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Challenge Family announces USA team to deliver the inaugural Challenge USA

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4 SEPTEMBER 2013 – A new era of triathlon in the United States began today with the Challenge Family’s announcement of the team behind its first ultra distance triathlon in the USA.

Set to take place in late June 2014 in the Mid-Atlantic region, the inaugural Challenge USA will deliver Challenge Family’s unique style of race experience under the leadership of one of the country’s most respected race directors in a yet-to-be-revealed iconic destination.

Robert “Vigo” Vigorito is the 2013 USA Triathlon Life-Time Achievement Award winner for his significant contributions to triathlon. Many acknowledge Vigorito as responsible for taking the triathlon experience east of the Mississippi River. Back in 1984 he founded the Columbia Triathlon Association that has inspired thousands of triathletes and he is genuinely thrilled to be able to add another legendary event to his distinguished career.

“We will announce the details of this first race at a media conference in mid-September and you can be certain it’s going to be one very exciting and memorable event – the course is flat and fast! The swim is sheltered, the bike incorporates state forests, vineyards and classic downtown Americana while the run is all about the ocean, and spectators… lots of them!,” said Vigorito. “Further, having witnessed Challenge Roth first-hand, I fully support their philosophy, and know that it aligns perfectly with my own. The athlete experience, the community involvement, and giving back – never take more than you give.”

Vigorito has partnered with respected Mid Atlantic race director, Stephen Del Monte of DelMoSports who shares the same respect and reputation among athletes as someone committed to them as individuals and providing the ultimate race experience. With a number of successful events behind him, Del Monte is excited about bringing and producing the first global series event to the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Challenge Family racing represents everything I love about triathlon,” said Del Monte. “The most important aspect to any event is the care and detail paid to the athlete and to illustrate the love we have for our athletes we allow them to share the moment with their families and friends. We have always believed crossing the finish line is not only a celebration for the individual, but for family and friends who have helped make dreams a reality. When you can bring that level of emotion to a community, you can’t help but positively affect the lives of everyone involved. This is the true meaning of triathlon.”

Both Vigorito’s and Del Monte’s commitment to the sport and the athletes mirrors the ethos behind the Challenge Family which is renowned throughout the world for its athlete-first approach. The powerhouse of triathlon in Europe, the series’ flagship event, DATEV Challenge Roth is the largest long distance triathlon in the world attracting over 5,500 athletes and 230,000 spectators. It is home to both world records – Andreas Raelert in 7:41:33 and Chrissie Wellington in 8:18:13 – with Chrissie calling it “one of the oldest and simply the best triathlon race in the world!” Each year, all 5,500 slots sell out in less than 15 minutes.

Challenge Roth and Challenge Family are both headed by the Walchshöfer family, brother and sister team Felix and Kathrin, along with mother Alice and previously, their late father Herbert.

“As a family run business we’re not answerable to third parties who are focused on the bottom line rather than the personal experience. We are answerable to the athletes. If we don’t exceed their expectations we’re not working hard enough,” said Challenge Family CEO, Felix Walchshöfer. “This sport is our life, our athletes are our extended family. We respect the legacy of triathlon just as we are committed to its future.”

Walchshöfer said he was delighted the time had arrived to bring the Challenge Family to the USA and could not have hoped for better partners than Vigorito and Del Monte.

“Challenge Family races are renowned for their unique race experiences, strong community support and creating a very special athlete experience, whether a pro or age grouper. We invest literally and emotionally in being an integral part of the athletes’ journey, from the time they make the decision to race with us to the time we personally welcome them across the finish line. Each year, hundreds of Americans cross the Atlantic to be part of this experience and now they can enjoy it at home,” said Walchshöfer. “We have found a team that shares our values. Like them we are driven by quality. We don’t see overselling fields as an indicator of success. We base success on strong fields that are the right size for the course and give the best possible race experience. I have a huge amount of respect for Vigo and Stephen and what they have achieved and I feel honoured to have them as part of this exciting journey.”

The announcement of Challenge Family’s entry into the USA comes just three weeks after its successful North American launch in Canada with the inaugural Challenge Penticton, which also saw the introduction of relay teams competing over the ultra distance.

