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Abu Dhabi Triathlon Men’s Preview – Triathlon’s Hottest Field outside of Kona

Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has the hottest field outside of the Hawaii Ironman World Championship (or maybe even equal to in the men’s side). This is a who’s who of the top long course athletes in the world. In its second running those who stayed away last year have obviously thought that it is not a one hit wonder and the lure of the prize purse is just too much for most. Trizone spoke to Josh Rix, Tim Berkel, Matty White, Paul Ambrose, Joe Gambles and Kiwi Graham O’Grady in the lead up to this exciting new and very rich international triathlon.

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By Karl Hayes

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Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has the hottest field outside of the Hawaii Ironman World Championship (or maybe even equal to in the men’s side). This is a who’s who of the top long course athletes in the world. In its second running those who stayed away last year have obviously thought that it is not a one hit wonder and the lure of the prize purse is just too much for most.

The interesting thing about this race is that for most it is the first race since 2010 and in many cases since Kona. Everyone’s form is relatively unknown right now and most are using this race as a benchmark race to see how their training is going.

Of the professional triathletes racing in Abu Dhabi this weekend that Trizone spoke to it was refreshing to have a couple of them answer the question ‘How important is this race in your 2011 calendar’ with ‘very important because there is a lot of prize money on offer’. These guys and girls do this for a job so I wouldn’t expect them to not be thinking about the prize money even though many are reluctant to talk about it openly. There is a feeling that the age groupers and fans of triathlon would find it a bit on the nose. I go to work each day for the money. I enjoy my job a lot but it is definitely for the money and I don’t see why it would be any different for the pros.

With the exception of a small handful of top guys missing such as Pete Jacobs Abu Dhabi is one of the best guy’s fields you will see. Of course we all know that Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander are racing. Most of Australia’s (and a few Kiwi’s) other top long course triathletes will also be racing in Abu Dhabi. After missing last year when he broke his collar bone after a bike accident Pete Jacobs doesn’t seem to worried about not racing there this year. Pete has a lot of new plans this year and Challenge Carins is up there along with winning Kona in October.

Trizone spoke to a number of the leading Australian pros, and a Kiwi for good measure, in the lead up to this weekends triathlon.

Josh Rix

Josh Rix. Josh has found his triathlon mojo again after a resurgence in 2010. Trizone interviewed Josh towards the end of 2010 and found that he is on a mission to get to the top (Professional Triathlete Josh Rix on the Comeback Trail). Rix has been training full time over the last year and is pumped about 2011. “I have been trying to simulate the conditions I will face in Abu Dhabi by doing some of my harder sessions in the mid afternoon heat/sun. This has made me pay close attention to my hydration and nutrition during the sessions and totally reinforced its importance and made it an “exercise habit” to be conscious of my refuelling. Training has been super long and hard for this event as we are planning on using the volume as my main block of high volume for the coming US summer.” In addition to focusing on his own triathlon career Josh has been coaching Victoria’s up and coming long distance triathlete Madeleine Oldfield who recently won the 2XU Falls Creek long course triathlon. She will be attempting to back that win up with a win at the Huskisson long course Australian championship on the same day that Josh is racing in Abu Dhabi.

Although Abu Dhabi doesn’t offer any points for Kona or Vegas it does have a very sizeable prize purse and that’s what being professional is about – earning the $$. Josh is well aware of this and he is looking forward to the chance to take on 40 of the best male long distance triathletes in the world and prove that he is a worthy contender. “Being so early in the year also means I can get some positive momentum to build on for the rest of the year. So in short – yeah it’s important because I want to win some $$$ and earn some respect from the top guys in the triathlon world”

Josh spent so many years at the beginning of his pro career riding off the front and then getting run down. “Hopefully this unique distance will suit my strong biking form and offer me a chance to hold onto any advantage I get over whoever is behind me.”

I asked Josh who he thinks we should all watch this weekend. “That is such a hard question because it is so early in the season and no one has shown their true form in any races. I think that Macca will probably be a player on the bike and if he’s on his good day Paul Matthews could be a threat with his swim bike combo. But there are so many others – Luke Bell, Joe Gambles, Luke McKenzie (although lacking race fitness). You can never count out Tim Berkel Berkel especially if it comes to a run. Then you also have last year’s top 3 returning chasing the $$. I think everyone of the 40 males are a threat and I am so excited to be competing in this event!”

After Abu Dhabi Josh will be coming home to move from Brisbane to Adelaide (Matty White may finally have a training partner) and then set himself for Port Macquarie 70.3 and Busselton 70.3. This will be two 70.3 races in 6 days. Josh in now writing for Yahoo!7’s sport portal Banzai. Click here to read his latest posting.

Joe Gambles

One of Australia’s most successful long distance triathletes last year was Joe Gambles. Joe won or went top 3 in many races in the USA last year. He won the Washington 70.3 and Ironman Wisconsin, he was 4th the week after Washington at the Timberman 70.3, 4th at the Foster Grant 70.3 world championship and 2nd at Lake Stevens 70.3.

