A sneak peek at the 23rd annual XTERRA World Championship tentative elite race start list reveals a wealth of past champions in the men’s lineup, and a golden opportunity for the women’s elite field.
The men’s race features the fearsome foursome, as the last four men to win the XTERRA World Championship are on the start list including the defending champ Bradley Weiss from South Africa, the 2016 champ Mauricio Mendez from Mexico, the 2015 champ Josiah Middaugh from the U.S., and the 2014, 2013, and 2008 winner Ruben Ruzafa from Spain.
Each of those four has made Maui their A-race for the season and will no doubt come into it in the best shape of their life. While it’ll be tough to top any of those guys, there are many who will try.
In the women’s elite race, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, the first-and-only elite to win four in a row (2014-2017), is sitting this one out after a tough year dealing with injuries. Her focus now is getting the much-needed rest and recovery she needs to build herself back to unbeatable form for 2019.
“Really sad not to be in Maui…it just doesn’t seem right,” said Duffy, who will be missing Maui for the first time since 2012. “But Dan and I will be supporting the event and cheering everyone on from afar.”
In addition, last year’s runner-up Barbara Riveros, a 3x Olympian from Chile, will be racing the ITU World Cup in Korea on the same weekend to collect points towards 2020 Olympic qualification. Riveros, who finished 2nd three times in Maui, was 5th in Rio and hopes to do even better in Tokyo.
Read on for more great intel on the pro field and some amazing back stories on some of this year’s amazing age group athletes.
I grew up in Two Rivers, Alaska and moved to Colorado for school in 2005. Road racing dominated my collegiate years and through my move to Boulder in 2007. I took to the trails a few years later and never looked back.
This will be my 3rd time racing in Maui in the past four years. My first Xterra was buffalo creek in 2014, done with zero swim or run training. After focusing on the Leadville 100 that year, my friend Russell basically dared me to come race and it ended with a podium. I ended up getting a worlds slot at Ogden that year and making the quick decision to head to Maui. After a great race, minus the swim, I was hooked and swore I would come back one year and win my age group.
After two injury filled seasons in which I raced maybe 4 races total, and a rather lackluster worlds in 2015, I skipped Maui last year and came into 2017 with a new focus. I teamed up with local boulder company Alchemist, as well as my longtime supporter Breck Bike guides and put together an ambitions plan to meet the goal I set four years prior.
After suffering in the heat and humidity, but getting my first age group win in Alabama, I went to Beaver Creek and won the amateur title. Ogden’s course is probably one of my favorite, and I went in with high hopes to win the amateur title. It was a great battle between great competitors! And in the end, while I did get my nationals AG win, I missed the top amateur by one spot. Props to Tate Haugen!!
While my build up hasn’t been ideal, it never is. I was sick prior to nationals, and I dealt with a knee injury that kept me off the bike prior to worlds. It’s easy to stress about these things, but in the end, everyone has to deal with similar setbacks. I still head to Maui next week with the goal of competing with the best amateurs in the world. At the end of the day, the Maui course is a different beast, and no matter your preparation, race day can throw curve ball after curve ball.
I’m off to my 3rd XWC. I started triathlon when Xterra came to Crested Butte in ’06 . After taking a break, I picked it back up on a vacation to Oahu in 2012. I punched my ticket to World’s this year with a trickle down qualifier from Xterra Mexico. I started working with Jenny Smith Coaching thru the gO Initiative to train for Maui. I’m racing the M 45-49 AG and looking to finish in the top half.
I grew up in California and joined the ranks of road triathletes in the early 1990s, racing International to Ironman distances through my 20s and 30s, along with marathons, the occasional trail ultrarun, a handful of road races, and half a dozen 12-hour adventure races.
By the time I hit my early 40s, I was feeling a little bored and looking for a new challenge. I enjoyed mountain biking and was decent at the technical stuff, so I got into cyclocross and endurance mountain bike racing for a few years. I loved the added unpredictability and tactics required for off road racing as well as the supportive camaraderie that often seemed missing in road races. With my swimming and running background, bringing all three disciplines together into an off road triathlon played to my experience and strengths and intrigued me.
I did my first Xterra race in 2014 in Buffalo Creek and was immediately hooked. I first qualified for Worlds in 2015, but was unable to go, and in 2016 I was plagued by calf injuries that forced me to miss several races. This year, things came together and I was extremely happy to qualify again. I’m thrilled to have the chance to represent Colorado and the Mountain States Region at the 2017 Xterra World Championships in Maui. The fact that the race falls within a few days of my 50th birthday is an added bonus–and the perfect way to begin my second half century.
