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New Zealand Announces Olympic Games Triathlon Team for London 2012

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It was delight all around as Triathlon New Zealand and the NZOC confirmed the New Zealand team for the London Olympic Games at a function in Auckland on Wednesday afternoon.

Dave Currie made the announcement on behalf of the NZOC, confirming Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Kate McIlroy (Wellington), Nicky Samuels (Wanaka), Kris Gemmell (Palmerston North), Bevan Docherty (Taupo) and Ryan Sissons (Auckland) in the team for London.

The 2012 Kiwi Olympic Triathlon Team (Abscent: Bevan Docherty)

Samuels and Sissons may have a slightly nervous wait however as New Zealand must finish inside the top 8 nations on the ITU Olympic rankings at the end of May for New Zealand to have three spots in either men’s or women’s races in London. In both cases New Zealand is comfortably inside the top 8 and has plans to contest key races in May to ensure they stay there.

Triathlon New Zealand has also confirmed that Debbie Tanner (Auckland) and Clark Ellice (New Plymouth) have been named as reserves in the event of injury or illness in the lead up to London.

CLICK HERE to watch video with Bevan Docherty from Santa Cruz via Skype, or CLICK HERE to see photos from the NZ team announcement.

Below are bios and reactions from each of the athletes heading to the London Olympics;

ANDREA HEWITT (Christchurch)

DOB: 4 April, 1982
Birthplace: Christchurch
Residence: Christchurch/France
Event: Individual Women

London will be Andrea’s second Olympic Games. In Beijing Andrea came in at 8th place. She picked up a bronze at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Her career started when she was crowned the 2005 Triathlon World Champion U23 Elite in Gamagori, Japan. In 2007 she won her first World Cup race in. In 2011, Hewitt won the World Championship Series Grand Final in Beijing, China and placed second in the overall championship rankings. In the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series Andrea is ranked first heading into the Olympic Games.

“Qualifying early for the games has been a huge help for me and allowed me to concentrate on peaking at the right time of the year. My form at the moment is great considering I have not yet done any of the speed work that will be crucial in London. While it is some time since my nomination was confirmed to the NZOC, the naming of the team today is a very proud moment for me, my coach Laurent and my family.”


KATE MCILROY (Wellington)

DOB: 26 August, 1981
Birthplace: Wellington
Residence: Wellington
Event: Individual Women

Kate McIlroy is a former World Mountain Running Champion and steeplechaser who qualified for Beijing on the track but was forced to withdraw with injury. Named Sportswoman of the Year in 2005, since turning her attention to triathlon in late 2008 McIlroy has made every post a winner, taking out her first World Cup title in 2009 and finishing 6th at the World Champs Grand Final in Beijing in 2011, ending the year with a world ranking of 17.

“I am excited and proud to be named in the NZ Olympic Team; it is by far the highlight of my sporting career so far. Everything was on the line in Sydney; I finished with mixed emotions knowing I would have to wait a few days for the selectors to decide. The quality of the other NZ girls is world class, so I realise it has been a tough decision to narrow it down to the last two spots. It’s a massive relief to be named, now I can look forward to the next few months with a clear head and plan how I am going to get myself on the podium in London.

“It has been my lifelong goal to compete in the Olympic Games. I watched the 2008 Olympic triathlon on TV and thought’ this is a sport I could be good at’. I had the running legs; I just needed to learn the other two disciplines.

“At that stage I had never ridden a bike, so to get from that point to now be in the New Zealand team makes selection that little bit more rewarding and satisfying. My journey to get here has not been easy and it has been different to most but I have a great team around me, Greg Fraine has transformed me from a pure runner to a triathlete while Tim Brazier has taught me the art of swimming ‘ITU style’.

“I am confident with where I am at now and will be working full steam ahead to get myself into a position where I will be a realistic medal chance for London. I have met my goals of learning the sport, making the Tri NZ squads and now the Olympic Games. Now my focus is to win a medal.”

NICKY SAMUELS (Wanaka)

DOB: 28 February, 1983
Birthplace: Whangarei
Residence: Wanaka
Event: Individual Women

Samuels is a fierce competitor and renowned as one of the leading cyclists on the triathlon circuit. Indeed Samuels is the current NZ National Road Champion, upsetting the fulltime cyclists in early 2012 to earn the title. She won her first World Cup race at Mooloolaba in 2011 and has overcome serious heart issues to continue racing, with two bouts of surgery in the past seven months.

“I have worked hard for this over the past three years with Coach Mark Elliott. If it had been handed to me on a plate it wouldn’t mean as much as it does. To go through two heart surgeries within six and a half months and come out the other side with Olympic Selection – the result I wanted, this is just perfect.

