5 Wishes for XTERRA’s New Owners

DirtTRI’s Top 5 Wants (NEEDS) For XTERRA’s New Owners

Yesterday we learned the exciting news that the XTERRA brand’s parent company TEAM Unlimited had been acquired by a new company, XTERRA Sports Unlimited. We say “exciting” because DirtTRI deals with the endurance sport and triathlon industry literally every day and unfortunately consistently receive comments questioning the health and significance of XTERRA as a brand and format of triathlon.

While this opinion is unfounded, XTERRA and off-road triathlon is the only segment of triathlon which has not seen stagnation over the past 5 years, this false assumption is still damaging to our segment.

Therefore it is very exciting to see change within the largest brand of off-road multisport. New blood and fresh insight can only be beneficial to XTERRA and off-road multisport on the whole.

Here’s DirtTRI’s top 5 changes we hope XTERRA Sports Unlimited with implement:

Mike Pigg at the 1996 Aquaterra World Championship

Maintain XTERRA’s Identity

TEAM Unlimited nailed it in 1996 when they conceived of an off-road triathlon utilizing mountain bikes and trail running. Lets face it, the format is just better. No silly drafting rules, races in the most amazing natural spaces, and an underlying grit and camaraderie which can only be found off-road and that other formats will never duplicate.

Unfortunately several sports are starting to face challenges or struggling with growth and sustainability. From road triathlon to NASCAR, properties are having to confront an aging demographic and come up with how to adapt to attract new participants and how to access those darn millennials (we really hate that term).

Across the board sport and outdoor recreation is faced with the daunting challenge of how to drag people away from their digital world, without destroying the fundamental identity of the sport. XTERRA has a myriad of potential options but how they address this will be key to their survival. The concept of XTERRA was visionary, XSU will need carry that vision into the future without turning XTERRA into some kind of experiential, “everybody wins” bastardization of the sport we all love.

Introductory Races

We often hear that XTERRA races are too hard. People are scared of crashing on the bike, the trail run goes straight up a mountain. This has become a real barrier to entry.

We need shorter, easier events. Not all of them, but a starter series, and it doesn’t only have to be for beginners. Half or quarter distance races with a pool swim and city park cyclocross style bike courses would be a great way for people to be introduced to the format while affording experienced athletes more race opportunities and a great training session.

XTERRA Oak Mountain Photo Galllery All Photos Curtsey of Pax Tolosi
Age group men contemplate the events to come. Photo: Pax Tolosi

Regional Feeder Series

The most consistent complaint we hear from XTERRA loyalists is that there aren’t enough events. People often have only one XTERRA in close proximity. They all say it is their favorite race of the year but they have to be a roadie the rest of the time unless they want to fly to another XTERRA. In many cases it has meant the athlete gave up on XTERRA and is now only a mountain biker or trail runner.

Think of places like the UK, Italy, Utah, Texas, British Columbia, the American Southwest, and the list goes on. These are all areas that have strong triathlon participation but conspicuously few XTERRA events.

We suggest incorporating the above introductory races into a regional series which feeds to a regional championship which then feeds to a national championship and then Worlds. Yes, XTERRA kind of already has this, but it needs to be much deeper and much better organized. Take our home state for instance. Colorado should have a ten race series leading to a state championship and we’re not talking the Beaver Creek race, that’s a regional championship. Colorado can sustain this, it almost has in the past. At one point Colorado had 8 races now we have 4 and the athletes ask DirtTRI where all the events have gone.

The UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, 5 regions of the USA, China, Australia, and more all need this format. Small intro races complementing larger full distance races with a points system qualifying athletes for Nationals and Worlds. Teams and youth events could be implemented, this could tie into festivals and expos like the Vail Mountain Games, Sea Otter, or Eurobike. We need to have a strong foundation of XTERRA opportunities not just that random race that’s really fun. We realize this is a significant undertaking but, hey, what did XTERRA Sports Unlimited sign up for?

Improve Relations With Triathlon Governance

Why the FU… lets start again.

Why did British Triathlon just announce their National Championship Schedule without a cross triathlon championship? The same thing happened last year. USA Triathlon often doesn’t figure out how they’re gonna handle Cross Triathlon Nationals until weeks before the event. Then these events get zero attention from whichever governing body, which makes it difficult to entice race directors to want to put on the event. Thankfully the ITU now has the Multisport World Championship Festival so at least we know a couple of years in advance where the ITU Worlds will be, but just try to figure out how to qualify for nearly any National Team in the world.

WTC/Ironman has set a precedent of resistance against the ITU and the National Governing Bodies. In the past XTERRA has followed suit. This needs to end.

XSU needs to reach out to the ITU and the National Governing Bodies and work with them. There is mutual benefit to be had and it is the best way to grow the regional series mentioned above. Yes, it will potentially effect XTERRA’s profit margin initially but long term it will serve to get more athletes off-road and thus more participation, more licenses, more sponsorship opportunities etc. Unlike WTC, XTERRA has nothing to gain from blowing off the ITU and the NGBs and governance has a lot to gain in the way of growth in their only growing sector.

XTERRA Asia-Pacific & ETU Cross Duathlon Photo Gallery
The pro men battled it out on the bike at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship. Photo: XTERRA

Create A Professional World Cup

Professional athletes and competitions are any sport’s best advocates. While they are not the foundation and the soul of the sport they are a very important component.

XSU needs to create a structured professional World Cup series. Live stream the damn thing and get RedBull or someone to put in a couple of million. Face it, money legitimizes sport.

As is the theme of this list, the World Cup would feed into the above regional series and also the introductory series. As a rough idea we’d suggest six events be continental championships in North America, South America, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe. Obviously Worlds would be a seventh event and the pinnacle of the series. The remaining three, or perhaps more would be showcase events. Maybe night races F1 style under the lights, maybe mixed relay, maybe a two day “Island House” format, whatever is most interesting.

Of course these events would be open to age groups as well. But these would be the real highlight pro races. The pros might race a slightly different course, perhaps more technical, perhaps multiple laps to be more viewer friendly, but this would still be an all inclusive, AGs and pros shoulder to shoulder type of thing XTERRA is famous for.

The structure is nearly there already, XSU just needs to organize it a bit more and find some partners. AND, while we’re at it, make the 1st place prize whatever Ironman is plus $1.

  • Side note we may have already had a chat with RedBull about such a thing, to which they said “we like triathlon, we would love to get into it, but its just so damn boring, this, however, sounds interesting.”

So that’s our wish list. Of course there are various other concerns, but we believe these are the cornerstones of success for XTERRA Sports Unlimited, while giving XTERRA athletes what they so desperately want and need, and creats a future which sees XTERRA and off-road triathlon survive and thrive.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.




Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

Related Articles

Back to top button