XTERRA Quebec, the penultimate event on the XTERRA Pan America Tour, takes place Saturday at Lac Delage in the French-speaking region of Quebec City, Canada.
It’s the 11th of 12 races on the Tour and has attracted a stellar field of elite athletes looking to hold position or move up in the rankings prior to the finale at the XTERRA Pan American Championship race in Utah, September 15.
While this is the fifth edition of XTERRA Quebec, it’s the first year the race has been designated as an XTERRA World Tour major. As such, it provides a chance for amateur athletes in the region to secure one of the 15 qualifying spots into XTERRA Worlds.
In the men’s elite race, reigning and two-time XTERRA Pan America Tour Champion Josiah Middaugh highlights a strong field that includes each of the top five ranked athletes on Tour. Middaugh grew up in northern Michigan, not too far from the Canadian border, but this will be his first-time racing in Quebec.
“All I know about the course is from the pictures I have seen online. It looks like some really good trails with a lot of man-hours behind them,” said Middaugh, who sits in third place in the rankings after winning XTERRA Mexico earlier this month. “It will be a different kind of course compared to what I am used to which will make it a good challenge. I’m looking forward to it, and I look forward to seeing our old friend Jean-Philippe and his famous mustache.”
Jean-Philippe Thibodeau, the top ranked Canadian on the Pan Am Tour last year, is from Quebec and was excited to jump back into the racing action but just broke his arm and won’t be able to.
“Still, this should be an epic race,” exclaimed Thibodeau. “The guy who design the course was a pro mountain biker, and the trails are incredible.”
Current Tour leader Kieran McPherson is anxious for another shot at trying to run down Middaugh and take the tape like he did at XTERRA Victoria.
“Feeling good and looking at getting one back over Josiah after a close battle at Mexico,” said McPherson, who finished second to Middaugh in Tapalpa. “This time we are back at sea level, so we can all breathe easy.
My game plan, as always, is top secret but generally involves going full gas from the start and seeing what happens.”
Karsten Madsen, who sits in second-place in the Tour standings, said he’s planning on perpetuating his status as the top Canadian off-roader in XTERRA this weekend.
“I’ve been unbeaten in Canada or by a Canadian since 2014,” said Madsen, who won XTERRA Victoria twice and XTERRA Mine over Matter in 2016. “This year has been wild and filled with much success, but with it has come hard travel and rough illnesses. Still, I’ve tried to always put my best foot forward and deliver on the day. To win Quebec, I’ll need to deliver a performance of a lifetime, but on a course that suits my riding.
Coming down to sea level I’m excited to set fire to the course and put a show on. I’ve been training out of Vail, Colorado with Josiah and will do so until the Pan Am Champs. Getting to train and learn from a man that I’ve looked up to for so long has been a great experience and I look forward to continue working with him after Quebec.”
Other elites of note include Branden Rakita and Alex Roberts, who sit in the fourth and fifth positions on tour, respectively.
In the women’s elite race the top three in the rankings are in Quebec and Pan Am Tour leader Fabiola Corona is hoping to ride the momentum from her home country win at XTERRA Mexico on August 4.
“My strategy for Saturday is simple. Swim as fast as I can, keep a good pace on the bike and improve on my run,” said Corona, who has 529 points, which puts her 26-points ahead of Kara LaPoint with just two races to go.
“This is my first time in Quebec and also the first time I’ve done nine races around the Americas in one season looking and fighting for first place in the rankings,” she said. “I’ve been enjoying the Pan Am Tour, as I love to travel and discover new challenging locations and exotic race venues. This has been an awesome season for me, and I am so thankful with XTERRA for the support. I love this sport more than any other.”
LaPoint has similar plans, to race well and close the gap on Corona in the standings.
“I’m feeling ready to go, and super excited about this race,” she said. “We checked out the bike course this morning, and it is amazing! Incredibly fun and challenging trails, with great riding conditions. I can’t wait to race on it! I feel that this course suits me particularly well, with a long and difficult bike and a tough run, so I am psyched to get out there and see what I can do. I’m ready to give it all I’ve got in this last go-round before the Pan-Am Champs!”
Kelli Montgomery, the XTERRA Costa Rica champ who has done seven of the last eight races and sits in the third-place on the Pan Am Tour, said she’s ready for the final two races of the year as well.
“I feel good, I’ve got my second wind for last two races of season,” she exclaimed. “I was able to get in some good training in July and feel like I’ve got my fitness back up. I’m looking forward to racing in Quebec. I haven’t visited there before so I’ll be driving there with my kids to enjoy the experience. We’ll get to spend an extra few days having fun post-race and it’ll be cool to have my own cheering squad for the race. I hope to have a strong race and place as high as possible to get a few more points for the Tour. This course should suit me as it should be like the terrain I ride at home in Connecticut.”
The one to watch for in the women’s race is Canadian Katie Button, an excellent mountain biker and winner of XTERRA Victoria in 2016.
“Happy to have a second Canadian race on the Pan Am Tour this year, especially because it’s a techy course,” said Button. “I’ve never ridden in Quebec before, but I have spent many freezing cold winter days ski racing there. It’ll be awesome to check out the area, and I’m feeling pretty good. It’s always so hard to tell with the scramble to get organized before a race, but I’m happy to have some running in my legs for this one so the plan is to hopefully not fade in the third round of the race.”
The main event gets underway Saturday, August 18, at 8:10am. We’ll have a recap of the day, results, and updated XTERRA Pan Am Tour elite standings posted to facebook.com/xterraplanet and www.xterraplanet.com by Saturday evening.
Photo above shows (from left to right) Fabiola Corona, Kara LaPoint, and Katie Button taking a break from riding on the Kerozen trail in the E47 EcoSentiers section to look at the airplane in the trees, site of an old team building exercise.