The XTERRA World Championship is more than just a race.
For one thing, you have to earn your place at the starting line. For another, the XTERRA World Championship is held more than a month after the regular XTERRA season ends, demanding that athletes keep training, long after their training partners may have kicked off their shoes for the season.
In return, athletes who make the journey to XTERRA Worlds have the privilege of competing with the best off-road athletes on the planet on one of the most incredible courses in the world. Held in Kapalua, Maui, some 650 elite and amateur athletes will brave the surf on a 1500-meter ocean swim, grind through a 30K, brand-new bike course, and then use every bit of what they have left for the 11K trail run through the sand under the hot, Maui sun.
XTERRA Worlds is often a reunion, a chance at redemption and – if you are open to the mana of the islands – an opportunity to reinvent yourself as a warrior. The nexus of the XTERRA Pan American, Asia-Pacific, and European Tours, the XTERRA World Championship welcomes athletes who hail from more than 40 countries and US states. The youngest male athlete this year is 16-year-old Panagiotis Bitados from Greece, and the oldest is 76-year old Peter Wood from New Zealand. The youngest female is 16-year-old Staci Lovell from the Big Island of Hawaii and the most experienced, entering her 20th XTERRA Worlds, is Lorenn Walker from Oahu at 67-years-young.
From the U.S. alone, there are 59 XTERRA Regional Champions who earned a bid for Worlds by being the best in their part of the country. Additionally, two XTERRA Asia Pacific Tour Champions, 12 European Tour Champions, and 12 Pan Am Champions are sure to up everyone’s game. And just to give you an idea of how strong this game is, four of last year’s ten returning XTERRA Age Group World Champions have earned their pro cards in 2019, meaning that there is a very fine line between the best amateurs in the world and their elite counterparts. What’s even more impressive is that most elite and amateur athletes on October 27’s race not only train at the highest levels but do so while working and making time for their families.
As an example, Staci Lovell is as conscientious about her studies as she is about training. The Kailua Kona resident will be touring colleges a few weeks after she crosses the finish line at Worlds. A high school junior, she won her age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain and Hawaii Island this year in addition to winning her age group at the Asia Pacific Championship and placing third at XTERRA Greece.
“I think XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama was my favorite race this season,” said Lovell. “I didn’t have my best race, but I had so much fun because of the people. For so long I have heard about the Oak Mountain course, and it was pretty awesome to finally experience it for myself. I’m super stoked for Maui this year.”
Just one age group up in the 20-24 division, Emily Hoy qualified for XTERRA Worlds in Malta, where she won her age group. This season, she was second at XTERRA Germany and Czech Republic and third at XTERRA Luxembourg and Denmark. In the 25-29 division, former NCAA Division I Champion swimmer, Emily Cameron was undefeated in her freshman XTERRA season and was the top amateur at XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama in May.
In the 30-34 cohort, last year’s third-place finisher, Canadian Christy Drever is back after an undefeated season that featured wins at XTERRA Victoria and the Pan Am Championship in Utah last month. Last year’s XTERRA Age Group World Champ – Spain’s Maria Calleja Agayo – has turned pro, and last year’s runner up isn’t returning, which leaves the door open for Drever. She will be challenged by Germany’s Nadine Ruhl, who truly ruled the XTERRA European Tour by racing eight times and winning her age group. Ruhl finished second at XTERRA Luxembourg, third at Germany and Italy – Lake Garda, and fourth at France.
The 35-39 age group may have the top amateur of the entire race with Czech Republic’s Jindriska Zemanova, who won this age group last year by almost 28 minutes. This year, in addition to being undefeated in her age group, she was the top female at XTERRA Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy.
Zemanova will be joined on the line by the XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ, Sian Crespo, who is also coming off an undefeated season under the tutelage of coach and three-time XTERRA World Champ, Lesley Paterson. Crespo won her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek and the Pan Am Championship as well as XTERRA Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City.
“I’m definitely looking forward to heading to Maui this Wednesday,” said Crespo from her chilly mountain home in Truckee, California. “While I’m hoping for a good result at Worlds, as long as I show up with my best performance on the day and have fun, it’s all I can ask for. It has been a great season, with the highlight so far, being the trip to Beaver Creek, which I had not raced until this year. I loved the course so much; I even ran the 20k trail run that weekend as well.”
Colorado’s Jill Sorensen is looking like one of the favorites of the 40-44 age group. The XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ and XTERRA Mountain Regional Champ, Sorensen also won her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek and Oak Mountain. This tough group of athletes also features 2017 XTERRA World Champ, Courtney Kaup, as well as Theresia Viska, Celine Kluska, Amanda Frost, and Maria Manes, who made the podium four times out of the six races she did on the XTERRA European Tour.