Joe told Trizone at the end of last week that he is has had a lot more structure this January and February than normal. “I feel like I am in good enough shape to be competitive. This race format should suit me. If I can stay with the front group on the bike my 70.3 racing experience should suit the 20km run. With $50k up for grabs for the top spot this in one important race and I am going in to it thinking that I can be there at the end.” Joe also sees this race as a good opportunity to see where he is at against the guys he will be racing in Vega and Kona later this year.

Joe’s pick for the race is Crowie if he is there at the end of the bike leg. We will see Joe in Port Macquarie in May this year racing in the 70.3.

Tim Berkel

Another Australian doing the Port Macquarie and Busselton double header in just over 6 weeks is newly engaged Tim Berkel. We haven’t seen Tim race since last November and he is a bit nervous. “Training has been going well but I am a little nervous as I haven’t raced since for a few months. Having said that I am looking forward to it and am hoping for a good result. As it is my first race of the season it is a bit of an unknown, but with a good result it could set me up for the rest of the year so it is an extremely important race for me.”

Tim isn’t sure how he will go at this race distance. After Port 70.3 and Busso Tim’s next race is Challenge Cairns which he will be heavily focused on once back from Abu Dhabi.

Matty White

Matty White has been doing 3-4 training sessions a week at a simulated 3000m after partnering up with Altitude Technology Solutions. He says the improvements have been amazing. I have been on holidays from work for the last 6 weeks and have logged some consistent kms. I won the South Australian Olympic Distance champs by 7:30min and most of this was on the bike. The signs are good and overall I am the fittest I have ever been and most of all I am injury free. This race is really important to me as there is no better measuring stick than racing the best in the world. I know I am fit at the moment and I really want to see how I line up against the big hitters of the long distance world. Basically this race is another Kona with the quality that is racing.”

Matty has been testing himself by riding to and from a holiday home 160kms from Adelaide and including some swimming and running over the three days that he did this. He rode the 160kms as TTs. “I was surprised with my strength and power output so I know I have it there for Abu Dhabi.”

Matty thinks that Crowie is the man to watch as he believes he has a point to prove after Kona. “Along with Crowie you can throw in Bockel, Henning and Lanos. Macca might be a bit underdone as he is prepping for Sydney ITU but you can never write off a champion like him. He could come out and smoke everyone…”

Matty has a good head start on his points needed for Kona with a 4th in Cancun last September and a 2nd at Busselton in Ironman WA. “I am doing Port Mac and Busselton 70.3 next. I hope to get most of my points before July so that I can focus on Challenge Cairns.”.

Paul Ambrose

2010 Ironman Louiseville winner and new Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team member Paul Ambrose is really pumped about racing next weekend. Ambrose has been training just outside of Abu Dhabi for the last month. “I have been based in Al Ain which is a rural area in the desert approx 1.5hrs from the city of Abu Dhabi. It’s got all the essentials for training and a good team to keep my on track with training. I am typically looking for an easy distraction to get myself out of training so this new environment has been perfect for me.

I asked Paul where this race sits in his calendar in 2011 and beyond. ”It is a new race so I can’t exactly say I grew up wanting to do this event, but I can say that I am happy it’s around now. It is great for the sport of triathlon and it gives to triathletes an opportunity to expand their horizons and test out their abilities in a whole new concept. So for me it’s definitely a key race for me now, as it is not only giving me a chance to test out my bike abilities, but to test a field which could possibly be even stronger than Kona.”

Abu Dhabi would typically be a perfect race for Ambrose. A long bike ride and a relatively short run would be his dream race.

Like Matty White Ambrose also believes that Crowie will be out to prove a point after Kona. “Eneko Llanos has to be in the top picks as you can’t count out the “defending champ”. I’ve seen this guy in Europe and he is tuff. Craig Alexander will also be out to prove something after a bittersweet Kona. The field is the crème of the crop and you really can’t count out most of these guys. This will definitely be one of the most competitive fields of the year.”

Graham O’Grady

And the final word goes to Kiwi Graham O’Grady. O’Grady won the New Zealand half ironman in January this year. This race plays to his strengths and he is going to Abu Dhabi to compete. “Swimming and Biking are a strength of mine but the distance is unknown, I am confident that if I can race smart I will be there or there at the end of the bike. Coming from ITU racing I have some speed but you have to be fresh off the bike to run well.” O’Grady was forced to pull out of the recent New Plymouth half ironman in New Zealand but is on track for a good race this weekend.

O’Grady says he has recovered well since his last race. “My training has been going well land the long sessions I have been doing should be enough. I am excited about racing in a field as good as this and this race should set me up for my ironman debut midyear. After Abu Dhabi I will be racing Oceanside and New Orleans 70.3’s then Challenge Cairns in June which will be my ironman debut.”

