The 2014 XTERRA World Championship to be held in Maui tomorrow boasts a talented field of professional females, which is going from strength to strength every year. Based out of the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, athletes will be faced with hot and humid conditions, and a wet, muddy course thanks to the recent heavy rainfalls brought in by hurricane Ana.
Since 2011 the XTERRA Worlds course has been traversing Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s private 22,000-acre oasis. It all starts with a 1.5km (0.93 miles) rough water swim at D.T. Fleming Beach fronting the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
Once on the bike riders navigate from the Ritz to a ridge line – down to a ravine – and back up again, like a tropical roller- coaster ride through pineapple fields and forests.
The bike is one big 30km (18.6-mile) loop with 3,100-feet of climbing that goes up-and-down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains more than a dozen times. New this year course designers have added more passing opportunities on the first few climbs and an improved downhill featuring more twists and turns to replace straight- away downhills.
Once on the 10km run (6.1 miles) competitors will be faced with a whole lot of climbing while they weave along dirt trails, through oleander forests, and into 60-foot high ironwood evergreens to an unexpected mountain lake at the 700-foot level.
“It descends like a slalom course through high green Bermuda grasses and opens up in spots to expose fantas- tic views of the Pacific,” said Nicholas. “Obstacles are everywhere, including a technical, steep downhill into a gully where racers will have to jump over and duck under fallen trees, navigate a rocky dry creek, head through thick elephant grass, into a cook pine nursery, up a short rope- assisted scramble and along a narrow single track trail with switchbacks that drop all the way down to the beach. The final test of skill and endurance is a calf-busting 250-meter white sand beach run.”
The top female professional contenders include:
Emma Garrard (USA) finished 5th here in 2013, and has raced the XTERRA world championship seven times, only missing one year whilst pregnant. Questioned on competing professionally whilst being a mum, Garrard enjoys the “challenges of competing as a professional, whilst juggling being a mum. It’s very different for sure but I love it!”
Garrard has followed a steady rise in the sport, having started as “an average age grouper”, progressing to a very good age grouper, and then competing “pretty average as a professional”, and is now ranked as one of the most successful professional American XTERRA athletes. Asked about her improvement and how she has achieved this, Garrard openly admitted:
“I don’t know that there’s any secret! Juts persistence, and keeping at it. I feel lucky that I’ve had a good patch with, knock on wood, no injuries, and good health, that’s really helped.”
Garrard offered advice for others wanting to give XTERRA a try:
“Do it, it’s lot of fun! Learn how to ride a mountain bike – it’s hard, but rewarding and fun!”
Barbara Riveros (CHI), multiple Olympian ITU athlete, returns to Maui following her second placed finish in 2012 and fourth placed finish in 2013. The petite athlete loves finishing her season in Maui, with a few weeks preparation to dedicate to the specific demands of the Xterra course.
Flora Duffy (BER) comes into the race following a very successful season and a third place here in 2013. Duffy has worked on improving her technical skills for this race, and was a little taken by surprise at how quickly she’s picked up the skills required for this style of racing. A world championship crown would be the first professional title from an athlete in Bermuda, something Duffy aspires to, and hopes to achieve tomorrow.
Last year coming into Maui Duffy came off a stress fracture, and only had a couple of runs leading into the race. Coming into the race “a different athlete” Duffy hopes she can be more competitive with Samuels this year.
Nicky Samuels (NZL) is the defending champion and woman to beat at this years race. Samuels has used her post season preparation for Maui as base training for next season’s road triathlon season. Coming into the 2013 race Samuels was
“hoping not to finish last ended up winning”, so thinks anything is possible on race day. Samuel’s spends as little time on the mountain bike as possible throughout the season, dedicating her training time to the demands of her ITU racing.
On the demands of Xterra versus road triathlon racing:
“I think Xterra’s a lot more brutal, the pressure’s on the whole time. With our triathlon’s these days it’s down to the first few hundred metre’s in the swim, then it’s a road running race. Here the bike plays a huge part. I think that’s how I did ok last year, I could actually ride up a hill and you can use that to your strengths here on this course.”
Kathrin Mueller (GER) has dominated the European XTERRA circuit this year, but claims the conditions experienced in Maui are very different to the European races. Mueller defeated Duffy by over 2 minutes to win the cross tri world championships earlier this year, and although carrying confidence from this into tomorrow’s race, understands that the hotter conditions don’t really suit her strengths thus will be a challenge for her here.”
“I like the mud and the rain though, and there has been a lot of rain!”
Questioned on spending the majority of her season in Europe:
“I live in Europe and I work now, so I don’t really have the time to go overseas. I’ve traveled since I was 15 and so have seen a lot of places in the past, and at the moment I just love being home.”
Australian Charlotte McShane is also stepping off road to race this year, returning after her age group world title back in 2008.
Professional women’s start list: (including placing at last year’s WC, then listed alphabetically)
(1) Nicky Samuels – 31, Wanaka, New Zealand
(3) Flora Duffy – 27, Devonshire, Bermuda
(4) Barbara Riveros – 27, La Pintana, Chile
(5) Emma Garrard – 33, Park City, Utah
(6) Chantell Widney – 34, Edmonton, Canada
(7) Helena Erbenová – 35, Jablonec, Czech Republic
(8) Shonny Vanlandingham – 45, Durango, Colorado
(9) Jacqui Slack – 31, Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom
(10) Suzie Snyder – 32, Fredericksburg, Virginia
(11) Carina Wasle – 30, Kundl, Austria
(13) Kathrin Müller – 30, Freiburg, Germany
(14) Renata Bucher – 37, Lucerne, Switzerland
(16) Danelle Kabush – 39, Victoria, Canada
(17) Melanie McQuaid – 41, Victoria, Canada
(18) Caroline Colonna – 50, Taos, New Mexico
(19) Sarah Backler – 32, Tauranga, New Zealand
(26) Mieko Carey – 36, Tumon, Guam
Dimity-Lee Duke – 30, Roelands, Australia
Genevieve Evans – 41, Carnelian Bay, California
Louise Fox – 34, Reading, United Kingdom
Maud Golsteyn – 34, Nieuwstadt, Netherlands
Belinda Hadden – 36, Wandana Heights, Australia
Penny Hosken – 27, Ringwood, Australia
Maia Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado
Sandra Koblmueller – 24, Rohrbach, Austria
Kara LaPoint – 27, Truckee, California
Charlotte McShane – 24, Mount Taylor, Australia
Lizzie Orchard – 28, Epsom, New Zealand
Sara Schuler – 33, Boulder, Colorado
Susan Sloan – 33, Benoni, South Africa
Debby Sullivan – 33, Rocklin, California
Judy Vandenberg – 42, Doesburg, Netherlands