XTERRA Regional Champ, Amanda Webb was honest about how intimidating it can be to leave the comfort of your home and head to Hawaii to battle the best in the sport.
“I’m still in disbelief that I’m heading to Hawaii for an XTERRA, much less the XTERRA World Championship,” said Webb. “But I have decided to just have fun and feel nothing but gratitude about the experience. I plan to enjoy every moment of my experience.”
The 45-49 division is as competitive as ever. XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ Jen Razee won her age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain and was second at Beaver Creek to pro athlete Jenny Smith, is having another fantastic season. The extremely consistent athlete will be challenged by Carla Ciaudana – who won her age group at both XTERRA Italy Scanno and Lake Garda - and Vanessa Buchin Roulie, who made the podium in all four races she did on the XTERRA European Tour. Uta Knape, who won XTERRA Germany, will also be on the starting line and is leading the chase for the Outrigger Double Award.
“My goals in Maui are to swim with confidence, be very assertive on the bike, and keep racing to my limit whatever the conditions,” said Razee. “I'm looking forward to the new two-lap bike course format this year. It's awesome that XTERRA is trying to create a course that is more resilient to the moisture that can occur on the north end of the island.”
Alissa Magrum, who is undefeated in the XTERRA South Central series will be heading to Maui this week in the midst of a very busy year.
“I have to admit that there are times, I ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this race?’” said Magrum who has two daughters and a busy job as a drowning-prevention advocate for non-profit, Colin’s Hope. “I’ve always had to train between the cracks, but sometimes those cracks are bigger than others. Tomorrow, I have a two-hour ride followed by an hour run, and I have to do them both before the sun comes up.”
But Magrum will be headed to Utah to do more than cover the course. Last year, during the big surf, she had a less than stellar swim and had some panic come up in the face of the big waves.
“I’ve gotta conquer what happened to me in that swim last year,” said Magrum. “And the word that comes up for me is Respect. It’s what I think about as I prepare to load up my bike and all my gear to head to Maui on Thursday. I'll be traveling alone but I know that the Aloha and the XTERRA Tribe will be there waiting to welcome me as only they can. I respect the big blue ocean and the waves that almost took me last year and I respect the opportunity to even be in this race.”
The 50-54 division is anyone’s race this year as last year’s XTERRA World Champ, Rita Haerteis, won’t be returning because she was injured in XTERRA Switzerland this summer, where she ruptured her bicep.
"Last year's race was my hardest in my career," remembers Haerteis. "I still can't understand how I could survive the swim because the waves almost killed me. Sheer strength and mud tires on my bike saved me."
Julie Robb was the XTERRA Mexico, Quebec, and Victoria Champion this year and finished fifth at the Pan Am Championship in Utah. She will be joined by Linda Matheson, who finished fourth at XTERRA Oak Mountain and sixth at the Pan Am Championship and Christine Grant, who is undefeated in the XTERRA Southeast Region.
Grant, who regularly runs with her Vizslas on the Georgia trails, will be heading to XTERRA Worlds for the fifth time.
“I’m ready to take whatever the islands give us,” said Grant. “Because really, that’s what it’s all about. You do your best, and you make friends with everyone on the course, but in the end, it’s all about the experience the islands want you to have.”
Grant’s best performance previously is fourth in her age group, so she is hoping that this year, the island winds are at her back.
Paula Meresh will be returning to Maui to put the hurt on the 55-59 age group, but she will face staunch competition from last year’s 55-59 XTERRA World Champ, Sharon McDowell-Larsen. This year, McDowell-Larsen won her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek and XTERRA Fruita. However, last year in Maui, she won her age group by less than three minutes to Tammy Tabeek and then Susan Moote.
Moote will be heading to Maui after a successful season that included winning her age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain, Wild Ride, Portland, and Rockhopper. Moote also won her age group at XTERRA Belgium, and was second at Switzerland and Denmark, giving her a third-place finish on the XTERRA European Tour. After a third-place finish last year at Maui in this age group, Moote is looking for a higher spot on the podium. However, Moote is a true adventurer at heart and races as much for the memories as she does for the top finishes.
“We dedicated this year to XTERRA, and I have so many great memories from the nine races we did,” said Moote, who lives in Washington. “I think the highlight of my season was XTERRA Belgium. It was a brutal but unique course around the Citadel. The race organizer and athletes were so friendly to us foreigners, and we made a ton of friends on that trip. It really cemented for me that XTERRA is a global family.”
XTERRA European Tour Champ, Silvia Brandstetter will also be giving chase – or leading the pack - in the 55-59 age group. Brandstetter won XTERRA Czech Republic, XTERRA Luxembourg, and XTERRA Malta. She was second at XTERRA France and third at XTERRA Switzerland and Belgium.
In March, Brandstetter had a bad accident on her road bike, which resulted in three pelvic stress fractures and a broken rib.
