Hot, Hard, and Brutal = Fun at XTERRA Oak Mountain

When you ask an off-road triathlete why they do this sport, the number one response is that “it’s fun.” Even with extreme conditions this past weekend in Alabama at XTERRA Oak Mountain, that phrase was echoed throughout the day. The temperature and humidity were high, the course had more twists and turns than an headphone cord in your pocket, and the field was filled with ferociously fast athletes, and that’s why big smiles and the sense of accomplishment filled the finish area for these triathletes.

“Alabama is an awesome course, it tests fitness, skills, endurance and lots of fun, can be really treacherous if you try to push it a little to hard, but one of the best courses I’ve raced at!” – Fransisco “Paco” Serrano, 3rd place overall.

Josiah Middaugh and Suzie Snyder claimed victory over fields of 16 men and 17 women respectively. This was one of the few times that the women’s field outnumbered the men’s and it made for some solid racing.

The Men’s Battle

Middaugh chased hard on the bike to catch the six pack of fast swimmers and early race leaders Karsten Madsen, Fransisco “Paco” Serrano, Ian King, Branden Rakita, Viet Hoenle, and Jean-Philippe Thibodeau. While he caught King, Rakita, Hoenle, and Thibodeau mid way through the 20 mile ride, it was only at T2 that Middaugh came close to Madsen and Serrano. Having raced a 70.3 the week prior, Serrano’s legs couldn’t answer as Middaugh came past and it was only the heat that slowed Madsen down enough for Middaugh to make the catch. Madsen held on for second, Serrano rounded out the top three.

“This year Alabama throw everything at us with warm water and a sunny hot humid day proved to be extremely challenging. It’s by far the deepest I’ve ever had to dig. I think everyone really had to dig deep and over come some adversity that day.” -Karsten Madsen, 2nd place overall.

Rakita’s fast swim and solid bike were enough to keep him in front of the speedy feet of XTERRA Thailand winner Kieran McPherson, but not enough to hold off uber biker/runner Brian Smith. Smith recently started working with Middaugh Coaching and at the ripe age of 41, hasn’t seemed to slowed down at all. Despite being almost four minutes down from Ratika in the swim Smith worked with Chris Ganter to move up on the bike. Ganter suffered mechanical issues and that’s when Smith rolled away from him. On the run Smith made quick work of Rakita and McPherson and moved up to 4th. Ganter’s mechanical issues were enough to keep in out of striking distance for Rakita and McPherson, and thus he crossed the line in 7th.

Kieran McPhearson Photo: XTERRA
“Southern hospitality and the course make this race.” – Kieran McPherson, 6th place overall.  Photo: XTERRA

“I love this race venue because it is not at high altitude.  Down in Alabama, we’re on equal footing at the start.  From there, it seems like the pros are all challenged in some way that they can fairly easily overcome with a little diligent preparation: whether it be the humidity, heat, slippery roots, technical features, a sustained climb, or quick punchy single track.  I personally didn’t have the best race I was capable of on the day due to some recurring mechanical issues.  But I’m always stoked to be in the top 10 with these awesome athletes and am really happy with how my form is coming along.  I’ve changed up my training this year and my focus is actually on not only getting the work done, but really letting loose and having fun doing it. It seems to be working! -Chris Ganter, 7th place overall. 

Ryan Ignatz and Viet Hoenle had nearly identical bike splits and it was only Ignatz’s quick run split that allowed him to catch Hoenle near the end of the race, despite being 4 minutes down on the swim. Only four seconds separated the two men at the finish line. Cody Waite’s solid bike split was enough for him to move up to a top ten spot.

Pos Name, NAT Time Points
1 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:25:23 100
2 Karsten Madsen, CAN 2:26:04 90
3 Francisco Serrano, MEX 2:26:52 82
4 Brian Smith, USA 2:28:29 75
5 Branden Rakita, USA 2:29:28 69
6 Kieran McPherson, NZL 2:30:43 63
7 Chris Ganter, USA 2:31:47 58
8 Ryan Ignatz, USA 2:33:18 53
9 Veit Hoenle, GER 2:33:22 49
10 Cody Waite, USA 2:35:59 45
11 Cedric Wane, TAH 2:39:50 41
12 Jean-Philippe Thibodeau, CAN 2:41:40 37
13 Ian King, USA 2:41:52 34
14 Michael Nunez, USA 2:50:16 31
15 Ryan DeCook, USA 2:56:30 28

Also: Will Kelsay USA (16) 2:56:30

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Tight Racing in the Women’s Field

Suzie Snyder came out of the water in the lead pack and used an absolutely dominating bike split to hold off the 2x XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson, and take the win. Not knowing exactly where Paterson was on the run, Snyder gave it everything she had on the run with the heat weighing heavy on her. Julie Baker came out of the water with Snyder, but Paterson’s bike and run were to much for Baker to hang on.