This is my 3rd trip over to Maui for the race. My first year of getting my feet wet in the Pacific was quite intimidating. I learned a lot and vowed to train hard so I could return in 2016 and actually race, rather than merely participate in the event. While all the training and climbing hills over and over here in the Front Range prepared my legs and lungs, nothing could simulate the waves that crashed way over my 5’2” head, the monsoon rains, or the mud-fest of hike-a-biking on the race course in 2016. Fortunately, life has taught me much about digging in when the going gets tough and how to embrace the moment and laugh at the challenge at hand. (more on that to come) I finished 2nd in the 40-44 age group in 2016 and 7th overall amateur. I am really looking forward to racing Xterra Worlds this year and hope to end a rewarding season of racing on a memorable note.
How did I get into triathlon and find my way into racing off-road? In my life before having children, I was a runner. My husband taught me how to mountain bike while we were dating and we would spend weekends in the mountains camping and playing on the trails. After the birth of our 2nd child, however, our life changed.
My youngest daughter struggled a lot in those early months and years. She had breathing issues for much of her 1st year, spent a lot of time in the hospital hooked up to monitors, didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours continuously at night for over 2 years, and wasn’t reaching developmental milestones that most babies accomplish- no babbling, crawling, walking. When she was 16 months old, daughter’s neurologist called and matter of factly stated that test results confirmed that she had a rare genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome (AS). He didn’t offer any consoling words or advice, just a recommendation to follow up with his office. As soon as I hung up the phone, I did what any parent would do – I flipped on the computer and googled the disorder. Bold, crushing words jumped off the screen at me… life-threatening seizures, no verbal communication, may never walk, sleep disorder, cognitive and developmental delays, requiring 24/7 lifelong care.
My world became very dark, not even the shades of gray that many function in daily, but black. I would get up in the morning after sleepless nights with my daughter, go through the motions of the day, just passing time, hiding from the rest of the world. I let the words I read consume me. I felt like all the beautiful dreams I had for my children and our future had died. My only solace was found in escaping to the trails for a weary run or bike ride. As I pounded the dirt, working my way through those stages of grief, disbelief, hurt, anger and sadness, I started to realize something. I didn’t have to let the darkness control my life. I could run. I could bike. I could do something.
I started dreaming more on the trail. I dreamt of curing Angelman Syndrome -after all, in 2008 it was cured genetically in the mouse model. While children are not mice, the science was there and researchers believed it not only could happen, but with the right funding and research, it could happen in the next 5-10 years. This dream gave me hope. It pushed me onward over the miles, further and faster.
I realized that I could either hide from the world, or let the world get to know me and my child through the sport that I sought comfort in. I signed up for my 1st triathlon, had success in it, so I signed up for another. As my daughter was challenged in therapy to learn how to walk, to communicate, and to feed herself, I challenged myself with bigger races, bigger goals. What has followed in the years since that life-changing phone call has been an adventure more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. While Angelman Syndrome is still not cured and each day at our house presents new challenges, human clinical trials for quite a few therapeutics, including a very promising gene therapy approach to curing AS are just around the corner.
And my racing… I have been fortunate enough to race not only all over the US, but represented Team USA in Canada this past August for ITU Cross Worlds. I won overall amateur female at the Xterra Southeast Championships in Alabama this past May as well as the overall female winner at Xterra Gator Terra in Arkansas the following month, which doubled as USAT’s off-road Nationals. At Cross Worlds this past August, I placed 2nd in my age group to fellow Colorado 40-44 age group super mom and good friend, Jenn Razee of Vail. We finished 3rd and 5th overall amateur women. Jenn will also be racing in Maui. We truly battle it out on the courses and raise each other’s level of competition, which is exciting. We are both coming into Maui with a great lead-up race this year, Xterra Pan-Am Championships at Snowbasin Resort in Ogden, UT last month. For the 2nd year in a row, I finished 1st and Jenn 2nd overall amateur at the PanAm Champs. While we, and probably a few other athletes as well as our coaches (Jenn is coached by Josiah Middaugh and I am coached by his brother, Yaro), wonder who will cross the finish line 1st, we both will know that because of the other, we are stronger, train harder, and will race with everything we have out there… and give each other great big well-deserved hugs at the finish line. That is what I love about racing Xterra and what keeps pulling me back. At the end of the day, after we all cross the finish line, we celebrate each other, our friendships, and this incredible opportunity and life we share.