Start List

Craig Alexander
Faris Al-Sultan
Paul  Ambrose 
Björn Andersson
Stephen  Bayliss
Cesar Beilo
Luke Bell
Tim  Berkel
Dirk  Bockel
Timo Bracht
Cameron Brown
Massimo Cigana 
Kieran Doe
Joe Gambles
Pedro Gomes 
Justin  Granger
Rasmus Henning
Ben   Hoffman
Martin Jensen
Eneko Llanos
Paul  Matthews
Chris McCormack
Luke Mckenzie
Romans Melderis 
Omar Nour
Graham  O’Grady
Jordan  Rapp
Bryan  Rhodes
Josh Rix
Andrew Starykowicz
Rasmus Stubager
Sylvain  Sudrie 
Swen Sundberg
Kevin Taddonio 
Raynard  Tissink
Edo van der Meer
Frederik Van Lierde
Marino Vanhoenacker
Matty White

 

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Elite Field Of Professional Triathletes Set To Compete In 2018 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon

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The pro field for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon set to take place on Sunday, June 3. The line-up includes 2016 Rio Olympian Ben Kanute, Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker (USA), Olympian Ryan Fisher (AUS), Olympian Paula Findlay (CAN), 2018 Surf City Escape Triathlon winner Jason West and more.

The new official coach of the Escape Triathlon Series Andy Potts will also be competing. Potts represented the United States in the 2004 Olympics, is a seven-time IRONMAN champion, 28-time IRONMAN 70.3 champion, and a six-time Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon champion.

“I am super excited about my new role as the Escape Triathlon Series coach and look forward to competing this year and supporting all levels of participants as they work to accomplish their goals,” said Potts.

The pros will join 2,000 amateur triathletes for the 38th year of this annual event. Athletes have qualified to race through the newly-formed Escape Triathlon Series. 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Champions Ben Kanute and Lauren Goss will attempt to defend their titles. The full list of professional triathletes set to compete in the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon includes:

Men

  • Kevin Collington (USA)
  • Brian Duffy Jr. (USA)
  • Robbie Deckard (USA)
  • Cameron Dye (USA)
  • Ryan Fisher (AUS)
  • Ben Kanute (USA)
  • Eric Lagerstrom (USA)
  • Garrick Loewen (CAN)
  • Andy Potts (USA)
  • Jarrod Shoemaker (USA)
  • Jason West (USA)
  • Timothy Winslow (USA)
  • Matthew Wisthoff (USA)

Women

  • Liz Baugher (USA)
  • Paula Findlay (CAN)
  • Lauren Goss (USA)
  • Sarah Haskins (USA)
  • Alicia Kaye (CAN)
  • Caroline Shannon (USA)
  • Erin Storie (USA)
  • Lindsey Jerdonek (USA)

Top triathletes from around the world will take over the streets and waters of San Francisco for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on a course showcasing the beauty of the city. Triathletes will hit the water at 7:30 a.m. to embark on a challenging 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shoreline of Marina Green, an 18-mile twisting bike ride through the Presidio, and an 8-mile trail run out to Baker Beach and up the infamous 400-plus step Sand Ladder. To finish the race, triathletes will follow a path back under the Golden Gate Bridge, pass Crissy Field, and finish on the grass at Marina Green. Fans can experience the excitement at Marina Green, where the swim exit, athlete transition area and finish line are easily visible.

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Middaugh, Paterson win XTERRA Oak Mountain

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Josiah Middaugh and Lesley Paterson captured the 13th annual XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful day at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama this morning.

It’s the third straight year Middaugh has won this race and his fifth win in six years on this course.  For Paterson, it’s her fourth victory here since 2012, and for both, their first big XTERRA win of 2018.

In the men’s race Ian King was first man out of the water in 21:11, followed closely by Karsten Madsen, Branden Rakita, Rom Akerson, and Victor Arenas.  Middaugh came of the 1.5-kilometer swim in 23:56, nearly three-minutes behind the leaders, and quickly went to work on the bike.

“I had quite a deficit out of the swim and had to remind myself to just keep pushing all the time,” said the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ, who posted the fastest 30km bike split of the day in 1:20:56.  “For me to get to the front, it’s max effort every chance I get.”

Middaugh was able to pass six of the eight guys ahead of him by the end of the bike, all but race leader Rom Akerson (pictured below) and Karsten Madsen.

“Toward the end of the bike, I was hearing I was within one-minute but I still couldn’t see anybody, and then I heard I was 35 seconds behind but still couldn’t see anybody, and then finally I saw Karsten at the very end there,” said Middaugh.  “I thought Rom must have been another minute up the trail, but when I came out of the bike-to-run transition we were all in there together, 1,2, 3.”

When Middaugh speaks of Max effort, the final quarter-mile of the bike was a perfect example, as he reeled-in 10-15 seconds by hammering the final stretch.

“You have take time whenever you can,” he said.  “Coming in on the road, I saw Karsten starting to take his shoes off and I thought, I’m going hard for another 10 seconds.”

At the start of the two-lap 10km trail run around Double Oak Lake it was an exciting three-man chase and then another all-out effort by Middaugh propelled him into the lead about half-mile into it.

