choose to wear one on Saturday, which could give him an advantage in the water. Remember, Day won the overall amateur title at XTERRA Costa Rica earlier this year.
The 20-24 age group is a fun one in that it’s full of new names and relatively unknown athletes (as of yet). Count on some exciting races in this division and some new athletes to emerge from under the radar and earn a qualifying spot to XTERRA Worlds.
In the 25-29 division, Lukus Klawitter and Caleb Baity will likely be leading the charge. Klawitter lives in Colorado, won his age group last year at XTERRA Fruita in September, and was 11th in a very competitive age group at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui last year. XTERRA Beaver Creek will be his first race this year. Baity is from North Carolina, and while the altitude in Colorado may make his lungs burn, he has been training in the heat and winning his age group in most of the XTERRA Southeast races this year. His swim has been his weakest of the three sports, but he’s been spending a lot of time in the water this year, so that statement may no longer be true. Dylan Friday - who finished second behind only Nelson Hegg (now a pro) in his first XTERRA last year at Beaver Creek – is also a strong contender for the podium. He is an excellent runner and swimmer and has been focusing on his technical skills on the bike in the Colorado mountains where he lives. And, ride guide Jeff MacNair is the fourth contender in this group. The Colorado Springs athlete has been known to ride like a pirate on the trails.
In the 30-34 age group, Brett Tack will be very much missed. Last year, XTERRA Beaver Creek was Tack’s breakout race, where he was the top amateur overall. He is still recovering from a knee injury, and while he’s been cross-training like the XTERRA champ he is, he’s going to be patient and wait until the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in September to jump back into the mix. Without Tack, the 30-34 age group is anyone’s race, and like the 20-24 age group, should bring attention to a whole new group of racers. Niels Vande Casteele and James Ellis may be able to show off their skills in the mountains.
In the 35-39 division, Herve Orgeas is hoping to continue his streak on the podium after finishing second at XTERRA Magnolia Hill last weekend behind XTERRA Regional Champ Kyle Grieser.
As with the women, the men’s 40-44 division is one of the most competitive and has a slew of new names. XTERRA veteran Garren Watkins – a strong swimmer and mountain biker – and Mike Dorr are likely candidates for the podium steps. Watkins won this race last year and was the third overall amateur at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May. For Dorr, the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Champion, this is his first race of the season. Another one to watch for is Tim Hola, who won the Double award for posting the fastest combined amateur times at IM Worlds and XTERRA Worlds 15-years ago.
In the 45-59 division, look for Eric Snowberg to be out of the water with the elites. Last year, he was ninth out of the water and ahead of Ben Hoffman, Sam Long, and Kieran McPherson. He second in his age group behind XTERRA Pan Am Champ Rife Hilgartner, who is still recovering from a femoral stress fracture. Hilgartner has been vigilant about his physical therapy and like Brett Tack, should be ready to make his 2018 debut in Utah. Doug Day - Robbie Day’s dad – will also race in the 45-49 division, proudly following behind his son.
Aging up, look for Grzegorz Zgliczynski, who won his age group at the XTERRA World Championship last year in Maui by about five minutes. Originally hailing from Poland, this is only Zgliczynski’s second year on the dirt and he keeps getting better and better. This will serve Zgliczynski well, as the 55-59 age group is stacked with Tim Wachuta, talented swimmer Karl Edgerton, and Cliff Millemann, who has been competing in XTERRA since the early days.
In the 60-64 division, Tom Monica will be racing without his usual rival, Johnny Davis. Davis (who aged up to the 65-69 bracket) is taking a year off to focus on his business, but he will be out there tearing it up in the sprint triathlon. Branden Rakita’s father David will also be out there representing the 65-69 group.
Laurence Goddard is back to defend his crown in the 70-74 division, and Ron Scranton will once again prove that age is just a number as he chases down the 75-79 division title.
At XTERRA races around the world inspiration can come from anywhere and everyone, but nobody exemplifies the “Live More” spirit of XTERRA better than our physically challenged athletes. At Beaver Creek we have several awesome examples with Michael Stone, John Davis, and Humberto Reyna in the men’s field and Jodi Pettit in the women’s race.
Finally, just as we know all the men and women listed above are capable of doing great things, we also know that there are a lot of men and women we didn’t mention that can rise to the occasion and stamp their name in XTERRA Tribe history this Saturday.
The main event starts at 9am from Nottingham Lake in Avon, Colorado this Saturday, July 21.