In less than two months, on March 23, the 2019 XTERRA America Tour gets underway at the XTERRA Bluebonnet off-road triathlon and trail runs in Bryan, Texas.
The 800-meter swim, 13-mile mountain bike, and 6K run course consists primarily of rooty, Texas single track with technical drops in-and-out of gullies. Located a short distance from College Station, XTERRA Bluebonnet is the perfect rust-buster to shake off winter and a great opportunity to warm up, especially if you live in the northern regions of the country.
Plus, opening day is always awesome and it’s the first chance for the contenders in XTERRA’s South Central Region to see who’s hot and who’s not, collect some early points, and get the competitive juices flowing again.
“I’m not sure what to expect this year,” said 35-39 SC Regional Champ Shawn Bohrer. “I started a new job in October that’s led to more traveling than training. It’s been a lazy winter, and I’m just now starting to get ready for the season.”
If we know anything from past experience, it’s that we shouldn’t take statements like this at face value. The South Central Tribe is as friendly as they get, but don’t let their big grins and “Good luck y’alls” fool you … these guys and gals are in it to win it.
When pressed, Bohrer admitted that he has already signed up for XTERRA Oak Mountain in May, which takes place on the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s EPIC-rated trail in Pelham, Alabama.
“I’ve never done Oak Mountain and I’m looking forward to the chance to travel and experience the course in Pelham,” he said. “There are also Maui qualification spots up for grabs at Oak Mountain so with some hard work and a little luck, maybe I’ll be able to earn a slot. Winning the Regional Champ title in my age group is going to be tough this year. I learned a long time ago that there are a lot of talented people in this world and I’m not always going to win. Instead, I try to set my goals on being the best that I can be.”
Another talented athlete who we are thrilled to see back on the trails this year is 12-time XTERRA Regional Champ Kyle Grieser. Last year, the athletes in his age group (35-39) had a bit of a reprieve as Grieser missed some races while he was off fighting some of the biggest forest fires this country has ever seen.
Like Grieser, Andy Lee, the region’s 45-49 division champ, is also a firefighter whose hardcore training for the job serves him well on the dirt. Then there’s former Navy SEAL Chuck Olinger, the 50-54 champ, who is known not only for fast splits, but for great post-race stories too.
“This year, as in every year, my goal is to turn pro,” said Olinger with a laugh. “With that attitude, I manage to at least land on the podium.”
A special education teacher now, Olinger doesn’t hit his training hard until March, so look for him to get better and better as the season progresses.
The two-time 30-34 region champ Jordan Winar is moving up an age group into the uber-competitive 35-39 bracket this year to join Bohrer and his buddy Kyle Grieser.
“The big picture goal is qualifying for Maui with Kyle and Shawn again and then to try my hand against the world’s best,” said Winar. “I already have my condo picked out for the after party, but I need to punch my ticket first. With that said, I will be loading up the swagger wagon, aka my minivan, with my wife and kids to try to qualify at XTERRA Oak Mountain. It’s going to be a tight fit because Kyle is coming too, so I’ll cram him in the back seat with the kids at let him watch Cars on repeat to psych him up.”
Winar said he is faster and lighter than ever and is trying some very un-Texas techniques, including cordyceps mushrooms, neurolinguistics programming, and a new form of stretching and foam rolling.
Winar’s open mind, sense of humor, and generosity are not unusual in the XTERRA Tribe or in the South Central Region. The women are just as generous and formidable in equal measure.
2018 XTERRA Regional Champs Alissa Magrum (40-44) and Alyssa Lutz (50-54) both compete for Team Do Awesome, a women’s team which raises money for charities such as World Bicycle Relief. Two-time Regional Champ Lua Walter (35-39) is a family doctor who traded in horses for her mountain bike, and Regional Champs Jeanne Hoffman (45-49), and Jenny Burden (30-34) don’t consider a win to be a true victory unless they help their fellow XTERRA Warriors along the way.
“2019 is kind of a crowning year for me,” said Burden. “I am working hard to earn a four-peat on the XTERRA South Central Regional title. I’m focusing on winning my favorite ones – XTERRA ATX and Muleshoe. I love race director Joel Grimmett, so I’ll also be at XTERRA Bluebonnet.”
We can’t talk about the XTERRA South Central Region without mentioning race director Joel Grimmett and his wife Dion, who not only have created races, but have created a very special XTERRA Tribe as well.
“Joel and Dion do a great job making races seamless,” said Bohrer. “The courses are well-marked and include the right mix of challenging features while also being achievable for first-timers.”
Last weekend the Grimmetts hosted an XTERRA party and campout at Pace Bend park, which is also the home of XTERRA ATX.
“Our XTERRA South Central family is the best,” said Burden. “Our crowd down here is so friendly and supportive of each other, always demonstrating great sportsmanship and that great XTERRA Spirit. We’re worth the visit if anyone is suffering from cabin fever up north!”
Other ladies to look for include Melanie Etherton, who won the overall titles at XTERRA Bluebonnet, ATX, and Magnolia Hill last season.
After XTERRA Bluebonnet, the South Central region rolls around some very cool Texas towns like Austin for XTERRA ATX on April 27, Navasota for XTERRA Magnolia Hill on July 13, and Spicewood for XTERRA Muleshoe on August 10. Each race has its own unique personality whether it’s the limestone ledges and rock gardens at ATX or the gravel washes of Muleshoe. No matter what your strength as an off-road athlete, the races in the XTERRA South Central series will put you to the test.
The 2019 XTERRA America Tour features more than 30 races from coast-to-coast broken down into eight regions: the Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, South Central, and the West. In addition to races in each region, the Tour also includes championship events at XTERRA Oak Mountain (May 18) and XTERRA Beaver Creek (July 20), and the XTERRA USA/Pan Am Championship in Utah on September 14.
Athletes chasing regional titles can enter as many races as they want and score points by finishing in the top 15 in their age group. At the end of the season, their top three scores are added together and the racer with the most points by gender and age group is awarded the title of Regional Champion and a qualifying spot at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui in October. Athletes can also earn qualifying spots for XTERRA Worlds at Oak Mountain, Beaver Creek, and Utah. Find the details on how the series works at xterraplanet.com.
Photo courtesy Samuel Beard