“Right away on the run we were all pushing hard but I was able to take the lead just before the start of the single track. Karsten and I were pretty much sprinting to that spot,” he said.  “I was thinking if I can get in first then I can hit all those little rollers and start working the hills and just hope to wear him down. So, it worked. I wanted to put a gap on him early because when you’re feeling good, you don’t know how long it’s going to last. You can go from feeling real good to real bad, real quick.”

Middaugh crushed the run in 39:04.  The only other sub 40-minute run came from XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series leader Kieran McPherson, who had the best split of the day in 38:50 and ultimately finished 5th.

His winning time was 2:23:56, more than one-minute ahead of Madsen who finished in second for the second straight year behind Middaugh.

“That was by far the worst I’ve felt all through a race, but I persevered,” said Madsen, who won XTERRA Uruguay two weeks ago and was second to Kieran McPerson at XTERRA Brazil last week.  “Three races in three weeks is just about one of the hardest things I’ve done. All this week I could barely train because my legs were so sore and tired, but this course gives me confidence and I used the ability I have in single track riding to keep in contention. I was trying to best Josiah today but he’s such a veteran racer and he found that extra gear.”

Madsen, who sits in second on the Pan Am Pro Series after six events, added that the bump-n-grind style of racing at the park today was a thrill … “That’s XTERRA,” he said. “When it’s close and competitive like that, it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

The battle for third was equally amazing. Rom Akerson, who beat Josiah and Karsten to win XTERRA Costa Rica in March, was in position to finish third but went the wrong way for a few strides just before the finish chute and ended up in a sprint finish with Brian Smith.

“Rom and I were pretty close together all the way around until we got a quarter of a mile into the single track on the second lap,” said Smith. “He went by me and I said, “Great job, go ahead,” and I thought it was all over at that point. Then we got to the dam and he stopped to get water and I was close again, but he was still 10 seconds ahead. The finish wasn’t even going to be close, but he went left and had to run back towards me to get back on course and we ended up together down the finish chute. I gave it everything I could and got it by a lean at the line.”

Akerson, who was the first man into the bike-to-run transition, felt like he let one slip away today.

“I came off the bike and into transition first and then went out on the run and Josiah and Karsten caught me and they were running hard, but nothing I can’t normally keep up with. It was a fast pace, but nothing too hard, and then a couple hundred meters before the end of the first lap I got this pain in my chest, like a cramp or something.  I had to stop and sit down and put water on my head. I couldn’t even breath,” Akerson explained.  “I started running again and then Brian caught me and we ran together and ultimately he beat me over the line at the end there. It was a race I should have won today. I had it in my pocket.”

McPherson, who won at XTERRA Brazil last week, finished just 21-seconds behind in fifth.

Elite Men

Place  Name Time Points
1 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:23:56 100
2 Karsten Madsen, CAN 2:25:16 90
3 Brian Smith, USA 2:27:25 82
4 Rom Akerson, CRC 2:27:26 75
5 Kieran McPherson, NZL 2:27:46 69
6 Sam Long, USA 2:30:41 63
7 Branden Rakita, USA 2:33:05 58
8 Will Kelsay, USA 2:34:36 53
9 Brent Mattison, USA 2:34:58 49
10 Will Ross, USA 2:37:44 45
11 Ian King, USA 2:38:35 41
12 Alex Roberts, NZL 2:38:49 37
13 Victor Arenas, COL 2:42:25 34
14 Humberto Rivera, USA 2:44:41 31
15 Ryan DeCook, USA 2:45:14 28
16 Jimmy Archer 3:08:44 NP

 

In the women’s race Erin Storie, who was competing in her first-ever XTERRA, posted the fastest women’s swim of the day in 21:26, better than all but five elite men. Fabiola Corona, Jessie Koltz, and Julie Baker were next, a little over two minutes back, then Paterson in fifth.

It didn’t take long for the two-time XTERRA World Champ to get into the mix upfront.

“I got out there and felt really good and I had a lot of fight in me today,” said Paterson, who was second to Jacqui Allen at XTERRA Tahiti last week.  “I caught up to Julie Baker who had the lead at the top of the climb and then we went back and forth on a bunch of the trail until we got to the road and I put in an attack down Johnson Mountain trail and kind of managed to get 30 seconds coming into transition.”

Paterson added to her lead by posting the fastest run split of the day and finished in 2:47:50, more than three minutes ahead of Baker.

“I tried to give Lesley a little race,” smiled Baker (pictured above).  “We traded a bit on the bike but she was really strong, and had a super run. I just do the best I can.  But ya know, it’s fun.  It’s like a vacation coming here, I just felt great as soon as I got here.”

Paterson was quick to agree, adding that “It’s so beautiful, the terrain is amazing, the people are amazing. It’s just an incredible place.”

Corona, a four-time XTERRA Mexico Champ, went back-and-forth with Kara LaPoint on the run and was able to pull away to take third by about 30 seconds. She was ecstatic with the result.