“I couldn’t train for two months and wasn’t allowed to run for four months,” she said. “In Malta, I finished the race trying not to run. All I wanted this year was to finish a few XTERRA races and to have fun. But after XTERRA Belgium and Switzerland, I decided to go for it.”
A former ski instructor and member of the Paragliding Swiss National Team, Brandstetter is also an avid climber.
“You ask me why do I like to race? Look at the picture. I guess it says it all. I couldn’t describe it any better. If I could make it into the top ten in my age group in the world, I would appreciate it. I just want to do my own race in my own rhythm. If I put my head on the pillow that night knowing that I did all I could, then that was a good race.”
In the 60-64 age group, look for Jill Weist, In the 65-69 age group, last year’s returning XTERRA World Champ, Lorenn Walker, from Hawaii, could dominate this age group again, but she is up against both Anna Houpt and Sheri Schrock. This year, Houpt won her age group at XTERRA Wild Ride, Portland, and Tahoe City while Schrock won this age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain and DINO North.
The men’s race starts much the way the women’s race does. One of the youngest racers is also one of the most talented. While Robbie Day has been focusing on mountain biking this year, this incredible athlete was the fastest amateur at XTERRA Beaver Creek this year. Last year, at the XTERRA World Championship, Day was third in this age group to Spain’s Sergio Baxter and France’s Timo Spitzhorn, both of whom will be returning this year.
This year, Baxter has been racing successfully on the ETU and ITU circuits. In August, Baxter was third at the Tabor ETU Triathlon as a junior and was third at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne. Last month, he was fifth at the Zagreb ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup.
Timo Spitzhorn is just as talented and won his age group at XTERRA Germany, France, and Belgium this year. A mountain biker at heart, Spitzhorn has truly upped his game in the swim this year.
“My XTERRA season went quite well this year and I’m stoked to race for the second time in Maui next weekend,” said Spitzhorn. “It’s going to be a really tough race for this age group championship title, and I’m especially looking out for Robbie Day and Luuk Chambeyron. Both of them should be excellent cyclists, but I think, or at least hope, that I can run a little bit faster than they can.”
XTERRA Regional Champ, Juan Carlos Gonzalez will also be in the mix.
“This year at Worlds I believe I am coming in better than ever,” said Gonzalez, 19. “My goal this year is to be better than before and I am always looking to improve. Specifically, I want to be one of the first out of the water and I’m excited to check out the new bike course.”
Luuk Chambeyron won XTERRA Netherlands this year and was fourth in this age group last year. However, the talented French mountain biker has aged up to the 20-24 age group this year. He will be battling XTERRA European Champ, France’s Brian Tetard, who won this age group at XTERRA Luxembourg and Greece and was third at XTERRA Switzerland.
Tetard has been competing in triathlon since he was 11 and has been racing XTERRA since he was 15.
“My victories at XTERRA Greece and Luxembourg have allowed me to trust,” said Tetard. “This year has been a nice achievement and my goal for the XTERRA World Championship is to make the podium, but of course to have fun. My strategy is to do a big swim, which is the discipline where I am most comfortable and then maintain the pace in cycling and on the run. What I love about XTERRA is the atmosphere and that I find nature in each race.”
In the 25-29 age group, XTERRA European Champ and last year’s third-place finisher on Maui, Christopher Dupre will be leading the charge. Dupre is the undefeated age-group champ at XTERRA Germany, France, Luxembourg, XTERRA Lake Garda, and Cyprus.
In one age group up, Michael Pilousek will be setting the standard. The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champ, Pilousek won his age group at XTERRA China and was second at the Asia-Pacific Championship.
XTERRA European Champ, Adrien Dransart will also be one to watch in the 30-34 age group. This year, out of his eight races on the XTERRA European Tour, Dransart was second at XTERRA Netherlands, Portugal and Greece and was third at XTERRA Denmark.
The 35-39 age group is always a tough one to gauge because of the amount of incredible athletes who show up. XTERRA European Tour Champ Mathieu Feder Schwaner raced eight times on the XTERRA European Tour. He won his age group at XTERRA Germany and XTERRA Lake Garda. He was second at XTERRA Czech Republic, Denmark, and Cyprus and was third at XTERRA Netherlands and Greece.
“This year, I was lucky to get on the podium in my races,” said Feder Schwaner. “In Greece, I had a tire puncture, and in France I had a big crash and hurt my back. Last year I was eighth on Maui but not prepared. This year I am prepared and am going for the win.”
Improbably, Feder began his XTERRA journey with Steve Fisher, who many know as “Mr. Parrot.”
“Last year, I stayed at Steve Fisher’s house in Lahaina and enjoyed seeing the island through the eyes of a local,” said Feder Schwaner. “This year, my favorite race was XTERRA Germany in Zittau because of the atmosphere. There was a big gathering of the XTERRA European family and you could feel the love in the air.”
