New off-road multisport events are popping up right and left around the globe. Our Weekend Roundups have been an eye opener to just how many off-road tris and dus are out there. Some of the courses and venues are picturesque, some gnarly, some remote, some boring, and some outright epic. One of those additions to the XTERRA calendar for 2016, was XTERRA Argentina which is part of the XTERRA Pan American Tour. To learn more about this new event, we caught up with the top two finishers, 2015 XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh and 2015 Canadian ITU Cross Triathlon National Champion Karsten Madsen and got their vote on: XTERRA Argentina – Yes or No?
If you asked 10 different triathletes to describe their ‘perfect course’, you’d probably get 10 different answers. That being said, even if you can’t agree on the perfect course, athletes can usual agree on whether a course sucks or not (gross swim, too much walking on the bike, boring run, etc). So what did Josiah and Karsten think of the course in Argentina?
DirtTRI: Tell us about the XTERRA Argentina course. Some people said it was like the Vegas course in that it was very barren, is that true?
Josiah Middaugh: The landscape was very barren and dry like Las Vegas, but the difference is that there were very good trails there. You could also compare the landscape to Fruita, Colorado or Moab, Utah and suddenly it sounds more exciting. It is a popular dirt biking area so there were trails with great flow and lots of fun, banked corners.
They had some funny features, like running over a huge shipping container 100 meters from the finish and shooting confetti at the finish line.
During the second half of the ride, we spend a little too much of the time in a wash, a dry river bed, which was difficult to keep momentum with all the sand and loose gravel. I know there were good trails all around, so hopefully next year they will utilize the fun trails for the whole course.
Karsten Madsen: Yes, the course had a lot of similarities to Vegas. I thought for the most part XTERRA Argentina was more fun/technical then Vegas. The only thing I really didn’t like is there was about 6 miles that you are riding in a dried river bed. It made for really slow going. The swim was in nice water and was pretty much a perfect 1500m. The run was for sure long. More around 11km I heard. Also the run was on a lot of lose dirt so made it very slow.
The Venue & The Vibe
A city center venue can make things feel more lively, but can be difficult to navigate. A remote venue can make it easy to fit everyone in, but may give a low key, low energy, calm feeling to the day. So where did the XTERRA Argentina venue fit on that spectrum as for venue and vibe?
DirtTRI: What was the vibe at the race?
JM: The race organizers were new to XTERRA, but they had lots of experience putting on triathlons, so they really pulled it off well on race day. Triathlon Argentina and Miami Tri Events partnered and they had a lot of man power behind the event. They also had vendors there and were pumping out some sweet American jams.
The reservoir was about 20k out of town and it seemed like it was a tranquil escape for people from the city. I was told San Juan is the cycling capital of Argentina and indeed we did see a lot of people road riding.
KM: The vibe at the race was actually amazing! The people cheered loud and the race had a very professional look to it.
One of the great things about traveling to an international or destination race is getting to interact with the local community around the event.
DirtTRI: Was there much involvement from the local community?
JM: I think that is something the organizers were working on. There are vineyards all around San Juan and the local government was very happy to have the race, but I didn’t get the impression that there was any local financial support.
KM: They had an outstanding amount of volunteers. They had a person at every turn on the bike so they had bused in around 70-80 people from San Juan. So they really got behind this race. The locals really seemed to take to the race in terms of participation. I think they had around 200 people in the XTERRA race, but they had a lot of other races going as well. They had a mountain bike race, trail run, and swimming races. They really had their hands full. We spent a ton of time after the race taking photos with the local crowds and racers.
DirtTRI: What did the locals think of it?
JM: The locals were pretty excited to host a high profile event with international competitors. The local news interviewed us at the studio before the event and covered it live. Everyone wanted a photo after the race. Lots of selfies, usies, and trielfies.
The Pan American Tour
Dramatic changes can be polarizing and the replacement of the American Tour with the Pan American tour is no exception. There were several new races added to the XTERRA line up. XTERRA Argentina was the 2nd stop on the XTERRA Pan American Tour.
DirtTRI: As the Pan Am series is now underway, how are you feeling about it?
JM: There are positives and negatives to it, but overall l think it was a good move by XTERRA. It does make travel more difficult for U.S. athletes, but we all know that something had to change and this was a good move to really open it up to the whole Western Hemisphere. Now most Europeans are staying home to race the European Tour, so the Pan American Tour gives some opportunities to some great talent in Central and South America that we might not otherwise get to see. It was sad to see Richmond go, but hopefully that race is not gone for good. There is still a National series in the USA for age groupers so there is no obligation for them to travel internationally to race. For pros they only need to count 4 races; so they could accomplish that without leaving North America. Maybe it will allow a couple of the successful amateur races in the U.S. to become championship level races in the future. XTERRA is all about adventure and I am excited to see new venues and new competition.
KM: I truly think a Pan Am Series is what’s best for are sport to move forward and stay strong. Yes the travel is harder and more complicated as getting to Argentina was rather difficult, but from what I saw in Argentina I was pretty impressed. There are some tweaks that can be made like any first year race. It can always be made better. But with all that being said I think now to win the series you have to truly be an all-around pro you need a plan in terms of picking the right races at the right time. You also need to be someone that can handle things on the fly and adapt. I really think it will make people up their game or be left behind.
Taking all these thoughts into consideration, when 2017 rolls around is XTERRA Argentina – Yes or No?
DirtTRI: Would you do that race again?
JM: I definitely would. It is a long way to travel, but since you don’t jump a lot of time zones, it makes it a little easier than racing in Europe. The organizers really worked hard and were very accommodating of the pros. I met many nice people despite the language barrier.
KM: I would love to go back.
To see more pictures and some videos from the event, check out XTERRA Argentina’s Facebook page.
All photos: Jorge Amaya Fotos