“We want to share our passion for triathlon with as many as possible and relay teams are a fantastic way to introduce new people to triathlon. They can experience the magic of ultra distance racing at a more achievable level and not surprisingly many become inspired to go on to complete the distance as an individual,” said Walchshöfer.

Over 40,000 athletes currently race at 21 Challenge Family events around the world in countries including New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Canada and throughout Europe and the UK. One of these is Challenge Family ambassador and four times world champion, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack.

The partnership between Macca and Challenge was born out of a mutual desire to deliver a powerful legacy for the sport that returned the focus to the athletes, delivering a premium race experience at every level with a commitment to building the sport from the grass roots up as well as establishing sustainable relationships at the pro athlete level.

“I’m beyond excited that finally Americans will soon be able to enjoy Challenge on their home soil,” he said. “I love what Challenge is, I love their DNA and core values which exactly echo my hopes for the future of the sport, embracing its history, its lifestyle and the people who participate. In the end, it is the family involvement, healthy activity and the desire to play and have fun in multisport. Now’s the time to make triathlon history in the USA, and you can be a part of it – I personally look forward to seeing you there!”

The location and exact date of the inaugural Challenge USA will be announced at a media conference at the race venue in mid-September 2013. In this first year, and to ensure the highest quality athlete experience, the field will be limited to 1,500 individuals and 100 relay teams. Athletes can guarantee their entry place by registering their interest at www.challenge-family.com/challengeusa.

For further information on the Challenge Family, visit www.challenge-family.com.

 

 

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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Challenge Family Announce Details Of The Championship 2018 Live Stream

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With THE CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 fast-approaching, CHALLENGEFAMILY is excited to announce that the exhilarating race, taking place on the 3rd June, will once again be live-streamed on the official CHALLENGEFAMILY website. This exclusive stream will allow triathlon fans from around the world to be a part of THECHAMPIONSHIP and follow the action live as it unfolds.

CEO of CHALLENGEFAMILY, Zibi Szlufcik, said: “CHALLENGEFAMILY has always championed the support of triathlon fans worldwide, and our live stream of THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 gives those who cannot make it to Samorin, the chance to follow the pro athletes and AG athletes live as they compete.”

THECHAMPIONSHIP race, now in its second iteration, will again be held at the spectacular x-bionic® sphere in Samorin, Slovakia, and host an outstanding line-up of pro athletes including returning champions, Lionel Sanders and Lucy Charles.

Lionel Sanders of Canada celebrates winning The Championship Challenge Triathlon on June 3, 2017 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for Challenge Triathlon)

In addition to enforcing the 20 metre no drafting rule on the bike leg, THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 also operates staggered race starts to ensure both the professional and and age group athletes have a fair race. THECHAMPIONSHIP will also play host to a number of family-friendly side events set to captivate the entire family into the triathlon spirit.

“Live streaming the race not only highlights the remarkable athletes racing, but also showcases the incredible venue, in addition to the wonderful electric atmosphere of THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 as a whole. The inaugural event was watched by a global audience of 100,000, so we are confident that this year’s race will surpass this figure and set a new standard in triathlon.”

The course of the middle-distance race (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run) has been meticulously designed so that the start, transition and finishing stages of the race each give spectators outstanding views of the x-bionic® sphere.

To follow all the action as it happens please visit: www.challenge-family.com/live/

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HUUB release third version of Aegis wetsuits

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Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

The Aegis was HUUB’s first mid-range wetsuit family to take inspiration and key features from the brands’ top-end names such as Aerious and Archimedes, making it a best seller, always offering both performance and value for money, and therefore commanding the market at that price point.

HUUB’s founder and owner Dean Jackson, commented, “The Aegis family of suits offer much more than the price would suggest, with features descending from our flagship Archimedes it has created a price point defining suit that delivers more than expectations.” 

So what do you get for the Aegis///’s price tag of £299.99? The brands exclusive X-O Skeleton™ for exceptional alignment and stroke efficiency, superior panel patterns offer Rotational Freedom™ and ease of stroke, plus a Breakawy Zipper™ delivering the fastest transition. The wetsuit provides you with HUUB’s exclusive buoyancy levels of 3:5 for men and 3:3 for women. A sleeveless version is also available.  

Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

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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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