Posted by: Joe English | October 18, 2008

Triathlon: XTERRA Off-road World Championships Race Preview

UPDATE: For post-race coverage, click here.

XTERRA World Championships

XTERRA World Championships

“Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is the managing director of the XTERRA Off-road Triathlon World Tour, Nobody has been to more XTERRA Championship events than he has. Having been to every World Championship race in Maui since creating the sport back in 1996, and having been onsite to see this years races unfold in New Zealand, all over Europe and the U.S. – Dave is more than qualified to speculate on who might win it all this year. That doesn’t mean he’ll get it right, in fact, he’s hardly ever right (just 2 for 12 in picking winners over the last six years). But with that said, Kahuna Dave sat down to tell us about his picks for this year’s world professional championship race.

“As the years go on and the quality and size of the fields in professional off-road triathlon grows it becomes more and more difficult to try and figure out who the favorites are. But then again, I have the benefit of having been at every Maui and most of the World Tour races so if anyone can make a guess – I guess that would be me.

“The women’s field seems easiest as returning champ Julie Dibens is back to try to make it two in a row, but current US Series and three-time World Champ Melanie McQuaid does not want to see that happen. The worry for both needs to be a resurgent Renata Bucher who placed 2nd at Tahoe, won the European Tour and has been training in the US for the past few weeks to avoid any problems with big-time jet lag. So we must look at those three as the obvious choices.

“Swiss Sibylle Matter concentrated on long distance races this year and only did one XTERRA; which she won. Carina Wasle has been a winner on the Euro Tour, but has not fared well in the heat of Hawaii. So she is training in San Diego to prepare and Maui with its long climbs is this Austrian gals kind of course.

“So, you say, where are the Yanks? Shonny Vanlandigham is the top US woman and was 4th last year after being 9th in 2006. With that kind of improvement and a win under her belt this year (Alabama) she must be considered. The real dark horse is a new gal living in the US but a Scotsman err … Scotswoman? Lesley Patterson is a tiny, little thing a la Renata or Carina and while her technical skills aren’t yet developed, she can climb and she can run. Starting with a 6th in Temecula she improved to a 2nd in Alabama and finished the season with 4th in Tahoe.

“Still, with all the possibilities, I think it will come down to the same scenario as last year. Julie leads big out of the water. Sibylle is close to her. The rest of the women have to pace themselves and ride their race to catch her. If they think she’s slow, keep in mind that her bike split was the 3rd fastest last year, so they will have to push, but without breaking the bank. Shonny has to swim faster and ride a bit quicker; Mel is swimming fine but has to put in a better run; Renata has to overcome her Maui luck.

“The men’s race is really open to speculation. Nico Lebrun has been unstoppable in Europe this year. Conrad could not beat him overseas. Conrad has been dominant in the US – until a lackluster performance at Tahoe. Austrian Olympic and world cup mountain biker Michael “Michi” Weiss simply devastated a good field in Austria and must be feared. But the French come with more ammunition. Always a threat but not yet a winner at Maui is Olivier Marceau. His epic battles with Eneko Llanos, Conrad, and Hamish Carter are legendary. Franky Batelier and Sylvain Dodet make it a strong French presence. Batelier had a series of seconds this year in Europe and has won in Denmark. Dodet is coming back after a few years of being injured, but looks very fit and says he is ready to resume his place at the sharp end of the field.

“South African champion Dan Hugo nearly pulled off an upset of Conrad in the US series, but had a horrible European season. Bad luck plagued him all over the Continent and then Tahoe was not his best. Two time world champ Eneko Llanos is back after an almost win but solid second in Kona. Does that mean he is tired or ready to rumble with a two week rest on the beach?

“From this side, Mike Vine is looking very potent. Big win in Colorado in August, 15 seconds behind in Utah and dominance at Tahoe. Best everyone be aware the Canadian is going to be a contender. Seth Wealing is back training, Josiah Middaugh is always tough and Brian Smith was 3rd in 2007.

“What I’ve seen Nico do this year is pretty amazing. He comes out of the water with a seemingly insurmountable gap to the leaders. Yet coming off the bike he is never worse than 2nd and usually first. Marceau is always up for Maui and is super fit from competing in his 3rd Olympics. Mike Vine has shown he is peaking at the right time.

“So now I’ve written too many words and said nothing. And I am not even running for President!

“I have to look at Nico Lebrun and Mike Vine. They swim almost identical times and they will start carving up the bike field immediately. Batelier, Marceau, Llanos and Conrad should get the lead quickly and it will be up to Lebrun and Vine to catch and pass them. But they know how to do that and have done so a couple times this year. How far back will Michi Weiss be? From what we saw in Austria he’ll be at least 4 minutes back from the leaders and a few back from Vine and Lebrun.

“Maui is a very different animal. It is not technical, yet it is technical. It requires great power, yet it also requires skills and then there is The Plunge – which deserves being capitalized – and separates the men from the boys. All this worry and wear and then you have to run in the heat and dust and rocks for another 40+ minutes. The winner really is the champion.

“Conrad and Hamish won their first time at Maui, but I don’t think that will happen in 2008. I see it as Olivier, Conrad and Nico Lebrun with Mike Vine and Seth, Brian Smith or Josiah in the top 5. Melanie has had a chance to see Julie and should improve her game this year and for the women it could come down to the run on the black sand beach headed home.

But one thing you can bet on. As it has been for so long, it will be one hell of a race.

“Kahuna Dave” Nicholas, Special to Running Advice and News
Source: XTERRA Planet
Running Advice and News
http://www.running-advice.com

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