XTERRA Weekend Preview: Pan Am Tour in Alabama, World Tour hits Portugal

XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series Hits U.S.

The XTERRA Pan America Pro Series takes shape this weekend at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama as some of America’s best racers host all-stars from Mexico, Canada, and Brazil.

It’s race number four of 10 in the inaugural XTERRA Pan Am Tour, and the first of three on American soil.

In the men’s race reigning XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh welcomes Mexico’s best off-roader Mauricio Mendez, Canadian upstart Karsten Madsen, Kiwi Kieran McPherson, and a host of his U.S. countrymen with the likes of Chris Ganter, Branden Rakita, Cody Waite, and more.

On the women’s side Sabrina Gobbo (pictured above), the cross triathlon queen of Brazil, takes on a roster full of established and up-and-coming American racers to include former National Champ Suzie Snyder and XTERRA U.S. Pro Series stand-outs Maia Ignatz, Kara LaPoint, Debby Sullivan and others.

We caught up with the elite crowd racing this weekend to get their thoughts on the course, the race, and other random funny stuff.

Josiah Middaugh chases early on the bike.  XTERRA Weekend Preview
Josiah Middaugh chases early on the bike.

Here’s what they said…

“I’ve done this race every year for the past 10 or 11 years and still love it! The lake is beautiful and clean, the bike course is fun because the trails were created and maintained specifically for mountain biking, and the run is rolling, fun and shady! This course always proves to be challenging, whether from the heat and humidity or the wet roots and tricky single track so you have to be ready for anything!” – Suzie Snyder, former XTERRA National Champ living in Reno, Nevada. Suzie finished 3rd here the last two years.

“The XTERRA at Oak Mountain is one of the best. The trails are top notch thanks to the local trails organization BUMP, they keep adding and maintaining more and more trails in the park. It is a very challenging course and you have to maintain your focus 100% through the bike to keep the rubber side down,” – Branden Rakita, who has finished in the top 10 here seven times since 2009.

“When it was announced they would have a Pan American XTERRA circuit, I thought “wow” that’s a great opportunity for me to evolve, go and compete, and get out of my comfort zone to try and reach for that extra power to achieve more,” – Sabrina Gobbo, reigning and 3-time XTERRA Brazil Champion. This will be her first time in Alabama. She finished 3rd at XTERRA Costa Rica in March.

“I think this is the best XTERRA course there is. Lots of rocks and roots and fun crazy riding along with a awesome swim that is in a calm lake. The run course is also a blast and gives a good opportunity to run hard & fast. I really think without that crash I had a great shot at the podium. That’s why it hurt so bad. I’m really looking for redemption and coming off my 2nd place in Argentina I’m going to give it all I got as this is a course I truly feel at home at,” – Karsten Madsen, who was in the mix last year before a bad crash on the bike took him out of contention. The Canadian currently sits 2nd in the XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series standings.

“I think this is one of my favorite races, that is why I am back doing it again this year. I love that the riding is different from the high and dry riding I do at home in the Rocky Mountains. The twisty trails through dense trees and occasional owl spotting make it worth coming back! This will be my 3rd time doing this race, and I’m excited for another tried and true XTERRA experience,” – Maia Ignatz, who won the overall amateur title at Oak Mountain and Maui before turning pro and finishing 6th here last year.

“XTERRA racing has been a great way to satisfy my sense for adventure and allowed me experience many exciting places around the world,” – Josiah Middaugh, who has already raced at XTERRA Costa Rica, Argentina, and won in Tahiti last weekend. There are pics and videos of him riding horses on the beaches of Guanacaste and petting Manta rays in French Polynesia all over the internet. He’s won this race twice (2013-14), was second three times (’09, ’10, ’15), third twice (’07, ’11), fourth once (’12), and broke his kneecap pre-riding before the 2008 race.

