This weekend, XTERRA heads to Mexico for one of the hottest races on the tour so far. The top five of the highest ranked athletes on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour this year will be lining up for a true showdown.
XTERRA Mexico will take place in the mountains of Jalisco in the charming town of Tapalpa. XTERRA Mexico is the tenth of twelve stops on the Pan Am Tour and one of five Gold races, which offer more points and prize money for elites.
Tapalpa is known for being a mountain retreat with its lush vegetation, skilled local artisans, quaint cobblestones, and elegant white houses with red tile roofs that complete the town’s beautiful architecture. However, this weekend the “Magic Village” will be anything but tranquil as the best off-road athletes in the world compete not only for the XTERRA Mexico title, but for a chance to move up in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour rankings.
Currently ranked in the top slot in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour Standings, Kieran McPherson had the fastest run split at XTERRA Mexico last year, and if anything, he is running even faster this year as evidenced by his wins at XTERRA Argentina and XTERRA Victoria.
Right behind him in the Pan Am Standings is Karsten Madsen, who is headed south to Mexico for redemption. He scored a victory this year at XTERRA Uruguay but finished second at XTERRA Brazil behind Kieran McPherson and second at XTERRA Oak Mountain behind Josiah Middaugh. While he has been having an outstanding year, Madsen has upped his game and his goals in 2018, and he badly wants the win in Mexico.
“XTERRA Beaver Creek was one to forget for me,” said Madsen, who had been in four different countries the week before the race and was fighting off an infection. “Afterwards, I just put my head down and got back to work in Colorado Springs to prep for the last part of the Pan Am Tour. I’ve always done my best when my back was against the wall.”
Also coming to Mexico is Branden Rakita, who finished sixth last weekend at XTERRA Beaver Creek behind Josiah Middaugh and Brian Smith and ahead of both McPherson and Madsen.
Two-time XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh will be on the starting line Sunday as well. He has won this race twice and the hills on the course suit his ability to climb. Last week at XTERRA Beaver Creek he finished less than a minute behind 2016 XTERRA World Champ, Mauricio Mendez, proving that he is at the top of his game, healthy, and fit.
New Zealand’s Alex Roberts (#5 in Pan Am Tour Standings) and Mexico’s Francisco Serrano will also be contenders in the race. Serrano has won XTERRA Mexico twice, is a former Olympian and one of XTERRA’s long-time favorites. Last year, he had a strong swim and ride, and ultimately finished second behind Josiah Middaugh, who caught him on the bike.
Rounding out this field are Brian Smith, from the U.S. and Mexico's Leonardo Saucedo and Alfonso Magana.
Throwing another bit of magic into XTERRA Mexico is the course itself, which is a true XTERRA course that demands both guts and heart.
“The Mexico course has some surprises,” said Rakita. “The water is always right on the edge for a wetsuit-legal race, it really comes down to if it rains. The bike gets tougher the further along, there is a nice steady first climb and then the second one is longer and steeper before a very steep descent that is sort of a choose your own adventure. The run is a false flat run that you just try to open up and go and try not to lose a shoe in one of the two water and mud crossings."
XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series Rank, Name, Nationality
1 – Kieran McPherson, NZL
2 – Karsten Madsen, CAN
3 – Branden Rakita, USA
4 – Josiah Middaugh, USA
5 – Alex Roberts, NZL
10 – Brian Smith, USA
NR - Francisco Serrano, MEX
NR – Leonardo Saucedo, MEX
NR - Alfonso Magana, MEX
LaPoint and Corona Go Head to Head
As with the elite men’s race, the top three seeded women in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour standings will be going head to head in Tapalpa.
Fabiola Corona, who is in the number one spot so far in the Pan Am Tour Standings, has won XTERRA Mexico four times in her storied career and won XTERRA Argentina and XTERRA Dominican Republic this spring.
The always sunny Kara LaPoint (she sported a unicorn and rainbow tattoo at XTERRA Beaver Creek) will also be bringing her A-game to Mexico. After battling a foot injury at the beginning of the season, LaPoint has more than made up for lost time. At last week’s XTERRA Beaver Creek, she finished third among the elites and about seven minutes ahead of Fabiola Corona, who was fifth. Just 16 points behind Corona in the Pan Am rankings, LaPoint is hoping to make her move into the number one spot after XTERRA Mexico.
Kelli Montgomery and Mexico's Paola Castaneda will also be contending for the podium's top step. Montgomery won XTERRA Costa Rica and finished in the top ten at XTERRA Oak Mountain this past May.
XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series Rank, Name, Nationality
1 – Fabiola Corona, MEX
2 – Kara LaPoint, USA
3 – Kelli Montgomery, USA
NR - Paola Castaneda, MEX
ALL-TIME XTERRA MEXICO CHAMPIONS
2017 (Tapalpa) Josiah Middaugh, Suzie Snyder
2016 (Tapalpa) Rom Akerson, Suzie Snyder
2015 (Tapalpa) Josiah Middaugh, Fabiola Corona
2014 (Tapalpa) Irving Perez, Fabiola Corona
2013 (Tapalpa) Leonardo Chacon, Fabiola Corona
2012 (Tapalpa) Francisco Serrano, Renata Bucher
2011 (Tapalpa) Seth Wealing, Shonny Vanlandingham
2010 (Valle de Bravo) Seth Wealing, Fabiola Corona
2009 (Valle de Bravo) Seth Wealing, Shonny Vanlandingham
2006 (Puerto Vallarta) Francisco Serrano, Jamie Whitmore