“I went into the race in Sydney knowing that my heart problems were now under control, my running was at the best it has been for four years, my fitness was at an ideal level for this time of year and I had nailed most of my key sessions with times all around what I was aiming for so I knew I was at my best coming into the race. I was aiming for that top 8 and automatic selection.

“I didn’t make the top 8 so I was naturally a little disappointed but I knew I performed really well so I was still happy with my result. I feel it was this result that confirmed my selection. The most exciting part is this selection and good race result comes just two and a half months after my last heart surgery so I know I have time to get more fitness gains especially much more from my running by London.

“Competing at the Olympics is something you dream of when you are a little kid. I was one of those kids who as an 11 year old wrote my goal on a piece of paper for school and one of them was “go to the Olympics”. I remember getting laughed at by one of my friends in my class and changing it on that piece of paper but definitely not in my heart. I am really proud to represent my country every year in triathlon around the world and the Olympics is the pinnacle event for the sporting community and to go there means a lot to us as athletes.

“I have achieved my goal of selection but let’s not stop here, you don’t want to be just selected for the Olympics and just go, you want to go with pride, knowing that you are the best person for the “job”, in the best shape of your life and can get the best result you are capable of. While the Olympics is the goal, the Olympic Gold medal is the ultimate goal.”

BEVAN DOCHERTY (Taupo)

DOB: 29 March, 1977
Birthplace: Taupo
Residence: Santa Cruz, California
Event: Individual Men

Bevan was part of New Zealand’s proud gold-silver moment at Athens 2004, when he took silver just seconds behind below Kiwi, Hamish Carter. In Beijing in 2008 Bevan came away with the bronze medal. London will be Bevan’s third Olympic Games. Bevan also won a silver medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and is one of the most decorated triathletes in the history of the sport.

“I have been focused on London for some time. After winning bronze in Beijing to go with my silver from Athens I made it clear the only thing missing was the gold to go with the collection. I have not wavered from that thought; that is my goal, to go to London and win gold. I am as excited about this opportunity as any in my career. They key for me now is to continue my preparation and peak on the right day to be at my best.”

KRIS GEMMELL (Palmerston North)

DOB: 28 April 1977
Birthplace: New Plymouth
Residence: Palmerston North
Event: Individual – Men

Kris booked his space for the London Games in Sydney. Kris competed in the 2002 Manchester and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He was sixth at Manchester and fifth in Melbourne, where he finished just ahead of countryman Hamish Carter. London 2012 will be his second Olympic Games. In Beijing 2008 Kris came 39th after suffering a horrendous foot injury in the lead up to the games, with his foot going through the spokes on his wheel in his final warm up race, leaving him with over 20 stitches.

“The Olympics is the pinnacle of most sports in the world. As a kid I dreamed about being there one day, in every one of those dreams I’m sure it ended with me winning gold. I am under no illusion as to how hard this will be but I am fully prepared to give it everything I have to make it happen on the one day that matters most.”

RYAN SISSONS (Auckland)

DOB: 24 July, 1988
Birthplace: Zimbabwe
Residence: Auckland NZ
Event: Individual Men

London will be Ryan’s first Olympic Games. Ryan was a London scholarship Holder. Ryan was a silver medallist at the 2010 U23 Triathlon World Championships, 2010 and 2011 NZ & Oceania U23 Triathlon Champion, 3rd at NZ Elite National Triathlon Champs 2010 and 2011, 19th at Sydney World Championship Triathlon Series 2010, 24th at Kitzhbeul World Championship Triathlon Series 2010. 3rd Ranked NZ Triathlete on ITU points. In 2011 Ryan ended the season ranked 19th in the world and 2nd in NZ. He also racked up 5 top 25 performances on the ITU World Series, coming 11th, 18th, 22nd, 14th, and 13th.

“Words cannot explain how I feel. I still don’t think it has sunk in that I am going to the Olympics!! After the race situation in Sydney and my crash in the early stages of the race I was extremely disappointed and upset that I couldn’t continue the race and show that I was capable of another good result. However I knew I had two other races banked and it was out of my control so there was nothing more I could do but wait for the selection.

“This means so much to me. It’s truly a dream come true and to be going alongside some of my best friends is going to be even better, especially with the experience that I know Bevan and Kris will bring to the team. For me this will be a great experience going to the Olympics at 24 years old, with the possibility of being able to compete in at least 1-2 more Olympics, it will truly be the best situation getting one under the belt before going to Rio 2016 hunting that Gold medal. I just can’t wait to get back into training and bet in my best possibly shape come August.