Katarina Marks, age 25, lives in Durango, CO. I got involved with Xterra triathlons when I got a free entry to a Xterra in my hometown three years ago, I went out, bought a wetsuit and gave it a go! I remember my goggles fogged up so bad that the swim seemed to take forever, the ride was okay- definitely wasn’t trained for it, and then I probably passed about 30 people on the run. It was tough and such a challenge, I think that’s what I enjoyed about it! From that race I qualified for the Xterra USA National Championships and from there, qualified for my first Xterra World Championships. This year will be my third year competing in Xterra World Championships. This year I qualified for Worlds at the Oak Mountain race.
Each year I’ve improved & have had even more fun! My dream is to become a professional Xterra triathlete in the next year. My motivation for competing is that “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31.
Why triathlon? Most people I talk to, say that they would never do a triathlon because “I could never do the swim.” And I want to encourage others to step outside their comfort zones, try something new, it could spark a new dream, try swimming, etc.! Give something new a try, it’ll be fun!
My name is Kurt Dallow and I’m in the 65-69 yo age group and will be competing at the Xterra World championship in Maui in a few weeks. This is my second trip- my family and I made a great vacation out of our last trip to the World’s Championship 6 years ago. Then, I was lucky to get in on the lottery. It was an incredible experience racing with some of the world’s best triathletes in a beautiful setting.
This year I qualified through perseverance. I competed at the Mountain States championship held in Beaver Creek, CO this year. Three miles into the bike leg, I had mechanical problems and pushed my bike the remainder of the bike leg. I was able to get support at the last aid station on the bike course and made it in just before the cut off time.
When you are in the 65-69 year age group, the numbers competing are less, so while placing a distant 3rd, the world’s spot rolled down to me. If I had DNFed – No Maui trip!
I have raced triathlons now for over 20 years and in the last 5-10 years have done mainly off road triathlons like Xterra. I am a sports medicine physician so my training time is limited Xterra meets my need to compete as I age.
My wife Cindy and I, now coach endurance athletes and provide both nutritional coaching and sports medicine advice. You can find us at 2Doc tri coaching
I am a Professor of Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics at Adams State University in Alamosa Colorado. Adams State is a small Division II University in southern Colorado sitting just above 7,500ft in elevation. I was born and raised in Minnesota and moved to Colorado five years ago to complete my Master’s degree in Sport Physiology.
This is my second year racing Xterra triathlon. I grew up running and always saved time to ride a bicycle. I was becoming extra fond of mtn bike racing after my move to Colorado, when a friend told me about Xterra, combining mtn biking and running after surviving a swim
sounded like fun. My first year of Xterra I raced two races, Xterra Beaver Creek and the Xterra World Championships. I qualified for Worlds at Beaver Creek through a roll over position. I didn’t feel as if I deserved the trip but didn’t want to end the season so soon. I am glad I went because it really fueled me for taking this year current serious and bettering myself in the sport.
This year I had a full race schedule planned from the end of May to the Xterra World Championships if I was able to qualify straight up. However, at the end of May I suffered a stress fracture in a metatarsal of my foot which put me in the pool and off the bike and out of the running shoes for eight weeks. This ended my entire summer race schedule.
I was able to maintain some fitness swimming and push the limits of my rehab to be ready for Xterra Fruita the weekend before Xterra Pan Ams. I had great outings in both races wining the open male category at Fruita and winning my age group at Pan Ams where I qualified for this year’s world championships where I am very excited to bring my current fitness and see what I can do.
My goal for Xterra Worlds is to mix it up in my age group and place high in the amateur rankings. I am really excited to get back on the mtn bike course hoping for little to no rain this year.
Andre was born missing his leg below-the-knee and has dedicated much of his personal and professional time to improving the quality of life for amputees. He is no amateur to extreme sports after completing the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona and the Xterra World Championships. Andre’s “surfer” mentality and demeanor keeps him level headed throughout the grueling ups and downs of this mountain biking journey.’
Andre Szucs, a below-the-knee amputee, has been overcoming adversity his entire life. So much so, he says “basically, I came to the conclusion that I am no different than anyone else out there, like everybody I am just exploring my physical limits…not to be confused with physical limitations because of an amputation, that’s not how I handle my life.”
“I thought I knew myself enough to consider that I was “fully capable” but I always had that unfortunate feeling that I could not run off-road. This fear was always surrounding me that I could hurt myself and it could be bad for my knee and nothing could change that.”