“It was amazing, I love this course, the bike is awesome,” she exclaimed.  “Kara passed me on the first lap of the run and I was like, OK, I’m in 4th place, but then I thought, no, all my family is here and they spent too much for the hotel and the flights for me to finish fourth. Fourth place is like a chocolate medal for me, not bronze. So, I caught a second wind and caught Kara then threw down a big sprint. For me, third place here is like first place, like gold.”

With the win Corona moves into third place in the Pan Am Pro Series behind Carito Nieva and Kelli Montgomery with six races to go.

LaPoint had a great race and gave it everything she had to finish in fourth, while Jessie Koltz finished in fifth.

Elite Women

Place Name Time Points
1 Lesley Paterson, GBR 2:47:50 100
2 Julie Baker, USA 2:51:25 90
3 Fabiola Corona, MEX 2:56:31 82
4 Kara LaPoint, USA 2:57:03 75
5 Jessica Koltz, USA 2:59:26 69
6 Katie Button, CAN 3:01:15 63
7 Erin Storie, USA 3:02:04 58
8 Anne Usher, USA 3:08:12 53
9 Kelli Montgomery, USA 3:10:54 49
10 Heather Zimchek-Dunn, USA 3:14:08 45
11 Rebecca Blatt, USA 3:44:25 41

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XTERRA Oak Mountain lures all-star field to Shelby County, Alabama

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The XTERRA Pan America Pro Series takes shape this weekend at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama as America’s best elites host all-stars from Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand and Scotland.

The 13th annual XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road tri is race number six of 12 in the international racing series, and the first championship event in the U.S. this season.

In the men’s chase all eyes are on reigning and two-time XTERRA Pan America Tour Champion Josiah Middaugh. The 2015 XTERRA World Champion from Colorado is in his 18th season of XTERRA racing and turns 40 this July, but is showing no signs of slowing down.  

I have a long history with Oak Mountain State Park and have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows here,” said Middaugh, who has won four of the last five and finished in the top three nine times here in Alabama.  “Since fracturing my patella in 2006 and the resulting surgery, I have made amends with the course and had a handful of good performances.”

One of those modestly-stated ‘good performances’ came last year when Middaugh came out of the water more than two minutes back of the leaders but posted the fastest bike split and then chased down Mexico’s Paco Serrano and Canadian Karsten Madsen on the run to take the win.

“I know I will need to bring my A-game to the race because there is little room for error on that course as time gaps are usually tight,” he said.

Madsen, who finished as the runner-up just 41-seconds behind Middaugh last year, is one of several men in the field looking to take down the reigning champ.

“Alabama is a very special place for me, and last year this race truly was my best performance of the season,” said Madsen, who so far this year has finished 3rd at XTERRA Costa Rica, won XTERRA Uruguay, and placed 2nd at XTERRA Brazil last weekend.  “This course suits my skill set because I ride technical single track at a premier level and this course rewards that. I’m in the best shape of my life and doing things in training that are giving strong indications that some massive things will come if I stay the course. My history on this course is long, but this year will be the first time I go into the race with massive travel and races behind me. Still, I have to win on this course before I’m done with XTERRA! There will be some very tough completion, but the man to be beat is Josiah. It’s a big task.”

Just a few days ago Kieran McPherson from New Zealand, the current XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series points leader, outran Madsen to take the tape at XTERRA Brazil. It was his second win of the season following his victory at XTERRA Argentina in March.

“I was ecstatic to get my first Gold level XTERRA win and excited to come to Oak Mountain and see if I can grab another one,” said McPherson, who placed sixth last year on this course.

Another big threat for Middaugh comes from 12-year XTERRA veteran Rom Akerson, who beat him to win XTERRA Costa Rica in March.

“I’m feeling super strong and looking forward to this event,” said Akerson, who last raced here 10 years ago and finished 7th in a crowded elite field. “My goal is to do my best, but I always aim to win. I know it’s a super technical course and I’m stoked to race with these guys, especially Josiah, I look up to him a lot.”

One of the other chief competitors for Middaugh is a man he coaches, Brian Smith, who posted the fastest run split last year to finish fourth.

“Love the Oak Mountain course,” said Smith. “I love the woods and the roots, it’s not like the riding we have here in Gunnison, Colorado. It reminds me of where I grew up in upstate New York.  I am hoping to nail the race like I did last year and step it up to a top three finish.  Josiah is coaching me again and has me in good form.”

Another perennial top five guy and back for more is Branden Rakita.

“It’s one of my top two favorite courses on the circuit,” said Rakita, who finished runner-up in the Pan Am Pro Series last year. “Oak Mountain will be the first race where we will really learn where everyone stands. Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil have all had a good number of strong guys, but Alabama is the first race with everyone there and it will only ratchet up the race intensity that much more. You know you had a really good race if you land on the podium in this one.”

The dark horse for Saturday may be a youngster named Sam Long. He has a couple top three showings at altitude in Colorado, but this race will be a whole new experience for the 22-year-old.

