Stoltz, Paterson win ITU Cross Tri World Championships in Shelby County, Alabama
In the marquee event at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships / XTERRA Southeast Championship Conrad "the Caveman" Stoltz showed the world how the sport is meant to be played at the highest level with a brilliant display of racing, a literal "how-to" demonstration in front of thousands of spectators spread out over miles of roller-coast ride like tree-covered trails. The course, which received high-praise after every pre-swim, ride and run, consisted of two 750-meter swim laps in the warm-water of Double Oak Lake, three 10-kilometer mountain bike loops around the lake on twisting singletrack trails, and two 5K run laps. Stoltz winning time was 2 hours, 12 minutes, 11 seconds.
"Repeating a cross tri world title is very special - going back-to-back is not easy," Stoltz said. "I've done it, so I'm really, really pleased, especially on this course. This course is really hard to go fast. The trail itself is a pretty easy trail but the moment you try to go fast, it gets very slippery."
Craig Evans (pictured below) of Tennessee embodied the American pride that carried the day by breaking out his career-best performance, an impressive second-place finish on what he considers his XTERRA "home course." Evans, 34, was among the leaders out of the water, had a lightning fast transition, and rode in front early on. When Stoltz caught up near the end of the first lap, Evans clung to his wheel and the pair put time and distance on the field, and then, just as Evans had stated pre-race, it all came down to two 5K laps.
"I had goose bumps the entire race," Evans said. "The last two minutes was an entire celebration. The run, I was burying myself in the run. I am not a runner and I was gritting my teeth the last eight to 10 minutes of that run … second place, this is beyond a dream."
Stoltz made his winning push in the last 10 kilometers of the bike and held the lead the rest of the way. "It seems like I had a great ride, and paced with Craig Evans for a while," Stoltz said. "He knows this course like the back of his hand … and he had an exceptional race."
Stoltz and Evans embraced at the finish line in a classic display of the true camaraderie that has developed among the "XTERRA Tribe."
"I am thinking I had the best racing day of my life, and it was no doubt the coolest race experience I have ever had," said Evans, a father of two with a full-time job who endeared himself to fans and followers around the world in his pre-race interview when he said he'd focused his training on this race all winter and that it was an opportunity of a lifetime he intended to make count.
While Stoltz and Evans stole the show Christopher Legh of Australia was blitzing the run behind them with the fastest split of the day despite being called into the uniquely ITU "penalty box" for a helmet violation. Legh finished third in 2:14:11, his first podium at an ITU World Championship race in his storied 20+ year career.
Seven-time XTERRA National Champion Josiah Middaugh of Colorado (2:15:47) came out of the water in 15th place and picked his way through the field all day. His pre-race concerns of having trouble passing on the narrow singletrack trails on the bike were realized when one of the slower riders would not accommodate a pass. Despite the trouble Middaugh managed the fourth-best bike split and second-best run split to finish fourth overall.
Great Britain's Richard Stannard was first out of the water and coupled a solid bike and run to finish fifth. Interestingly Middaugh and Stannard also placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at last year's inaugural ITU Cross Tri World Championships in Spain.
Also of note, American Will Kelsay had the race of his life. He came out of the water in 20th position, nearly five minutes behind the leaders, before bobbing-and-weaving his way to the third-fastest bike split and into sixth-place overall (just seven seconds shy of a top 5).
Paterson Now Owns Both Off-Road Tri World Titles
Lesley Paterson of Great Britain won her first ITU world title in the women's division with a blazing fast trail run. She was as far back as fifth place early in the bike, but eventually passed all the others in front of her.
"It's awesome," Paterson said. "After last year and winning XTERRA Worlds in Maui, that was a huge pinnacle and it gave me confidence that I could do something like this again."
Canada's Melanie McQuaid, the 2011 ITU women's world champion, was ahead by more than two minutes after the bike, but Paterson chased her down quickly and then ran away.
"This course is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. I was singing songs to myself I was having so much fun, and on the bike you have to stay relaxed, it's not like you can hammer-hammer, you've got to feel it. On the run, it was like okay, let's get in the zone, let's power through it," Paterson said, then gave up what song she had in her head. "It was a Chris Brown song, Beautiful People, a real dance song so I listened to it like 25 times before I raced day."
Paterson, 31, finished with a time of 2:24:39, while McQuaid came in second at 2:27:15.
"Well, I was successfully defending my 2011 ITU Worlds title until we went into the second lap of the run and a tiny pint sized Scottish rocket blew past," wrote McQuaid after the race. "I didn't have much to answer with given Lesley's phenomenal run and my hat goes off to her for such a strong performance."
Carla Van Huyssteen of South Africa had the fastest swim time and finished third overall in 2:28:34. With the form and speed she showed on Saturday the reigning XTERRA South Africa Champion is certain to make a statement in the 2012 XTERRA European Tour this summer, which starts Sunday at the XTERRA Italy Championship.
"I came in with no expectations," Van Hussteen said. "To podium was my ultimate goal so it was amazing."
The American contingent was led by Suzie Snyder, who had an incredible day with the third best swim and sixth fastest bike time. Snyder was second off the bike before getting passed by Paterson just out of transition and Van Huyssteen later on. Down the finish chute Snyder held off a hard-charging Shonny Vanlandingham - owner of the fastest women's bike split - in a sprint to the finish. Snyder came in at 2:29:14, and Vanlandingham in her first-race back from ACL surgery in the fall finished fifth in 2:29:15.
"Huge thanks to my sponsor Luna and my coach Brian Grasky for helping me achieve my goal of finishing top five, and congrats to all of Team USA for some great performances," said Snyder.
Also: Sergio Sarmiento (41), Will Ross (37), Jean-Philippe Thibodeau (34), Llewellyn Holmes (31), Ryan DeCook (28), Peter Mosny, Nico Sterk, Theo Blignaut, Sean Bechtel, Patrick Valentine, Damian Gonzalez, Leandro Lobo
DNF: Adam Wirth, David Kendig
Also: Emma Garrard (41), Sara Tarkington (37), Heather Holmes (34), Kim Baugh (31), Caroline Colonna (28), Katie Button, Darrelle Parker, Tamara Donelson, Courtenay Brown
DNF: Kathryn Ross, Patricia Marquez, Carina Wasle
The 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships / XTERRA Southeast Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell, AVIA, and Shelby County. Sponsors include Oak Mountain State Park, the City of Pelham, the City of Hoover, Alabama Tourism Department, PowerBar, Gatorade, Rudy Project, Breakthrough Nutrition, Zorrel, XTERRAShop.com, XTERRA Wetsuits, XTERRA Footwear, XTERRA Fitness, and the Shelby County Reporter.
© 2014 TEAM Unlimited LLC