Feder Schwaner will be joined by Tahiti’s talented Teva Poulain and North Carolina’s Charlie Ledford, who had a tremendous inaugural season where he was undefeated in his age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain, Panther Creek, Tsali, and Myrtle Beach. XTERRA Regional Champs Kyle Grieser from Texas, Peter Santini from Colorado, and Ryan Terry from California will also be toeing the line.
In May, Santini competed in XTERRA Oak Mountain while snow fell on his Colorado home. This October, he is facing the same situation.
“It’s been a long and fun season,” said Santini. “I traveled to Oak Mountain for the first time and to Beaver Creek, which is always challenging with big climbs and the tough run course. I also love the Pan Am Championship course in Ogden and I had one of those great days. Crossing the line knowing I ran the best race I could was certainly the highlight of the season for me,” said Santini, who was the 2019 XTERRA Pan Am Champ in his age group.
In the 40-44 age group, XTERRA European Champ, Pascal Faivre-Pierret has had a tremendous season. He won XTERRA Italy-Scanno, Malta, and Greece, and was third at XTERRA France. However he will have staunch competition from XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ, Mike Dorr. In 2014, Dorr received a roll-down slot for entry into XTERRA Worlds.
He turned it down.
“I wanted to earn my spot,” said Dorr.
This year, he not only earned his spot, but has led his age group through his steady example of perseverance and enthusiasm, no matter what obstacles lie before him. A personal trainer in Vail, 2019 was the first year that Dorr enlisted a coach to help him with his season. And because he has his eye on that top step, Dorr began working with 2015 XTERRA World Champ, Josiah Middaugh.
“It’s been great working with Josiah,” said Dorr. “I just have to get up in the morning and see what I have to do in terms of training and I don’t have to think about it. On Maui this year, I know that the only person I can control is myself, so I’m going to try to relax, do the best I can, and enjoy the race. Everything has been there for me this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what can happen on Maui.”
In the 50-54 age group, Canada’s Calvin Zaryski is the man to beat. The returning seven-time XTERRA Age Group World Champ, Zaryski won this age group last year by over 12 minutes. He will be joined on the line by XTERRA Regional Champ, Joe Cooper and XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ Joost Van Ulden, who was third in this age group last year, behind Cooper. This year, Cooper won his age group at XTERRA Portland and Tahoe City and was second at XTERRA Lake Tahoe. Van Ulden won his age group at XTERRA Quebec and was second at XTERRA Victoria. He was fourth at XTERRA Greece, second at XTERRA Mexico, third at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in Utah.
Moving up to the 55-59 age group, XTERRA Asia Pacific Tour Champ, Hedeki Terasawa will be doing battle with XTERRA Pan Am Champ, Karl Edgerton. This year, Terasawa was second at XTERRA China and sixth at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship while Edgerton – who finished in the top ten at XTERRA Worlds last year – was second at XTERRA Oak Mountain in 2019, third at XTERRA Beaver Creek and won XTERRA Fruita.
“It’s snowing right now in Colorado, which makes training for a Maui a bit challenging,” said Edgerton. “But I’m feeling really good. The body is good, and my diet is good and I know that this year, my run is going to be better than last year. When you travel to Hawaii, you have to remember that the elements of nature are incredible. They rule the race.”
In the 60-64 age group, Cliff Millemann – who has been coming to XTERRA Worlds for almost 20 years – will use his experience and talent to navigate the course. This year, Millemann won his age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain and Portland and was second at XTERRA Beaver Creek, Lake Tahoe, and Tahoe City. His competition will come in the form of US athletes, Tom Monica – who won the age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek - George Lester and Carlos Sintes as well as Europe’s Joachim Rathbauer, Raymond Ferry, Michal Bares, and Felix Bydkiewski. Ferry has competed in an impressive nine races on the XTERRA European Tour, which included a win at XTERRA Italy-Scanno, a second-place finish at XTERRA Czech Republic and France, and wins at XTERRA Switzerland, Belgium, and Cyprus.
The XTERRA World Championship is always an incredible race experience. Because the race remains true to its heritage as a challenge against both the best in the sport as well as a test against Mother Nature, it brings out the best in everyone. We have no doubt that the post-race stories will not only account for incredible athletic feats, but also incredible acts of human kindness. Because, at its heart, that is what XTERRA is all about.
Alissa Magrum has long had the mantra of Live a Great Story.
“But recently, I was thinking that it’s not just about living a great story,” she said. “XTERRA is about living your own great story.”
On October 27th, our XTERRA athletes will each be racing their own race, together, with the blessing of the XTERRA Tribe. And we can’t wait to hear about their stories.