Thursday, September 24, 2009

We'll have to see about that...

Xterra has publised their take on how the race this weekend is going to play out. Apparently they feel I will lead out of the water and the first section of the bike only to be passed and disappear out of contention. (see article below) We'll just have to see about that!!!! THE XTERRA U.S. PRO SERIES SHOWDOWN...err, THROWDOWN! It all comes down to this. The 8-stop XTERRA Cup Series for professionals that started in early May wraps up with the ultimate showdown of XTERRA’s best on Saturday, Sept. 26 in Utah. And when we say the best, we mean it as the top 13 ranked men and women are on the start list – the lone exception being fourth-ranked Dan Hugo who just suffered through two weeks of a severe flu and painstakingly decided to stay home in South Africa to build an 8-month-base of training so he could tackle 2010 with a vengeance. There are two things to talk about … 1) the race and 2) the Series. Who’s the fastest on Saturday in the 1.5km swim, 30km mountain bike, and 10km trail run will determine the race winner, while who has the most points after this race determines the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Champion. Pros count their best five finishes in the eight regular season races plus whatever their point score is at the XTERRA USA Championship to determine final standings. THE MEN’S RACE The man to beat is Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz (pictured), the most feared XTERRA athlete on the planet. He won here last year, won four of the five Cup Series races he entered this year, and showed true grit by winning with an injury in Richmond. That said; anyone who thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that the Caveman will come out on top should consider… 1) Three different guys have won this race – Stoltz last year, Seth Wealing in ’07 and Mike Vine in ’06. 2) Last year the top four guys finished within a minute of each other. Stoltz was at 2:21:32, Vine was 14 seconds back, then Brian Smith (40 seconds) and Wealing (50 seconds). 3) In XTERRA mechanicals happen, like at this race in ’06 when Stoltz had more than two minutes on the entire field halfway through the bike before puncturing his tire going uphill at 5mph. He flatted in ’07 as well, as did Mike Vine. 4) It’s been two months since the last Cup race and it’s anybody’s guess as to which guy put together the best training plan so they’d be at their peak on race morning (and then execute!) Using the last three years of results on this course when the XTERRA Mountain Championship was contested here from 2006-2008, it’s clear that this race plays to power and strength and racers that can climb and handle the altitude. It’s 4,600-feet elevation at the swim start and 7,600-feet at the top of the bike course. It’s also clear that there are a bunch of XTERRA pros that fit the description like Stoltz, Nico Lebrun, Mike Vine, Josiah Middaugh, Seth Wealing, Brian Smith, Branden Rakita, and Cody Waite (the last five guys on this list are from Colorado where they live and train year-round in mountain riding conditions and altitudes similar to this race). Look for Wealing, Rakita and Stoltz to come out of the water first, a full-blown rumble up the mountain on the bike with Stoltz leading the charge, Wealing and Rakita hanging on, and Middaugh, Vine, and Smith gaining ground, then a pure survival of the fittest and test of courage on the run. This race will rock, and thank goodness the XTERRA TV crew is in full force on site to capture all the action and turn it into a one-hour show for the whole world to enjoy (see scenes from last year at Pro Start List: '09 Rank - Name - Age, Hometown 1 - Conrad Stoltz - 35, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2 - Nicolas Lebrun - 35, Digne-les-Bains, France 3 - Josiah Middaugh - 31, Vail, Colorado 5 - Mike Vine - 36, Victoria, B.C., Canada 6 - Seth Wealing - 30, Boulder, Colorado 7 - Branden Rakita - 28, Manitou Springs, Colorado 8 - Brian Smith - 33, Gunnison, Colorado 9 - Craig Evans - 31, Spring Hill, Tennessee 10 - Cody Waite - 30, Lakewood, Colorado 11 - Will Kelsay - 28, Boulder, Colorado 12 - Matt Boobar - 36, Stratton Mountain, Vermont 13 - Ryan Ignatz - 30, Boulder, Colorado 16 - Ryan DeCook - 28, Rochester, Michigan 19 - Jeff Smith - 28, Sandpoint, Idaho 22 - Brendan Halpin - 25, Missoula, Montana 23 - Christopher Bagg - 37, Portland, Oregon 24 - Scott Gall – 35, Cedar Falls, Iowa 25 - Damian Gonzalez - 32, Stockton, California THE WOMEN’S RACE The women’s pro field is as deep as the men (18 pre-registered pros in each race) but there is a clear No. 1 and that’s Melanie McQuaid. The three-time XTERRA World Champ from Canada won the first five Cup Series races of the season then started thinking about Utah. She’s been at altitude for more than a month, has done stints in Park City and right here in Ogden, has pre-rode the course dozens of times, won this race last year and in ’06, skipped a big tradeshow in Vegas so she could fine tune, and is clearly, without a doubt, focused on the prize. The unenviable task of knocking her off the top step falls squarely on Shonny Vanlandingham, the decorated NORBA champion who switched her focus to XTERRA last year and has gotten faster by the race. She’ll likely have the best bike split (almost always does) but she’ll have to make up some ground coming out of the water a minute or two or three behind McQuaid, then have a great run if she is to succeed. Renata Bucher from Switzerland, who has won 18 XTERRA Championships in 10 different countries and four Euro Tour titles, is perhaps the most intriguing racer to watch. The XTERRA faithful have watched her climb mountains like a kid peddles through the park, nice and easy. If she can do that here and come into the bike-to-run transition with a lead she could very well run away with the win. Others to keep an eye include Danelle Kabush who historically comes on strong at the end of the year as evident in her runner-up performance at the World Champs last year (she was 4th at this race last season). Also watch for Carina Wasle (the XTERRA Czech Champ), Jenny Smith (3rd here the last two years), and Lesley Paterson (2nd at the Southeast Cup and 3rd at the West Cup this year). The women’s race could play out like this…Christine Jeffrey leads all women out of the swim, followed a couple minutes later by McQuaid, Paterson, Bucher and the others. Jeffrey holds on for as long as possible until McQuaid catches and passes her, and the chase is on. McQuaid has a lead heading out on the run but how much of a lead, and can Vanlandingham or Bucher or Wasle or Kabush or Paterson reel her in? Only one way to find out, and that’s to be at finish line at the world-class Snowbasin Resort (home to the 2002 Winter Olympics) at around 11:40 a.m. on Saturday. Pro Start List: '09 Rank (61 = #1) - Name - Age, Hometown 61 - Melanie McQuaid - 36, Victoria, B.C., Canada 62 - Shonny Vanlandingham - 40, Durango, Colorado 63 - Renata Bucher - 32, Lucerne, Switzerland 64 - Danelle Kabush - 34, Canmore, Alberta, Canada 65 - Christine Jeffrey - 36, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 66 - Jenny Smith - 36, Westport, New Zealand 67 - Rebecca Dussault - 28, Crested Butte, Colorado 68 - Emma Garrard - 27, Truckee, California 70 - Alexandra Borrelly - 33, Digne-les-Bains, France 71 - Lesley Paterson - 28, Sterling, Scotland 72 - Sari Anderson - 30, Carbondale, Colorado 73 - Tracy Thelen - 29, Colorado Springs, Colorado 75 - Jenny Tobin - 40, Boise, Idaho 76 - Sara Tarkington - 28, Boulder, Colorado 81 - Brandyn Roark Gray - 30, Aztec, New Mexico 82 - Teri Albertazzi - 27, Tucson, Arizona 83 - Cameron Randolph - 38, Ridgway, Colorado 84 - Carina Wasle - 24, Kundl, Austria

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