“This is my first pro race, so I’m a bit nervous, but also excited. I did this race last year and loved the trails and venue. The trails are epic and so much different than what we have in Utah. I’ve been doing these a long time (since 2005) and I’m older (35) than most of the other neo-pro’s but I figure you only live once, and I’m going to give it my all. I love the course at Oak Mountain, and really excited to race and share this event with my girlfriend Stephanie,” – Michael Nunez, an Aerospace/Mechanical Engineer who was born and raised in Rock Springs, Wyoming and currently calls Salt Lake City, Utah home.

“This is one of the purest off-road XTERRA courses because the mountain bike is a true mountain bike single track and somewhat technical course. Oak Mountain lends itself to a great experience with lots of lush vegetation and abundant wildlife. I crashed really badly last year on the bike, slid into a tree breaking my rear wheel and derailleur, so my goal this year is to complete the course!” – Caroline Colonna, who has finished in the top 10 here three times in the last five years. She is (rather humorously) nursing a foot injury from “last weekend’s dance performances. I was Nana, the Dog, in Peter Pan … a lot of leaping!”

“I am an XTERRA athlete day in, day out and I love it! I am more than happy and excited about this weekend, kind of nervous, but really excited. It’s my third time here, and it is a unique XTERRA course full of amazing wood forests and a great single-track trail full of surprises!” – Mauricio Mendez, a 20-year-old from Mexico City who finished 4th at the XTERRA World Championship last year.

“Just drove in from Colorado, was a lovely drive. I’m enjoying being back down at sea level and a little humidity coming into my first race on the new Pan Am series, and hoping for a good performance,” – Kieran McPherson, a 24-year-old from rural Matamata, New Zealand who will be based out of Fort Collins, Colorado for the next six months.

“You initially think “mountain biking in Alabama? What?” but then you get here and its this amazing network of world class trails and a beautiful lake. I like that the course is a good mix of power and technical, a challenge that requires both fitness and skill,” – Ian King, active duty Coast Guard and member of the newly-formed Happy Tooth Pro Development Team.

“I came here last year for the first time, and had a great time on the course in the days leading up to the race and really enjoyed being here in Alabama. The course is a lot of fun. The race, however, did not go my way. I flatted just when I got to the fun part above blood rock and after a bunch more flats and partial fixes I was finally able to get another tube and make it to transition so I could finish. Hopefully, I can get some redemption this year.” – Debby Sullivan, a Colorado girl who spent the last four years in California before moving to Virginia in February. “Apparently we need to get it all.”

“This is my third year in Alabama and my first as a pro. This is probably my second favorite course (behind Richmond of course) because the trails are the same style that I train on at home. Lots of roots, rocks and twisty turns are where I feel at home!” – Greg Schott, a 19-year-old certified EMT and bike mechanic at Endorphin Fitness who lives in downtown Richmond, Virginia. He won the 15-19 XTERRA National Championship last year before turning pro.

“Oak Mountain is a great course, and certainly one of the most fun to ride!” – Cody Waite, of Sessions:6 Sport Performance out of Denver, Colorado. Cody has finished in the top 10 five times at this race.

“This will be the first time racing XTERRA Oak Mountain, and it’s my first race of the season so I really don’t know what to expect. I am looking forward to it and hoping for a fun course. My first XTERRA was at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania called the Dirty Grizzly. That was about seven years ago, and I remember I barely survived the swim. My swimming hasn’t improved that much since that race but I am optimistic for this weekend,” – Thomas Spannring, a 40-year-old firefighter in Boulder, Colorado, originally from Austria.


Rank denotes current position in XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series after three events.
NR = Not ranked

Bib# – Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
1 – 1 – Josiah Middaugh – 37, Vail-Eagle, CO
2 – 2 – Karsten Madsen – Guelph, Ontario, Canada
3 – 15 – Ian King – 26, Virginia Beach, VA
4 – 19 – Greg Schott – 19, Chesterfield, VA
5 – NR – Chris Ganter – 38, Boise, ID
6 – NR - Kieran McPherson – 24, Matamata, New Zealand
7 – NR – Mauricio Mendez – 20, Mexico City, Mexico
8 – NR - Michael Nunez – 35, Salt Lake City, UT
9 – NR – Branden Rakita – 35, Colorado Springs, CO
10 – NR – Thomas Spannring – 40, Longmont, CO
11 – NR - Cody Waite – 38, Lakewood, CO