“I don’t know the course at ‘Bama at all,” said Long. “I have heard it is technical and hot, and to prepare for it I am doing a training camp in Moab. I look forward to the challenge of the course and the season; but more importantly to the fun that awaits and the camaraderie with my fellow racers.  I’m hoping for a big year on the XTERRA scene. I believe I am in a better place physically and mentally than I have ever been before and am curious to see how I will do. My goal for the season is to be on the top step at one of these races. I think it is feasible and will try to do it at every race, but with the level of competition I will be very happy if I can do it just once.”

ELITE MEN’S START LIST

2018 Rank/2017 Rank – Name, Nationality

1/3 – Kieran McPherson, NZL
2/14 – Karsten Madsen, CAN
4/2 – Branden Rakita, USA
6/NR – Alex Roberts, NZL
10/NR – Rom Akerson, CRC
13/1 – Josiah Middaugh, USA
20/NR – Humberto Rivera, USA
28/20 – Ian King, USA
NR/4 – Brian Smith, USA
NR/9 – Sam Long, USA
NR/NR – Jimmy Archer
NR/NR – Victor Arenas
NR/NR – Will Kelsay
NR/NR – Brent Mattison
NR/NR – Humberto Rivera, USA
NR/NR – Will Ross

In the women’s race two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson is looking to shake-off some early season rust and show the XTERRA world what she’s capable of. The “Scottish Rocket” has won this race three times, including in 2012 when XTERRA hosted the ITU Cross Tri World Champs at Oak Mountain.

“I just love this place, and have such wonderful memories here,” said Paterson, who finished second to Jacqui Allen at XTERRA Tahiti last weekend. “It’s an amazing picturesque course, and I’ve got the best homestay ever with my buddy Don. We’ve become very close friends across the years and I use this race as an excuse to come see him. Plus, this will be my hubby’s first time here so I’m excited to show him around and sign him up for the trail run!”

Paterson placed second to Suzie Snyder last year, and Julie Baker was third. Baker is back, and with a best-in-class swim will have the chance to lead Saturday’s race from wire-to-wire.

Canada’s best hope comes from Katie Button, the 2016 XTERRA Victoria Champ.

“I always enjoy riding at Oak Mountain. It’s different than what I have at home so offers some novel challenges, like the twisty flat trails that require a lot of focus to keep your momentum going,” said Button. “As my first race of the season, I’m looking to set a benchmark for myself and hopefully keep moving forward from here for the rest of the year.”

Kara LaPoint, last year’s Pan Am Pro Series runner-up, and Kelli Montgomery, who won XTERRA Costa Rica in March, are both coming off back-to-back weekends of racing at XTERRA Uruguay and XTERRA Brazil, and are hoping the legs and lungs can handle the travel.

“I’m hoping my body comes around after a pretty rough last few days with racing sick in Brazil, and a lot of hard travel as I continue to recover from that bout of illness,” said LaPoint, who is currently 5th in the Pan Am Pro Series standings. “I’ve definitely put myself through the ringer this week, but I’ve still got some time to get totally healthy and freshen up before Saturday. This has always been one of my favorite stops on the tour. It’s fun, fast, intense, and challenging racing, and without a doubt one of the best bike courses out there. I’ll be gunning for a podium finish and hope to keep moving up in the tour standings.”

As for Montgomery, who is sitting in second place in the Pan Am standings, she doesn’t think survival will be a problem, saying “I survived XTERRA Brazil, and that was the hardest XTERRA course I’ve ever done.”

Former Olympian Fabiola Corona from Mexico, who finished as the runner-up at XTERRA Chile then won XTERRA Argentina a week later in March, said she’s ready for the challenge, “I put a big focus on the XTERRA Pan America Tour this year and am really excited to come out and race at Oak Mountain.

The dark horse for the women could be Erin Storie, who will be competing in her first-ever XTERRA race because she wanted to try a different style of racing.  Plus, my husband is graduating from Army Officer school in Fort Benning, so I can see his graduation and race in the same weekend,” she added.

Storie has an impressive road triathlon racing resume that includes winning the 2013 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championship and finishing third in the 2014 ITU Under-23 World Championships.  She is also a two-time U23 national champion and two-time USA Triathlon U23 Athlete of the Year.  It will certainly be interesting to see how that speed on tarmac translates to the tricky trails at Oak Mountain State Park.

ELITE WOMEN’S START LIST

2018 Rank/2017 Rank – Name, Nationality

2/22 – Kelli Montgomery, USA
4/19 – Fabiola Corona
5/2 – Kara LaPoint
12/11 – Jessica Koltz, USA
13/NR – Rebecca Blatt, USA
NR/5 – Lesley Paterson, GBR
NR/6 – Julie Baker, USA
NR/10 – Katie Button, CAN
NR/13 – Heather Zimchek-Dunn, USA
NR/18 – Anne Usher, USA
NR/NR – Erin Storie, USA

Find elite race updates on twitter @xterraoffroad this Saturday, May 19, starting at 9am CDT, and login to Facebook for photos, videos and more all week long.