“It was a benchmark in my life and a whole new perspective on how far I could go. I am so excited to start this journey and I know there is so much room for improvement, especially on my prosthesis for running.”
Szucs second XTERRA was at the USA Champs, where he finished 3rd in the PC division and earned a qualifying spot into the XTERRA World Championship.
“Lesson learned,” said Szucs. “Don’t be afraid to be happy. When asking ourselves if we can do something…before answering, go and TRY FIRST!”
My name is Benny Smith and I’m 17 years old. I did my first tri when I was 6 and started getting serious with training at like 13. I definitely started doing them because of my dad.
This will be my second year going to the Xterra World Championships. I qualified at Xterra Beaver Creek. I’m currently ranked 1st in the country for 19 and under which is pretty sick and I’m grateful to get so many sweet opportunities. I love climbing when cycling and running and I get STOKED when I’m way in the mountains/ocean and snowboarding in waist deep pow!!
This is my 5th season in Xterra and this will be my 2nd trip to the World Championship. I qualified at Beaver Creek (3rd amateur overall) and at the Pan American Championship in Utah (3rd in age group). I have had a very rewarding season and I’m excited to cap things off in HI.
This is the 5 year benchmark of my racing and has had me reminiscing a lot lately. I started this journey with almost no experience in any of the disciplines of triathlon. I grew up riding BMX bikes around the neighborhood, I took a few swim lessons as a kid, and I ran cross country for a couple of years in high school to hang out with the girls. However, I have always had a strong drive to be active and for most of my life basketball was an outlet and a passion of mine. I poured myself into that sport and I’m very grateful for what it gave me in return, but basketball is tough on your body and eventually I had to look for another outlet. At the same time I was struggling with some old lifestyle habits that were essentially killing me both physically and emotionally.
The turning point for me was this very clear moment when I realized that my two little girls weren’t going to have their dad around for very much longer if I wasn’t willing to change who I was and what I was doing. So I started making some small positive changes and the momentum just grew, as did the void. Then I remember watching one of the nationally broadcasted Xterra shows and the seed was planted. With absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, I quickly signed up for an off-road triathlon in Lakewood, CO called “Battle the Bear”. At the time I had no idea what I was doing. I was 40 lbs. overweight, I could barely swim, I couldn’t seem to keep the rubber side of the bike down, and the run just flat out hurt; but I finished, and I found a new passion.
The XTERRA World Championship race debuted in 1996. Overall winners that year were Jimmy Piccitello and Michellie Jones. As you scroll forward through time, the names that layer the podium are familiar as masters of triathlon, both on road and off, including Mike Pigg, Conrad Stotlz, Michael Weiss, Sibylle Matter, Shari Kain and Flora Duffy. Results history here.
The XTERRA World Championship athlete field is much smaller than the IRONMAN World Championship field, with just under 800 slots for the Maui-bound athletes as opposed to 2300 in Kona. Certainly it has much to do with the nature – and differences – in the courses.
Because the field is so much smaller, number crunching is easier. So, let’s take a look.
300 of the 794 athletes registered to race are from the USA; that’s nearly 40%.
55 of those 300 are from Colorado, including pro’s. That’s two more than IRONMAN. Though the number is similar, the overall percentage is not: 18.3% of Maui’s athletes are Coloradoans, as opposed to 2.3% of Kona’s athletes.
71 pro athletes, 50 men, 21 women. 19 US pro’s, 6.5 from Colorado. This includes reigning World Champion Josiah Middaugh from Vail, part time Colorado resident Flora Duffy, also reigning World Champion and full fledged Boulder resident Maia Ignatz from Boulder, whose husband Ryan is one of the men’s pro athletes.
Ok, so while the pro’s are cool, at 303Triathlon we pride ourselves on highlighting the age group athletes. Most of these athletes got their start in road tris, and continue to race both on- and off-road.
Sixteen AG women from Colorado will be racing. All of these women are badasses! Some women to keep an eye on would be Libby Harrow of Fruita and Cindi Toepel from Littleton. Libby will be defending her 65-69 AG win from last year but she’s got some tough competition because Cindi won the 60-64 AG last year, and aged up. The only other two women in the 65-69 AG this year are from New Zealand.
32 AG men will be toeing the line in Sunday. Many of these men have raced at National and World Championship level road tri races. And for more than a few, this is a return trip to Maui.
Stay tuned for more XTERRA news this week, including some Colorado athlete profiles, and be sure to watch our twitter feed on race day Sunday!