Bib# – Rank – Name – Age, Hometown
51 – 3 – Sabrina Gobbo – 39, Sao Paulo, Brazil
52 – 6 – Kara LaPoint – 30, Truckee, CA
53 – 10 – Caroline Colonna – 52, Taos, NM
54 – 12 – Rebecca Blatt – 36, Lakewood, CO
55 – NR – Sarah Graves – 39, Ballantine, MT
56 – NR – Maia Ignatz – 36, Boulder, CO
57 – NR – Maggie Rusch – 29, Asheville, NC
58 – NR – Suzie Snyder – 34, Reno, NV
59 – NR – Debby Sullivan – 35, Stafford, VA

XTERRA Portugal Flyover - XTERRA Weekend Preview
XTERRA Portugal’s famous wooden flyover. Photo – XTERRA Portugal

XTERRA Portugal This Saturday

The XTERRA European Tour is in Golega, Portugal this weekend and so is managing director Dave Nicholas.  Here he tells us what it’s in store for athletes on Saturday…

A gorgeous day here in the middle of the country.  The 3rd XTERRA Portugal will start at 2pm on Saturday and while everything looks great, there have been problems.

A photo from XTERRA pro, Louise Fox twitter showing the depth of water at XTERRA Portugal.   XTERRA Weekend Preview
A photo from XTERRA pro, Louise Fox twitter showing the depth of water at XTERRA Portugal.

It has been raining here for weeks.  Many of the fields the bike trails used in former years were completely underwater until last week and many are so muddy and clogged we are having to re-route the beginning and ending pieces of the course.

This year the bike will still be 32K but now more of a lollipop circuit rather than one big loop.  The good news?  All the interesting and more technical parts are still there and all the great, painted rocks leading the way are untouched.

The run course keeps the short, steep rappel section but stays closer to town.  Organizers kept the distance by creating an interesting new section along the river that is much more technical than in past years.

“The only thing we don’t know yet is where we will cross the river,” smiled Jaime Rosa, the director.  What he is talking about is we can’t determine exactly where it will be until Friday when we see how far the river has dropped.  “You can be sure your shoes will be wet” he said.

The pro field is solid.  Leading male and last year’s European series champion Roger Serrano Selgado is here after a brilliant win over Ruben Ruzafa two weeks ago in Greece.  The 3-time World Champ Ruzafa is here to make it three in a row and get back to his winning ways.  Francois Carloni of France is here along with Yeray Luxem & Tim Van Daele from Belgium and Llewelyn Holmes from England.  A host of new men pros are entered from Spain and Germany to keep things interesting.

On the women’s side it looks to be a rematch between Brigitta Poor and Helena Erbenova – both of whom have one win each this season.  They will face some tough competition from Myriam Guillot-Boisett and Carina Wasle.  Maud Golsteyn returns to the series and Louise Fox is looking for another top five.

The city is filling with cyclists and the local folks are enjoying them. This gorgeous village is more accustomed to horse people as Golega is internationally known for its November Horse Festivals which draw over 100,000 people.  The Feira Nacional do Cavalo has been held here since the 1800’s.  Just over an hour from Lisbon, the whitewashed homes with red tile roofs sit in thousands of acres of farmland and roaming herds of sheep with classic shepherds and dogs keeping them together. Inspecting the run course this morning workers were harvesting cabbage, new corn fields are popping up, the potato crop is about ready to be picked and red poppy’s with yellow buttercups and daisies are everywhere. Because the city must ramp up for the huge celebrations there are ample small hotels and restaurants all through town.  Prices in Portugal are low and the quality high. A good meal in a nice restaurant will be between 10 – 15 euro and everything you have heard about Portuguese wine is true.  The highways are smooth and well-marked. If you are thinking of coming to Europe for a race, put Portugal on your list. Registration, the race briefing and the very nice pasta party happen tomorrow and I will have updates as it happens.




Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at DirtTRI.com. 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.

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