- By Jordan Winar
Weeks in advance to the XTERRA World Championship you can’t predict the surf or if it will rain. But in an analytical world filled with data is it possible to predict the XTERRA World Champion? In this edition of the Rest of the Story we will try and do just that.
For any XTERRA professional that has been near or on the podium in Maui they know that it isn’t about getting to Maui or finishing the race, it’s about winning. We all have our favorite pro. Maybe you follow your favorite XTERRA pro on social media, maybe you use the same recovery drink, or wear the same shoes or watch, maybe they are your coach, or maybe you took a picture with them at a race but hoping for them to win and that person actually delivering a world championship are completely different.
Taking it one step further, if you had to bet your car, or house, or $1,000 on the possible champ it wouldn’t be based on a cute selfie your favorite pro posted on instagram it would based on facts. Facts such as, have they won this season? How deep can this superhuman dig if it comes down to a sprint finish? Are they willing to grit their teeth longer than they thought possible? Do they have the mental fortitude to push through cramps or will they be satisfied with a podium finish? Let’s find out and see. Below is a fact based guide to allow you to see the odds on who will be crowned king on the Men’s side. (These odds are based on data from the last 4 XTERRA World Championships, wins in 2018 and times compared to other XTERRA elites at global events separated by swim, bike and run splits)
Mauricio Mendez (Mexico): odds of winning: 49.7%
2016 XTERRA World Champ and Lesley Patterson’s prize horse
When Mauricio Mendez from Mexico came in second at last year’s WORLDS his first thought after crossing the finish line was how he was going to win in 2018 and take home his second title. He and his coach have had a year to figure that out and this year he has won every XTERRA triathlon he entered, except for the Pan-AmChampjonship in Ogden where he didn’t finish because his saddle came off his seat post. Don’t let his charming smile fool you, when the cannon flies it’s all business.
What to watch for: If he’s within 2 minutes of the lead on the start of the run, consider it his 2nd title!
Ruben Ruzafa (Spain) odds of winning: 50.1%
3 x XTERRA World Champion
Is he a man or a machine? He hasn’t lost in any event he’s entered in 2018 and plans to make this his 4th World title. Admittedly, we wouldn’t be shocked either. There is no doubt he will have the fastest bike split. He needs a solid swim and when he takes the lead on the bike he will need a large gap to keep the lead on the run. He isn’t the fastest trail runner. So when he gets on his feet he will need a large lead.
What to watch for: If he can make it up 1,000 foot climb in first position on the run he will be hard to beat on the way down the mountain.
Bradley Weiss (South Africa): odds of winning: 38.8%
2017 XTERRA World Champion
He’s had an up and down season. Not bad, but not dominate. He’s currently training in Colorado and coming off a podium finish but not a win at the Pan-Am. Maybe it’s because WORLDS is his main focus to ensure he keeps the title? His friend Flora Duffy won’t be there to try for her 5th title in a row. I am sure she will give him advice but will her absence matter for his training leading up to Maui?
Pressure will be high because we will all see what he is really made of since becoming a World Champion last year.
What to watch for: An out of this world bike performance. If he can grind like he did last year on the bike and push through the pain and have the lead position going into the run he could have a back to back title.
Josiah Middaugh (USA): odds of winning: 45.9%
2015 XTERRA World Champion
Unlike the rest of the field his time is limited and the urgency is real. He’s 40 years old. He’s got 3 kids. We know he will win the coolest Dad award again because he always wins “best costume” at the Halloween party following the race but that might not be all he brings home this year. He slayed some dragons this year and in Beavercreek he nearly beat the young stallion Mauricio Mendez which means maybe Josiah and his brother Yaro have found the secret sauce. We knew if he was in the top 7 out of the water at the Pan-Am Championship he would win. And he did.
What to watch for: His swim, if he exists in a decent position, he will make up ground on the bike and then it’s just all heart on the run and he has plenty of that to bring home a championship to his kids.
Ben Allen (Australia): odds of winning: 20.1%
He had some strange events happen this year including a flat in Tahiti, getting misdirected on a course in Europe and suffering bad crash in Taiwan. Will his knee be healthy enough to contend? One thing is for sure, he will have the best haircut among the XTERRA Pros but will this be his year to win a title? He always competes well in Maui and what better time than now?
Watch to watch for: His bike effort. He will lead out of the water so if he can suffer more pain than he even thinks is possible he will have a shot at the title but it will take EVERYTHING he has to win.
Sam Osborne (New Zealand): odds of winning: 32.43%
Sam has beat last years world champ this year. He has had some ups and downs and his year will depend on this race. He’s been training in Boulder with Bradley Weiss. He has the talent but talent will only give him a podium finish not a World Championship.
What to watch for: A clean race. He needs a solid swim, he needs to push on the bike. If he can push through the pain on the run and have the right nutrition and taper he has a shot to take home his first title.
THE REST OF THE STORY is ‘The Rest Of The Field’:
The Rest Of the Field: odds of winning:49.9%
The last three XTERRA World champions have been first timers so maybe if you are a Pro it may be better off to be unknown than being in the spotlight.
It takes so much preparation to just be in form to be a contender.
- Your nutrition has to be dialed in months before, the week before and the day of the race. You can be drinking booze and cheeseburgers the night before or most likely not months before if you want a chance to win and have a the perfect weight to power ratio. Sure it’s their job but they are still human. Have they been sticking to the nutrition plan?
- Every pro athlete will need to board a dirty plane and hope to stay healthy while they land on the island of Maui. It’s hard to stay healthy when traveling but it’s a necessity to be healthy to race fast. If your sick or getting sick your body is under stress and that means your body won’t go as fast no matter how strong your mental fitness is in.
- Mental strength. Have you ever noticed how children sleep after they had a full day of distractions at an amusement park? Well distractions abound while on the island of Maui. Everyone will want a photo or interview. Where do you eat. Where do you stay? How do you work the TV in your hotel room? It’s all a distraction. The fewer they have the better they will perform.
- Sleep is a necessity but it’s difficult to do when your far from home and been preparing for so long. Will they be able to relax and be able to fall into a deep sleep?
The above list will affect everyone but the ‘rest of the field’ may be in a better spot than the rest. The World Championship is just the final piece of a much larger puzzle. The race is an outcome of years of hard work. ‘The rest of the field’ has been training just as hard. ‘The rest of the field’ has been trying to tweak their workouts to beat the former world champions. ‘The rest of the field’ has podium finishes like Brian Smith. Experience like Branden Rakita. It has young guns like Karsten Madsen and even younger Sam Long. ‘The rest of the field’ will need to dig deeper than they ever have before. They will need to swim, bike and run faster than they ever have before. It’s what Disney movies are made up of but it will be one of the most difficult thing they will ever do in their lives. Are they up for the challenge?
One bet that you can take to the bank is that this this year will be one of the most epic XTERRA World Championships that Whit Raymond has ever announced. So, who are you betting on winning?
About Jordan Winar
The Rest of the Story series is contributed by off-road triathlete and freelance writer, Jordan Winar
Jordan competed in his first ever triathlon April 22, 2017. Prior to this, he had never competed in any triathlons, bike races, or outdoor swimming competitions. Jordan competed in 12 XTERRA events over the following 5 months, eventually qualifying for the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii.
Jordan attributes his success to his newly found Vegan lifestyle and The Gazelle Mindset.