FROM Xterra.com in the 2012 Eastern Regional Championships
South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz and Canada’s Melanie McQuaid took the victories at today’s Xterra East Championship in Richmond, Va.
Conrad Stoltz, 38, from Stellenbosch, South Africa and Melanie McQuaid, 38, from Victoria, B.C., Canada won the 14th edition of the Xterra East Championship in downtown Richmond, Virginia this morning.
In a city with such a rich and colorful history it’s only appropriate that the sports most experienced stars stole the headlines. For Stoltz, who “lost his heart to Xterra in Richmond” back in 2001 it’s his seventh win in eight years, and for McQuaid the victory marks her 12th consecutive year in the top three.
“I just love Richmond, the course is amazing and really suits me,” said Stoltz, who had the fastest bike split by far in 1:21:00 despite doing an extra little out-and-back section that no one else did.
“On the first lap I caught Craig (Evans) and then five minutes later I caught him again. Turns out a section had changed since when I went pre-riding and I wasn’t looking at the arrows,” Stoltz explained.
“He did the old course out-and-back,” said Evans, who followed the correct route. “It was funny because a few minutes later I hear this loud chain slap behind me and thought, oh man Josiah or somebody is riding great and then Conrad comes by and says “where’d you go” and I said “I went straight, where’d you go?”
Evans tried to stay with him the second time around but conceded “he’s in a whole different league right now.”
On the second of the two 10-mile twisty, turny, tree and fanatic-fan filled roller coaster ride of a mountain bike course Stoltz followed the right arrow and got into his groove.
“First lap my head wasn’t in it, I wasn’t focused. So, on the second lap I was paying attention and saw where I went wrong. The second lap I was just flying, it was so smooth and so much fun. There was a lot of spectators on the cliff all in costume, yelling, spraying beer and dancing around. It was like riding through a circus. It’s such a fun race, really the epitome of Xterra.”
Stoltz took to the run with a big lead, had time to stretch out a twinge in his calf at the 6K mark, and sailed into the finish chute with his third straight win in the Xterra U.S. Pro Series.
Behind him Evans– who had a career-best second-place finish three weeks ago at the Xterra/ITU race in Alabama – kept the momentum going with the second-fastest bike split that was almost good enough to secure his second runner-up in a row.
“I’m super stoked. My fitness this year is best it’s ever been,” said Evans, who held on to second-position until the last river crossing over the Lee footbridge back to the finish. “So close to being second again, but the legs weren’t responding well at the end of that one.”
Josiah Middaugh, the last man to win here in Richmond – back on Father’s Day in 2008 – overcame a series of mishaps on the bike to reel in Evans on the run with less than a mile to go.
“My chain was popping off the top part of the derailleur, and at one point it tied in two knots and pulled outside the derailleur and it took me forever to figure out how to get it fixed,” said Middaugh, who finished second for the second time this season (also at West Championship). “That dropped me back into sixth place and I was way out of touch by the run transition.”
The breakout race of the day goes to Will “Mr. Xterra” Kelsay who turned the tide on a decade of being outside the top 5 and earned his way onto the podium. Kelsay overcame a three-minute deficit out of the swim by crushing the bike and the run (3rd fastest splits in both). His fourth place finish marks his first trip to the podium in 10 years of racing on the Xterra U.S. Pro Series.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to have finally put all the pieces together and I am now racing at the level that I have wanted for so long,” said Kelsay, who was just sixth at the ITU Cross Tri World Champs last month. “I’ve never been this fast before and I’m hoping to be even faster. One of these days I want to give the Caveman a run for his money on a course like this.”
Branden Rakita and David Henestrosa also had strong days, placing fifth and sixth respectively. South African Bradley Weiss, in his first race head-to-head against the U.S. elites, impressed with a seventh-place showing. Also of note, Cody Waite had his best finish of the season in eighth, Adam Wirth had his strongest finish at a U.S. regional in ninth, and Ryan DeCook finished top 10 two years and earned some redemption after ripping apart his knee on this same course in 2010.
Xterra Rocky Mountain Championships
Conrad Stoltz, 38, of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Danelle Kabush, 36, of Calgary, Canada won the men’s and women’s titles at the XTERRA Mountain Championship at Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Stoltz won virtually wire-to-wire with a 3rd-best 0.7-mile swim (18:25), race-best 14.85-mile mountain bike (1:09:46) and 7th-best 5.85-mile trail run (38:54) to finish in 2:07:05 with a 1:19 margin of victory over runner-up Josiah Middaugh of Vail, Colorado and 3:35 over 3rd place Ben Hoffman of Boulder, Colorado.
“I must admit it was a very pleasurable experience," Stoltz told XTERRA media, speaking of some unusual sights he encountered his first time racing at Beaver Creek. “I saw a black bear up there while I was racing. I heard some branches break and I could see it getting away and Josiah saw it too.”
Stoltz paid tribute to Middaugh, a nearby Vail, Colorado native who had a home court advantage at the 7,400-foot plus altitude in the Rockies and the bike course which had nearly 4,000 feet of climbing in 15 rugged miles.
“I was really surprised at my win,” Stoltz told XTERRA media. “I thought Josiah was going to take it, because beating him on this course is really tough so I think I had to have a very special day.”
“When you put together a good race and get beat it’s not because something went wrong, it’s just that you’re not fit enough,” Middaugh told XTERRA media.
Middaugh has now finished second to Caveman Stolts in three XTERRA races this year.
“Conrad had an awesome race and kudos to him for having that fitness and power that I’m going to be looking for in the next few months.”
Stoltz emerged from the swim 2 seconds back of Craig Evans, 1 second back of Branden Rakita and 6 seconds ahead of pavement long course star Ben Hoffman, racing in his first major XTERRA.
Middaugh and Spanish XTERRA star David Henestrosa were one minute further back.
By the end of the bike, Stoltz posted the fastest bike split and Middaugh, with a second-best 1:10:57, had surrendered 1:11. By Mile 10 of the rugged bike, Middaugh had passed everyone else and moved into second place. But even with a home town edge, Middaugh had his work cut out for him as he trailed by more than 2 minutes with just 5.8 miles to run Stoltz down.
Hoffman embraced his first crack at the XTERRA big time. “It was awesome today,” he told XTERRA media. “I’m fired up, had fun out there.”
Henestrosa, the Spanish competitor who now earns a living teaching in Utah, last placed in the top 5 of an XTERRA Championship race at Keystone, Colorado in 2004.
“I feel OK in the altitude,” he told XTERRA media. “I grew up just outside of Barcelona at a little over 4,000-feet and now live in Utah and [the altitude is] similar and it’s very comfortable.”
The win was Stoltz’s fourth straight in the 2012 XTERRA U.S. Pro series and maintains his perfect record after victories at XTERRA West in Las Vegas, XTERRA Southeast in Pelham, Alabama and XTERRA East in Richmond, Virginia.