A new venue served as a fitting place to crown new XTERRA world champions.
The 16th XTERRA World Championship turned into a sweet celebration for Michael Weiss, Lesley Paterson and Kapalua, Maui.
Weiss and Paterson earned their first XTERRA world titles on a new course that was described as both beautiful and brutal. After 15 previous years at Makena, the XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon moved to the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua this year. A total of 675 athletes representing 28 countries and 42 states participated in the event, which featured a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 30-kilometer mountain bike and a 10-kilometer trail run.
INSPIRING BIKE SURGE LEADS WEISS TO WIN
Weiss was the overall winner, completing the course in 2 hours, 27 minutes, including an astonishing bike split of 1:19:32. No other competitor finished with a bike time under 1:21:03. It was a breakthrough win for the 30-year-old Weiss, who had finished second at the 2008 XTERRA Worlds, and then third in 2009 and 2010.
“It’s amazing,” said Weiss, who is from Vienna, Austria. “I still cannot believe it. A big dream came true, and it was a really tough course.”
Weiss was in the middle of the pack after the swim, but made his remarkable move to the front on the bike. By midway through the bike course, Weiss and South Africa’s Dan Hugo were riding next to each other in second place.
The only rider in front of them was the legendary seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who was competing in the XTERRA World Championship for the first time.
Weiss and Hugo actually talked about working together so that they could conserve energy in their pursuit of Armstrong.
“That was a critical moment for me, about three-quarters of the way through the bike and I was with Weiss, and we said let’s work together, but (Weiss) was one notch stronger and he kind of took off from me and he bridged to Armstrong,” said Hugo.
Shortly after breaking away from Hugo, Weiss closed in on Armstrong, and said it gave him an adrenaline rush that pushed him all the way to the finish line.
“It felt amazing,” Weiss said. “I had goose bumps. It’s something very special to catch Lance on a climb. It was an amazing feeling, and even motivated me more.”
Weiss used that motivation to do the unthinkable – he passed Armstrong on an uphill bike climb.
“I stayed a little bit behind him, I looked how he was doing, and I just gave it a shot and attacked and Lance couldn’t follow,” Weiss said. “It was cool.”
Armstrong later crashed toward the end of the bike course, and landed on his head. He said he needed a minute or two to gather his bearings before getting back on the bike.
“I hit it harder than I thought, because I stood there for a while taking inventory, trying to remember my name,” he said. “That probably took a little out of me … I’ve never hit my head that hard before.”
Hugo also crashed late in the bike course, but managed to recover with only one other competitor passing him (Conrad Stoltz). However, Hugo rebounded with a strong run, and passed Stoltz and Armstrong early in the run course.
“I caught Armstrong pretty early (in the run) and knew I was in second,” Hugo said. “But I could never make it up on Weiss. He was a little too far in front. Looking back, that crash really hurt my chances, but that’s part of it. I would have loved it to be different, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Dan Hugo finished second with a time of 2:27:33 – 33 seconds behind Weiss. Former three-time XTERRA world champion Eneko Llanos of Spain was third in 2:28:26, followed by Josiah Middaugh of Colorado in 2:29:14. Spain’s Ivan Rana, a three-time Olympian who was making his XTERRA debut, placed an impressive fifth with a time of 2:29:31.
“I caught some guys on the bike and thought I could reel some people in on the run climbs or downhills, but I really didn’t have anything left in the tank,” Middaugh said. “Even at the end of the run, coming to the finish here, (Ivan) Rana was right there and I had to do everything I could to hold him off.”
Perhaps affected by his bike crash, Armstrong (pictured in grey) faded during the run and finished in 23rd place overall with a time of 2:36:59.
“I made some mistakes,” Armstrong said. “I think the combo of swimming – I went out too hard on the swim, got a little excited and over-cooked it. It took me four to six miles to get comfortable on the bike and at that point, I was able to get in a rhythm and ride fast, but then the crash is the way it ended. If I had to do it over, I probably would have backed off on the swim and hoped for a more balanced bike ride, and of course, take the crash out. Like all these things, hindsight is 20/20.”
Still, Armstrong’s presence created a huge buzz for the 2011 XTERRA World Championship, and thousands of fans lined the course to catch a glimpse. He said he would like to take another shot at the XTERRA Worlds in 2012, but with a little more training time.
“Yeah, I don’t see why not,” he said when asked about a return to Maui next year. “But I think I would need to try some other events throughout the year. It seems to me the more you practice the little things like the strategy of the event, the transition from swim to bike, and transition from bike to run, the easier they become.”
South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz, who won his record fourth XTERRA World Championship in 2010, withdrew from the race early during the run course. He said he was experiencing breathing problems almost from the start of the race.
“I came into this race with some really strong training sessions, and I think this year I was in good form — better than last year at the same time,” Stoltz said. “But coming out of the swim, I couldn’t breathe properly and felt like I was going on one lung. I kept pushing and pushing and just couldn’t get going.”