“I like XTERRA Oak Mountain because it’s interesting – the bike and run courses are both on tons of single track and it’s not easy single track…if you lose focus for a second you can go down hard so it takes a lot of mental energy as well as physical skill and fitness which increases the challenge of the race as a whole!” – Suzie Snyder, 1st place female. 

Maia Ignatz Photo: Pax Tolosi
“I think XTERRA Oak Mountain is one of the best courses on the circuit. I love the lush, green, twisty and technical trails that are very different from what I ride at home in the Rocky Mountains.” – Maia Ignatz, 4th place female Photo: Pax Tolosi

Katie Button exited the water in front of Maia Ignatz and Liz Gruber and held them off on the bike, but Ignatz and Gruber’s runs proved to much for Button and she dropped to 6th. Ignatz had a quicker bike and run split over Gruber to capture 4th place.

Kara LaPoint came out of the water in front of Sabrina Gobbo, but lost valuable time on the bike with two flat tires. She threw down a peppy run to bring Gobbo back and finish 7th. In an example of true sportsmanship, Katherine Carter stopped to help LaPoint with her flat tires, despite losing time in her own race.

“A big shout-out to Katharine Carter, who stopped to give me a CO2 when I flatted for the second time and had nothing. She could have so easily just ridden right on by and stayed focused on her own race, as several racers had understandably already done, but she didn’t hesitate to stop and help me out. She sacrificed time from her own race in doing so, stopping on a downhill when she had a lot of momentum, and I’m so impressed with her remarkable sportsmanship! XTERRA Alabama is an incredibly special race. It’s a very “worthy” course that is always a challenge, but also so much fun. The venue is gorgeous, and the trails are truly world-class, offering some of the best riding of anywhere I’ve raced. On top of that, the community is fantastic, and has shown tremendous support for this event year after year.” – Kara LaPoint, 7th place female.

Despite sacrificing time to stop and help LaPoint, Carter was able to catch former XTERRA USA champ Emma Garrard at the end of the run. Gerrard rounded out the top 10 in her debut return race from having her second child.

Liz Gruber, 5th place female. Photo: Pax Tolosi
“I loved XTERRA Alabama because it was a gorgeous lake swim, a super fun and honest MTB, and a give it until the last drop humid and punchy run. So XTERRA. So much grit mixed with amazing competition and stunning views.” – Liz Gruber, 5th place female. Photo: Pax Tolosi


Pos Name, NAT Time Points
1 Suzie Snyder, USA 2:45:29 100
2 Lesley Paterson, GBR 2:51:36 90
3 Julie Baker, USA 2:54:42 82
4 Maia Ignatz, USA 2:55:49 75
5 Liz Gruber, USA 2:58:40 69
6 Katie Button, CAN 2:59:39 63
7 Kara LaPoint, USA 3:00:41 58
8 Sabrina Gobbo, BRA 3:02:12 53
9 Katharine Carter, CAN 3:03:26 49
10 Emma Garrard, USA 3:03:30 45
11 Debby Sullivan, USA 3:04:10 41
12 Anne Usher, USA 3:06:17 37
13 Kellie Montgomery, USA 3:07:25 34
14 Annie Bergen, CAN 3:10:37 31
15 Caroline Colonna, USA 3:10:52 28

Also Jaime Brede, USA (16) and Laura Mira Dias, BRA (17)

Full Results




Will Kelsay

Will Kelsay is one of the top cross triathletes in the world with a 10 year career spanning 5 continents competing in more than 18 countries. He has 20 career wins and more than 70 top 5 finishes. Anyone who has met him knows his passion for the sport is only overshadowed by his huge smile & his appetite for fun.

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