Rom Akerson from Costa Rica and Kelli Montgomery from the U.S. captured the 5th annual XTERRA Costa Rica off-road triathlon elite titles on a hot and windy day at Playa Reserva Conchal in Guanacaste on Sunday, March 25, 2018.
It’s the second Costa Rica win for Akerson (he also won in 2015) and the first XTERRA World Tour win as an elite for Montgomery, who was the 40-44 division XTERRA World Champ in 2014 before going pro.
In the men’s race Canadian Karsten Madsen was first out of the water and on to the bike, followed closely behind by Akerson and American Ian King.
“That was really hard, by far the hottest race I’ve had to deal with,” said Madsen after the race. “I had two incredible athletes ahead of me, and I did everything I could to keep them behind me. Rom had a great swim, and he threw it down on the first beach part on the bike. Then we went up the first climb together but the serge he put out there was on another level, and he got away.”
Once in the lead Akerson never looked back and crossed the line in 2:12:13, more than four-minutes ahead of the reigning XTERRA Pan America Tour Champ Josiah Middaugh.
“It was an amazing race, and I had an amazing day,” said Akerson, who missed almost all of 2017 due to injury. His first XTERRA of 2017 was in Maui, where he finished 10th. That race back in late October really signaled the start of a new racing season for Akerson, who was clearly in race shape for this early season showdown.
“I’ve been doing a lot of mountain bike racing, and triathlons, and cross country running,” he said. “I already have six, seven races in the books over the last couple months, and I’ve been training a lot under hot conditions like we had today.”
In 2016 Akerson, a 12-year veteran of XTERRA racing, won XTERRA Dominican Republic and XTERRA Mexico and finished runner-up to Middaugh in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour elite standings. He has a healthy amount of respect for both Madsen, Canada’s best off-roader, and Middaugh, a long-time rival.
“They made me push all the way to the finish line,” said Akerson. “I suffered in the swim, suffered on the bike, and ran with everything I had. It was amazing. Everything came together for me and I had a really good day.”
As for Middaugh, who came straight from the snowy Rocky Mountains in Colorado, there were no excuses.
“I actually felt good, but not as good as Rom,” smiled Middaugh. “He was on fire and impossible to catch, just on a different level today. I think I needed to be no more than one-minute, 30-seconds behind him out of water to make a race of it, and I couldn’t do that today. But I had a good day, no problems, and I felt pretty strong.”
Middaugh was fifth out of the water roughly three minutes back of the leaders and caught Madsen on the bike to move into the second position at about mile 12 of the bike but said “by that time Rom was long gone. I saw him heading out on the run as I was coming in on the bike and he was still holding a big gap. I always hold out hope that something can happen on the run, so I kept the pressure, but never saw Rom again.”
A pair of local pros, Luis Piedra and Federico Venegas, finished fourth and fifth and Humberto Rivera finished sixth in his elite debut.
ELITE MEN RESULTS
|1||Rom Akerson, CRC||2:12:13||75||$1,200|
|2||Josiah Middaugh, USA||2:16:51||67||$900|
|3||Karsten Madsen, CAN||2:19:16||61||$700|
|4||Luis Piedra, CRC||2:26:15||56||$550|
|5||Federico Venegas, CRC||2:28:30||51||$400|
|6||Humberto Rivera, USA||2:31:53||47|
|7||Andres Zuniga, CRC||2:34:20||43|
|8||Harold Ramos, CRC||2:39:25||39|
|9||Ian King, USA||2:39:27||36|
In the women’s race super swimmer Jessie Koltz was first out of the water, followed by Adilia Jimenez and Kelli Montgomery, but the lead didn’t last long.
“The swim was easy for me, and I didn’t burn a lot of energy as I was hoping to be fresh for the bike, but the bike was tough,” said Koltz. “I lost the two girls right out of transition on the sand part and never saw them again.”
Montgomery came out of the water in third position but posted the fastest bike split of the day and once she got passed Jimenez, held the lead to the finish.
“I loved it. It was hard, hot. A beautiful course with lots of challenges,” said Montgomery, who finished 2nd at XTERRA Thailand last year. “I do a lot of cyclocross in the winter, and that helped get me through the sandy sections on the bike.”
It was an impressive result for Montgomery, who hails from Connecticut and came straight from riding in the snow to riding in the sand just like Middaugh.
“The sand was tough, especially the last part on the sand during the run” she said. “Beyond just the race, I’m here in Costa Rica with my husband and we’re having a great time, and it feels great to get my first XTERRA win as a pro.”
Finishing in second was Jimenez, who was the top overall amateur female at XTERRA Costa Rica last year and jumped into the elite ranks this year.
“It was a beautiful experience,” said Jimenez.
In third was Koltz, who marveled at the jungle environment in the reserve where the run takes place.
“I saw a lot of animals today,” she exclaimed. “Fish, snakes, monkeys, iguanas, all kinds of different bird noises. It was magical. So fun to be in a tropical jungle for a race. Just a great venue, with great hospitality and friendly people all around. I love it here.”
ELITE WOMEN RESULTS
|1||Kelli Montgomery, USA||3:01:02||75||$1,200|
|2||Adilia Jimenez, CRC||3:07:34||67||$900|
|3||Jessie Koltz, USA||3:12:49||61||$700|
|4||Rebecca Blatt, USA||3:52:40||56||$550|
All-Time XTERRA Costa Rica Champions
2014 – Leonardo Chacon/Shonny Vanlandingham
2015 – Rom Akerson/Lesley Paterson
2016 – Karl Shaw/Myriam Guillot-Boisset
2017 – Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder
2018 – Rom Akerson/Kelli Montgomery