Stoltz was still in third place after the bike, but said his breathing situation worsened as soon as the run started, so he stopped.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Purse
1 Michael Weiss 30 Vienna, Austria 2:27:00 $20,000
2 Dan Hugo 26 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:27:33 $12,000
3 Eneko Llanos 34 Victoria-Gasteiz, Spain 2:28:26 $7,000
4 Josiah Middaugh 33 Vail, Colorado 2:29:14 $4,000
5 Ivan Rana 39 Ordes, Spain 2:29:31 $2,500
6 Olivier Marceau 38 Switzerland 2:29:40 $1,500
7 Ronny Dietz 33 Chemnitz, Germany 2:29:47 $1,000
8 Richard Ussher 35 Nelson, New Zealand 2:29:54 $800
9 Jan Kubicek 31 Chodov City, Czech Republic 2:30:54 $600
10 Christopher Legh 38 Lyons, Colorado 2:31:10 $500
11 Sam Gardner 36 Surrey, United Kingdom 2:33:15 $400
12 Jan Frodeno 30 Cologne, Germany 2:33:20 $300
13 Nicolas Lebrun 38 Digne-les-Bains, France 2:33:57
14 Mike Vine 38 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 2:34:03
15 Tim DeBoom 40 Boulder, Colorado 2:34:23
PATERSON RUNS TO HER FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
If Weiss took the men’s title with an inspiring bike ride, then Lesley Paterson won the women’s title with an equally amazing run.
Due in part to a punctured tire on her bike, Paterson started the run course in fourth place – nearly six-and-a-half minutes behind then-leader Melanie McQuaid. Paterson quickly ran down the three women in front of her, fell flat on her face less than a mile from the finish, and still managed to take the women’s title by more than two minutes.
“I felt really good,” said Paterson, who is originally from Scotland, but now resides in San Diego, Calif. “I was so angry because I punctured on the bike, and I think that anger helped me to really sort of knuckle down and go as hard as I could and see where the chips would fall.”
Paterson, 31, finished with a time of 2:45:59, including a run time of 43:54, which was nearly three minutes faster than any of the other females. Her run time was the same as Weiss, and was topped by only 12 other males in the entire field.
“I had pre-run the course a lot,” she said. “I came out 10 days early just to make sure I knew the course really well, especially the run for me because that’s where I thought I could win it.”
Like Weiss, it was a breakthrough win for Paterson. She had three previous top-10 finishes, including a runner-up showing in 2009. She got so excited after passing McQuaid late in the run course that she fell on the rocks leading to the stretch run on D.T. Fleming Beach.
“What happens is your heart rate is super high, it’s at the end of the race, you’re dehydrated and your legs are not quite sure what you’re doing with them,” Paterson said. “And I just got in the lead, so you’re kind of nervous with anticipation.”
McQuaid had a large lead after the bike, but could not complete the race due to exhaustion. She collapsed just a few hundred yards from the finish line, and had to be assisted off the course. She said she was okay a few hours after the race.
Marion “Bubu” Lorblanchet of France took second with a time of 2:48:08. She also got passed by the roadrunner legs of Paterson during the run.
“On the run, I was good, then I see ‘beep, beep’ and it was Lesley,” Lorblanchet said. “I think it was not possible for me to follow her.
“I’m very happy because it was a good race for me. Last year, I was third, this year second, so maybe next year?”
Helena Erbenova of the Czech Republic capped an impressive XTERRA rookie season with a third place showing at Worlds. She finished with a time of 2:51:51 in her first appearance on Maui. Erbenova is a former Olympic cross country skier.
Renata Bucher of Switzerland placed fourth in 2:52:02, and Danelle Kabush of Canada was fifth in 2:54:35.
Paterson and Weiss each received $20,000 for the victory. A total purse of $100,000 was awarded.
Shonny Vanlandingham, who won the 2010 XTERRA World Championship, did not compete this year due to a knee injury. Julie Dibens, the 2007, 2008 and 2009 women’s champ, also did not compete due to a foot injury.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Purse
1 Lesley Paterson 31 San Diego, Calif. (Scotland) 2:45:59 $20,000
2 Marion Lorblanchet 28 Clermont Ferrand, France 2:48:08 $12,000
3 Helena Erbenová 32 Czech Republic 2:51:51 $7,000
4 Renata Bucher 34 Lucerne, Switzerland 2:52:02 $4,000
5 Danelle Kabush 36 Calgary, Alberta, Canada 2:54:35 $2,500
6 Erin Densham 26 Melbourne, Australia 2:57:46 $1,500
7 Sara Tarkington 30 Boulder, Colorado 2:57:59 $1,000
8 Emma Garrard 30 Park City, Utah 2:58:42 $800
9 Brandi Heisterman 36 Brackendale, B.C., Canada 3:03:39 $600
10 Jessica Noyola 29 San Diego, California 3:04:25
11 Brigitta Poor 22 Sopron, Hungry 3:06:56
12 Kelley Cullen 31 New Castle, Colorado 3:07:15
13 Adriana Fabiola Corona 31 Mexico City, Mexico 3:08:54
14 Manuela Vilaseca 32 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 3:17:57
15 Suzie Snyder 29 Stafford, Virginia 3:19:18
The XTERRA World Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell, Hawaiian Airlines, The Ritz-Carlton, Maui Visitors Bureau and Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. Sponsors include the Kapalua Resort, GU, Gatorade, Zorrel, Kona Brewing Company, Hawaii Tourism Authority, T S Restaurants, and the XTERRA Alliance – Vitality, Footwear, Fitness, Flex, Wetsuits, and Cycling.