All-time XTERRA Oak Mountain Elite Champions

Year – Men’s Winner/Women’s Winner

2006 – Brent McMahan/Melanie McQuaid
2007 – Conrad Stoltz/Jamie Whitmore
2008 – Conrad Stoltz/Shonny Vanlandingham
2009 – Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid
2010 – Conrad Stoltz/Shonny Vanlandingham
2011 – Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid
2012 – Conrad Stoltz/Lesley Paterson
2013 – Josiah Middaugh/Lesley Paterson
2014 – Josiah Middaugh/Flora Duffy
2015 – Braden Currie/Lesley Paterson
2016 – Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder
2017 – Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder

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Dylan Mcneice And Yvonne Van Vlerken Take The Lead In Challenge Family World Bonus

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Per Bittner and Yvonne van Vlerken both take the titles at Challenge Aruba. Image by: Eric Wynn

After the first five of our CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus races, Dylan McNeice from New Zealand has taken the lead with 500 points after his strong win at CHALLENGETAIWAN. The female standings are currently dominated by the Dutch Yvonne van Vlerken. She not only took the victory at CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA and CHALLENGERICCIONE but also earned an additional 75 points at CHALLENGEROMA. Yvonne is currently leading the table with a total 575 points!

As you are probably already aware, the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus is the pro athlete bonus scheme we use for our races worldwide. The initiative provides professional athletes with the opportunity to race for a share of the $165k end-of-season bonus in addition to the prize purses of the individual races. Athletes are only able to count their best six CHALLENGEFAMILYraces during the season, of which no more than two can be full distance races.

McNeice is currently leading the male standings but Pablo Gonzales from Spain is close behind in second place. Right now, and thanks to his amazing results in CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA and CHALLENGEROMA, he has a total of 475 points. Fredrik Croneborg from Sweden came second at CHALLENGETAIWAN, which earned him 400 points and a swift move to third place in the male ranking.

The female Dutch athlete and current leader of the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus, Yvonne van Vlerken, is being chased by Julia Grant from New Zealand. Julia won CHALLENGETAIWAN and promptly earned 500 points for her victory. She’s now 75 points behind Van Vlerken. Alyssa Godesky from the USA earned an instant 400 points after her second place at CHALLENGETAIWAN and is currently holding third position in the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus.

Upcoming

The next opportunity to earn points is CHALLENGELISBOA. This race takes place in Portugal on the 19th May 2018. The $165k end-of-season bonus will pay five deep across both male and female with the top-ranked Pro taking home $30k. Second place will carry a bonus of $20k, third, fourth and fifth positions will pay $15k, $12k and $5k accordingly. Ranking will be decided through a fair points system based on placings earned. This system is explained fully here:

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Jake Birtwhistle finds the tiger in his tank for stunning WTS Yokohama silver

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Tasmania’s Commonwealth Games hero Jake Birtwhistle has continued his outstanding form to charge home for a stirring silver medal in today’s World Triathlon Series race in Yokohama.

The 24-year-old who won Australia’s first medal of the Games – silver in a frantic finish on day one on the Gold Coast before spearheading the Mixed Relay to gold – again dug deep to run from third to second inside the last kilometre.

But not even Birtwhistle could catch today’s winner, two-time ITU world champion, Spain’s Mario Mola who stole the race from the outset of the run.

Mola was never headed in one of the most impressive 10km run legs of recent times, to sprint away with the gold, well ahead of the fast finishing Birtwhistle, who had claimed another Spaniard in Fernando Alarza in a dramatic fight for silver.

Birtwhistle came out of the pack four kilometres into the run and looked comfortable enough running on Alarza’s shoulder.

In the warm afternoon sun, the durable Spaniard found his second wind and opened up what looked like a commanding lead and with Mola well ahead – a Spanish 1-2 finish beckoned.

But Birtwhistle wasn’t going away and had other ideas, producing the kind of tactic he has often used in his spectacular climb up the ITU rankings, pouncing like his “Tassie Tiger” nickname suggests racing away for a remarkable silver medal.

It was Birtwhistle who ran his way into the hearts of Aussie sports fans on the Gold Coast last month with his satisfying silver behind South African Henri Schoeman, who failed to finish today’s race, before anchoring Australia to a spectacular gold medal in the Mixed Relay with Ashleigh Gentle, Gillian Backhouse and Matthew Hauser.

After today’s race Birtwhistle claimed he was “probably credentialed to talk about sprint finishes” which were quickly becoming his specialty – and a handy one at that.

“I’m becoming a bit of a sprint specialist now I guess,” said Birtwhistle, who revealed he had been “training solo” in Launceston since the Games.

“I thought I was spent in what was my first Olympic Distance race since last November.

“But I just dig deep and found something over those closing stages and I’m very happy to come away with the silver.

“With such a big group on the bike and the weather so warm it was pretty sketchy at times – and the most important thing was to stay safe and stay hydrated.”

Birtwhistle says his major goal for the season was the Commonwealth Games and with that box ticked it was now time to continue with a successful WTS season which will culminate in the Grand Final on the Gold Coast in September.

