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USAT Previews XTERRA World Championship – Titles on the Line This Weekend

A sold-out field of 850 athletes, including 70 elites and more than 700 age-groupers will compete in Maui, Hawaii, this weekend in the XTERRA World Championship.

The race begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1 and features a 1.5-kilometer swim, 30-kilometer mountain bike and 10.5-kilometer trail run at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui’s northwest coast. Athletes from 43 countries and 43 U.S. states will climb more than 3,000 feet on the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains and run on forest trails and beach sand. Athletes range in age from 14 to 78 and 95 percent of the field is from outside of Hawaii.

More information about the 2015 XTERRA World Championship is available at xterraplanet.com/maui.

This is the 20th anniversary of the XTERRA World Championship on Maui — the birthplace of off-road triathlon. The first XTERRA race was held here on November 3, 1996, with just 123 participants. The demand for the sport of XTERRA exploded thereafter and there are now more than 30,000 competitors from all 50 states and more than 50 countries worldwide. More than four million viewers will experience the 2015 XTERRA World Championship via national syndication (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) and Fox Sports Network. This year’s show will start its run in national syndication in mid-January 2016.

The XTERRA World Championship race is the last in a series of more than 100 off-road triathlon races held in 30 countries and 37 U.S. states. The concept is to provide a bona-fide world championship for amateur and pro off-road triathletes, and pros are fighting for a share of the $105,000 prize purse.

The 2014 XTERRA World Champions Ruben Ruzafa of Spain and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy are back to defend their titles and are clear-cut favorites to win again, but not in the 19-year history of XTERRA have both the men’s and women’s winners repeated. Could this be the year?

Elite Men
Ruzafa has won an unprecedented 15 straight XTERRA majors since winning Worlds in October of 2013. The Spanish sensation also won his second-straight ITU Cross Tri World title this year, and if someone doesn’t work some magic in Maui he’ll wrap up another perfect season and his fourth XTERRA World Championship. Ruzafa will face an impressive collection of title-chasers that includes 11 men who collectively captured 22 of the 26 championship titles on the XTERRA World Tour this year, plus four of the top five in Maui from last year.

Emma Garrard
Emma Garrard and her son, Torin (XTERRA/Jesse Peters)

Leading the charge against Ruzafa is American Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colo.). He won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series three straight seasons, has been the top American at XTERRA Worlds seven times, and finished 2nd to Ruzafa last year and 2nd to Javier Gomez of Spain in 2012.

“Every year is different, but I have been following a very similar training philosophy for the past three or four years,” Middaugh said. “One big difference is that I have been injury free for about two years, which is huge for me. After five knee surgeries I know how well I can race when I have a stretch like this. I have been a little more disciplined since May with my key workouts, avoiding excessively long training days, challenging myself in mountain bike races with world cup level competition, and putting in the really challenging work that I know works very well for me.”

“This will be my 15th XTERRA World Championship so I feel very comfortable in Maui,” Middaugh added. “As a family we look forward to it every year and since our third child we have been trying to travel the whole family every other year. This is an odd year so our big family of five will be there.”

Colorado triathlete Ben Hoffman (Boulder, Colo.) will jump into XTERRA Worlds for the first time. Hoffman, who placed second in Kona two years ago, finished in 36th this year.

“I have always wanted to test myself against the best in the XTERRA World at the Maui Championship event,” said Hoffman. “I have raced XTERRAs for many years, but never toed the line at the biggest stage. The vibe is always great at these events, and you can’t go wrong with a race in Hawaii.”

Elite Women
Since the start of 2014 Duffy has been near perfect, winning 11 of 12 XTERRA majors and this year’s ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships. Duffy also had her best year ever on the ITU World Triathlon Series, ending the season ranked seventh, which has all but assured her spot on Bermuda’s Olympic triathlon team for the third time. To keep her Maui crown she’ll have to hold-off fast women, including two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson of Great Britain, who won every XTERRA she entered this year including the European Championship race, and last year’s runner-up Barbara Riveros from Chile, who posted the fastest of the day last year and poses a huge threat.

America’s best Emma Garrard (Park City, Utah), who first did XTERRA Worlds in 2006 as an amateur, has improved steadily through the years, from 31st years ago to fourth last year. “I’ve had a good improvement streak and I don’t want it to end,” said Garrard. “Obviously being in the top three is really hard, but so is being in the top five, and I’ve managed to pull that off two years in a row. I don’t think any moms have won this race so I would like to be the first to do that. I don’t have the same level of triathlon experience as a lot of these girls but I did survive natural childbirth.”

Garrard said the climbing, both on the bike and the run, suit her strengths plus “the race in Maui is a little longer and more can happen on the run which I like.”

HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Amateurs enter the World Championship through one of two means:
1. Earn a slot by qualifying as one of the top finishers in their age group at an XTERRA Championship race in South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Saipan, Costa Rica, Malta, Tahiti, Reunion Island, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Guam, Australia, Malaysia, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Great Britain and Alabama, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia in the United States. For those “lucky-you-live-Hawaii-guys” there was a local qualifier at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.

2. Enter through the at-large drawing; a limited number of slots were offered on a first-come first-serve basis in January.

ECONOMIC IMPACT
Direct visitor expenditures from the 2014 XTERRA World Championship were $5.7 million. The average length of stay on Maui is 7.1 nights (9.3 nights in Hawaii), the average party size is 3.1, and 58% of the field had a household income of more than $100,000 (expenditure source: DBEDT).

PAST CHAMPS AND RECORDS

PAST MEN’S CHAMPIONS (Runner-up)
2014: Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), 2:29:56 (Josiah Middaugh)
2013: Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), 2:34:34 (Asa Shaw)
2012: Javier Gomez (ESP), 2:26:54 (Josiah Middaugh)
2011: Michael Weiss (AUT), 2:27:00 (Dan Hugo)
2010: Conrad Stoltz (RSA), 2:31:07 (Franky Batelier)
2009: Eneko Llanos (ESP), 2:37:22 (Nico Lebrun)
2008: Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), 2:37:36 (Michi Weiss)
2007: Conrad Stoltz (RSA), 2:40:54 (Olivier Marceau)
2006: Hamish Carter (NZL), 2:42:36 (Olivier Marceau)
2005: Nicolas Lebrun (FRA), 2:38:19 (Eneko Llanos)
2004: Eneko Llanos (ESP), 2:28:44 (Olivier Marceau)
2003: Eneko Llanos (ESP), 2:32:56 (Nicolas LeBrun)
2002: Conrad Stoltz (RSA), 2:22:55 (Eneko Llanos)
2001: Conrad Stoltz (RSA), 2:28:48 (Kerry Classen)
2000: Michael Tobin (USA), 2:30:53 (Mike Vine)
1999: Ned Overend (USA), 2:32:50 (Michael Tobin)
1998: Ned Overend (USA), 2:24:46 (Wes Hobson)
1997: Mike Pigg (USA), 2:28:48 (Ned Overend)
1996: Jimmy Riccitello (USA), 2:27:42 (Mike Pigg)

MEN’S RECORD BOOK (Just for fun)
Swim Record: Glenn Wachtel (USA) 18:10 (2000)
Bike Record: Michael Weiss (AUT) 1:17:30 (2011)
Run Record: Jan Rehula (CZE) 33:14 (2004)
Winning Time: Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 2:22:55 (2002)

PAST WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS (Runner-up)
2014: Flora Duffy (BER) 2:47:59 (Barbara Riveros)
2013: Nicky Samuels (NZL), 2:57:48 (Lesley Paterson)
2012: Lesley Paterson (GBR), 2:44:12 (Barbara Riveros)
2011: Lesley Paterson (GBR), 2:45:59 (Marion Lorblanchet)
2010: Shonny Vanlandingham (USA), 2:58:20 (Julie Dibens)
2009: Julie Dibens (GBR), 2:56:42 (Lesley Paterson)
2008: Julie Dibens (GBR), 3:03:57 (Danelle Kabush)
2007: Julie Dibens (GBR), 3:01:24 (Melanie McQuaid)
2006: Melanie McQuaid (CAN), 3:07:53 (Danelle Kabush)
2005: Melanie McQuaid (CAN), 3:07:16 (Sybille Matter)
2004: Jamie Whitmore (USA), 3:01:35 (Melanie McQuaid)
2003: Melanie McQuaid (CAN), 2:57:08 (Jamie Whitmore)
2002: Candy Angle (USA), 2:57:33 (Jamie Whitmore)
2001: Anke Erlank (RSA), 3:00:59 (Cherie Touchette)
2000: Kerstin Weule (USA), 3:07:04 (Melanie McQuaid)
1999: Shari Kain (USA), 3:04:19 (Kerstin Weule)
1998: Sue Latshaw (USA), 2:58:49 (Uli Blank)
1997: Cameron Randolph (USA), 3:04:25 (Lesley Tomlinson)
1996: Michellie Jones (AUS), 3:04:53 (Shari Kain)

WOMEN’S RECORD BOOK (Just for fun)
Swim Record: Raeleigh Tennant (AUS) 18:31 (2000)
Bike Record: Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 1:29:27 (2011)
Run Record: Erika Csomor (HUN) 38:18 (2004)
Winning Time: Lesley Paterson (GBR) 2:45:59 (2011)

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Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at dirtTRI.com. Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 15 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.

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