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Jimmy Riccitello and Jamie Whitmore Receive Awards in Maui
JIMMY RICCITELLO, XTERRA HALL OF FAMER
When XTERRA celebrated its 10th year back in 2005 they created the XTERRA Hall of Fame and started a tradition at the Night of Champions dinner in Maui by naming Ned Overend as the inaugural member. In 2006 one of XTERRA’s first and most prominent ambassadors, Scott Tinley, was inducted and last year Kerstin Weule joined this exclusive club. This year, the honor went to hands-down the most humorous XTERRA athlete to ever roam the planet, Jimmy Riccitello…
For more than twenty years Jimmy Riccitello (pictured above racing at the XTERRA World Championship this year) was one of the world's top professional triathletes. His career began in the “prehistoric days” before aerobars and clipless pedals and spanned the gamut of triathlon - sprint and Olympic distance to half and full Ironmans….and XTERRA.
Today he’s known as a Rules Guy or “Jimmy the Coach”, but "Jimmy the Athlete” is hard to forget. "I'm known as ‘used to be good,' " said Riccitello. Affectionately known as “JR Superstar” and “The Italian Stallion”, he has more than 50 professional victories including prestigious wins in the St. Croix International Triathlon, ITU World Cups, and the Vuelta de Bisbee cycling stage race. Jimmy won several stages in the France Iron Tour, including the stage up Alpe d'Huez and took the best cyclist trophy. He was the last of those strong cyclists that could actually bust open a race and drop the field. There were many cases where the peloton simply could not catch “The Stallion”.
From day one, he was self coached, and his philosophy has always been to see how hard he could push himself and measure his training against others. Winning wasn’t a big concern - "throughout my life I came in second place a lot”, said Riccitello…” 'first loser' as my dad would call it.” What concerned him most was the battle itself.
Flash back to 1996… AquaTerra…the first XTERRA…123 Speedo-clad racers on the start line at dawn on the beach in Wailea, Maui. A who’s who of triathlon and mountain biking showed up to try something completely new…off-road triathlon. And, it turned out that XTERRA with its catch phrase “Your toughest competitor is Mother Nature” was right up Riccitello’s alley. He took the inaugural XTERRA World Championship by more than three minutes over triathlon great Mike Pigg. After the win, he said “Man this race is a bitch, but it’s the true spirit of triathlon – the athlete against the course”.
Over seven years, Riccitello raced XTERRA all over the U.S., including six more Maui World Championships, and was always the life of the party. Fellow athletes, XTERRA University students, and event staff alike were subjected to his less than politically correct opinions, quick wit, bodily sounds, and practical jokes. His approach was honest and irreverent. One of his training students/victims said "He's the only person I've encountered who can weave George Bush, breast implants, Katie Couric and diaper rash in the same sentence.”
Riccitello long-distance-coached athletes over the internet and gained their respect for his ability to bring the best out of them without every meeting in person. “He just disappeared one day – maybe he fired me as an athlete” said XTERRA age grouper Antonio Perricone of Milan.
He has written extensively on the sport and is perhaps most widely known for his Slowtwitch editorial titled "wussification of coffee - the blacker the better" and online contest naming his unborn son, which at the time was known as “Cletus” – rhyming with fetus in a song he had written for his wife Traci. Fortunately, the child, now in first grade, was named Matthew, and his younger sister Maddy is now in pre-school.
"Racing is my passion," he said. "I love it and everything about it . . . the conflict, the confrontation, the challenge, the cerebral part."
Riccitello served on USA Triathlon’s board of directors and Athlete Advisory Committee for six years and when he retired, took up coaching – including authoring XTERRA’s first training program for Multisports.com – and is now Ironman’s Head Referee. Some think that’s like letting the inmates run the asylum, but so far – so good.
For his contributions and influence on the sport, XTERRA honored Jimmy Riccitello – the sports’ first World Champion - as the 2008 inductee into the XTERRA Hall of Fame.
Jamie Whitmore is a fighter. She is XTERRA’s winningest pro ever with 37 career victories. To illustrate her dominance, the person with the 2nd most career wins is Conrad Stoltz with 26.
Jamie has battled and beat the world’s best all over the XTERRA Planet, but Jamie’s contributions to XTERRA go far beyond her five wins in Tahoe and her epic battles on Maui against Melanie McQuaid. No athlete has been a greater ambassador for XTERRA than Jamie. She and her husband Courtney, a former Mr. XTERRA award winner, have traveled the world – Japan, Mexico, Guam, Saipan, Canada, Brazil, and all over Europe - embracing the XTERRA community, giving countless training clinics and sharing words of encouragement to those just starting out or considering a start in XTERRA.
Jamie’s winning attitude is infectious and she’s inspired many, including her own father Biff, to get on the XTERRA trails. For years Jamie has been raising awareness and money for Huntington's Disease - a hereditary neurological disorder that effects members of her family and some of her closest friends - though her own charitable foundation, Jamie's Race for Research.
So, the XTERRA world was absolutely shocked and saddened to hear that Jamie wouldn’t be racing in 2008. CANCER…it affects millions of people every day but how could Jamie Whitmore have it? She’s 32-years-old, in her athletic prime, and the most dominant XTERRA athlete ever. How could this be?
Needless to say, her absence left a noticeable void on the XTERRA tour.
In the last 7 months, Jamie has had two malignant tumors removed from her body, but rather than ask “Why Me?” Jamie has taken on cancer with the same spirit that’s made her such an athletic success. For years, she’s had the words “Powered by God” on her bike, and “Powered by God” continues to be her battle cry.
Jamie Whitmore has been down before and she always gets up. Through her battles against cancer, she’s inspired many by continuing to fight against this awful disease.
But how could we expect anything less from Jamie? She’s a fighter.
For that, and for her constant embodiment of the XTERRA Spirit we salute Jamie Whitmore as the 2008 XTERRA Warrior award winner.
XTERRA ECO TEAM IN MAUI
A diverse group of about 20 XTERRA athletes, family and friends from all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand took part in the XTERRA Eco Team clean-up at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui on Friday. The squad picked-up trash, bottles, and all kinds of random rubbish spread out over the last couple miles of the run course from Makena Beach, through Spooky Forest, along black sand beach and the shoreline fronting the Maui Prince Hotel. Local team member Chris Stankis took all of the bottles and cans to recycling and altogether the group filled two dozen 40-gallon trash bags with unwanted litter. The XTERRA Eco Team is an athlete-initiated and supported program created to help protect and preserve the areas we race in and the communities that host us.
IN THE PHOTO: Barbara Peterson (Berkeley, CA), Brian, Chelsea, and Spencer Charles (Encinitas, CA), Emma Fletcher (Australia), Robin Smith (Bellingham, WA), Tjalling Ypma (Bellingham, WA), Rick Vircavs (Canada), Patti Walker (CAN), Kate Chapman (Breckenridge, CO), Bryce and Angela Giddy and Family of four (New Zealand), Lee Cannon (Pleasanton, CA), Peter Hanson (Minneapolis, MN), and Chris Stankis (Maui).
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