Birtwhistle is now sitting second in the WTS pointscore behind Mola with Alarza third.

In a great day for the Australians in the opening race of Olympic qualification period, Rio top 10 finisher Ryan Bailie was seventh and young gun Luke Willian – who like Birtwhistle made his Games debut last month, finished ninth, with another Rio Olympian Aaron Royle 19th and another youngster in Hauser (fourth on the Gold Coast) 22nd after coming out of the swim up front.

Earlier in the day Commonwealth Games Relay gold medallist Gentle produced a sizzling run to just miss the podium, finishing fourth, with Games team mates Charlotte McShane and fellow Mixed Relay golden girl Backhouse ninth and 11th respectively; Natalie Van Coevorden 14th and Emma Jeffcoat 17th.

The race saw defending WTS and Commonwealth Champion Flora Duffy (Bermuda) dominate the run to continue her incredible season ahead of Katie Zaferes (USA) with former World Champion Non Stanford (Great Britain) holding onto third ahead of Gentle.

The never-say-die Australian powered home on the run after she came out of the water in 34th position – leaving her well off the leaders and in a chase pack left to do a power of work and 1:15 behind the leading group of nine.

Undeterred, last year’s WTS silver medallist, got the bit between her teeth and ran past six runners – including three fellow Australians – Backhouse, Abu Dhabi WTS bronze medallist and training partner Van Coevorden and last week’s Chengdu World Cup winner Jeffcoat.

The third member of Australia’s Games team, McShane also produced a stirring 10km run to also come from the chase pack to finish 9th.

Gentle clocked the second fastest 10km split of the day with her 33.54 to finish 1.37 behind winner Flora Duffy (33.26) and got to within 21sec of bronze medallist Non Stanford (GBR) in third.

Meanwhile Albury’s Justin Godfrey continued his PTS3 category dominance with a season opening victory in the first round of the World Paratriathlon Series.

It was Godfrey’s 11th major international career victory and a 15th podium finish – his third win of 2018.

The 34-year-old triple world champion led the Australian contingent to a three medal haul in perfect conditions.

Other medals went to:

Newcastle’s Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lauren Parker who finished with a hard fought silver – after leading for the first 3.5km of the 5km run leg and despite missing the finish shoot and having to push an extra 500 metres – which made no difference to the places.

And WA’s two-time ITU world champion Sally Pilbeam who was third in the PTS4 category.

In other results were: Nic Beveridge (6th PTWC); Sara Tait (6th PTWC); Brant Garvey (6th PTS2);Josh Kasulke (7th PTS5) and Jonathan Goerlach (7th PTVI).

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Ironman Australia To Remain In Port Macquarie

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Photo: L-R Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams, IRONMAN Australia Race Director Ben Herbert; Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Mayor Peta Pinson; Chairman of the Local Organising Committee Mike Reid

IRONMAN Oceania, Managing Director, Dave Beeche has welcomed the announcement by the NSW Government that IRONMAN Australia will remain in Port Macquarie for at least another three years.

Mr Beeche said he was delighted that the partnership between IRONMAN Oceania, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will continue from 2019 – 2021.

“The iconic IRONMAN Australia is one of the longest running IRONMAN events in the world that has become an integral part of life on the New South Wales Mid North Coast and a must visit destination for the thousands of competitors, families and supporters who return to Port Macquarie year after year.”

“Since it was established in 1985, IRONMAN Australia has attracted some of the biggest names in the sport and the event has played an integral part in the growth of IRONMAN in this region.”

“The success of IRONMAN Australia and the development of its reputation as a truly global event is a result of the dedication and hard work of many people and long term support of local community. In this, the 40th anniversary of IRONMAN, it is wonderful to be able to announce the continuation of the partnership with the NSW Government and Port Macquarie Hastings Council that continues this outstanding sporting tradition,” he said.

Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said that as one of the oldest IRONMAN events, she is delighted that IRONMAN Australia will be returning to Port Macquarie for another three years.

“IRONMAN Australia is expected to attract more than 33,000 overnight visitors and generate over $27 million for the local economy across the three year period.”

“This wonderful event has been hosted in Port Macquarie since 2006 and provides a fantastic opportunity for local businesses, accommodation providers, restaurants and tourist attractions to capitalise on the additional visitors.”

“It is events such as this that allow us to showcase why our region is such a great destination, with many IRONMAN competitors coming back to the region for a holiday with friends and family,” she said.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said driving tourism growth in rural and regional NSW is one of the Government’s leading priorities.

“Regional events such as IRONMAN Australia in Port Macquarie help to fuel the State’s overnight visitor economy, while placing our incredible destinations front and centre.”

“As a country-based Minister I am determined to continue our support for rural and regional events, to help boost local economies and generate jobs,” Mr Marshall said.

IRONMAN Australia Port Macquarie is an endurance triathlon event that includes both a full-distance IRONMAN, consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run, and a half-distance IRONMAN 70.3 which both run concurrently.

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