“My goal is not just to attend the Olympics. I’m going there to race well and race hard. My goal is a top 10. I know that if all goes to plan this is a realistic goal and I just can’t wait to get back into training, more motivated than ever. I will now plan with my coach and Tri NZ as to what needs to be done and what races I will be doing in order to ensure I am best prepared come race day. I can’t tell you how excited I am!”

DAMIAN PEDRESCHI – Triathlon New Zealand selection convenor

“The Triathlon NZ Selectors, Lynley Brown, Barry Larsen and I are very pleased that the selection process has delivered a formidable team of talented athletes to represent New Zealand at the London Olympic Games.

“Andrea, Kate, Nicky, Kris, Bevan and Ryan are superb athletes and wonderful ambassadors for the sport and the country. They have come through a comprehensive selection process and are deserving of their places on the start line in London.

“As selectors we were committed to ensuring a transparent, fair and rigorous process was agreed and implemented. That process was communicated to all athletes and coaches one year ago, with clear opportunities along the way to qualify for London, culminating in the Sydney race last weekend. We are confident this process has delivered 6 athletes who will represent New Zealand with pride and deliver outstanding results in London. That process has subsequently been ratified by the Tri NZ Board and the NZOC.

“While celebrating the success of those named today and wishing them and Greg well in London, we would like to acknowledge those athletes who were not selected, and highlight that it was a very difficult decision. It is their calibre that demonstrates the depth and talent of triathletes in New Zealand.”

 

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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Ironman Announces First Full Distance Event In Ireland

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Ironman announced today the addition of its first full distance event in Ireland, Ironman Ireland, Cork. The inaugural race will take place on June 23, 2019.

“Ironman is an incredibly prestigious sporting competition held in locations throughout the world. Now, for the first time in Ireland, Cork will host a full-distance Ironman competition starting in 2019. Youghal will be centre stage for the next three years as we showcase our beautiful beaches, historic towns and world-renowned hospitality to a world-wide audience. I am delighted to welcome Ironman to Cork,” said Cllr Declan Hurley, Mayor of the County of Cork.

The race will be held in Youghal, Co. Cork which is located approximately 45 minutes west of Cork city and Cork International Airport. Youghal is a coastal fishing town on the southern coast of Ireland and a fortified seaport since the fifth century. It is also Ireland’s second oldest town. Cork International Airport offers direct transatlantic services in addition to its extensive European access routes, along with modern motorway access from Ireland’s capital city, Dublin (2-hour drive). Youghal is perfectly situated to stage an iconic triathlon.

The race will get underway with a 3.8km (2.4-mile) swim with a rolling start from the golden and sandy, Claycastle beach in Youghal Bay, that gently shelves into the Celtic Sea. This is within walking distance of Youghal Town.

A two-lap 180km (112-mile) bike course is next. Starting off through the centre of Youghal town, a climb of the famous Windmill Hill awaits the cyclists as a first challenge, which undoubtedly will also become a spectator hotspot. The cyclists will then encounter a combination of flat country roads and undulating coastal roads with magnificent sea views of Youghal Bay, Ballycotton Island and Cork Harbour. This breathtaking course goes around County Cork, into the town of Midleton (home to the famous Jameson Distillery) and will rise to a max elevation of 190m above Midleton before a technical drop back into Youghal.

The 42km (26.2-mile) run course will be the highlight of this event. This will be a flat four-lap run course through the centre of the historical town of Youghal, taking in Youghal Harbour and the famous Clock Gate Tower. Athletes will run under the arch of the Clock Gate Tower in the centre of town during each lap before finally running under the Ironman finishing arch in Market Square.

Speaking about the event, Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council said: “Cork County Council is especially proud to join forces with Ironman which will bring an economic boost estimated to be over seven million Euro to the local economy. But the impact is much more than that; we have the opportunity to promote East Cork but go even further into all that Cork has to offer. We will showcase sport but most importantly of all, we will showcase community spirit. This will be an event that invests in both people and place and I look forward to what will be an amazing experience.”

“It has always been our goal to establish a full-distance event in Ireland. Now, building on the success of Ironman 70.3 Dún Laoghaire we are excited to add Ironman Ireland, Cork,” said Oliver Schieck, Regional Director Ironman UK & Ireland. “This race is a remarkable combination of a stunning race course with a beautiful landscape as a backdrop. We are looking forward to welcoming Irish and international athletes to the inaugural edition in June 2019.”

Ironman Ireland, Cork will be a qualifier for the 2019 Ironman World Championship being held in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

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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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