The XTERRA World Tour jumps into action with two long-standing classics taking place on Saturday – the 13th annual Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Championship in New Zealand and the 11th running of the XTERRA Guam Championship in the Mariana Islands.
April 9, 2015 (Honolulu, HI) – The XTERRA World Tour jumps into action with two long-standing classics taking place on Saturday – the 13th annual Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Championship in New Zealand and the 11th running of the XTERRA Guam Championship in the Mariana Islands.
XTERRA New Zealand Pro Race Preview
In the elite men’s race Conrad “the Caveman”Stoltz returns to defend his crown following one of his all-time favorite XTERRA experiences in Rotorua last year.
“What a phenomenal course and venue!” exclaimed the four-time XTERRA World Champ on his blog after edging Ben Allen to win it with 40-seconds to spare last year. “Beautiful blue lake called “Blue Lake” surrounded by green mountains covered with dense tree fern growth 20ft tall … some of the very best and unique single track I’ve ever ridden.”
Stoltz will once again have stiff competition awaiting, this time in the form of Kiwi adventure racing star Braden Currie from Wanaka – who will be making his Rotorua debut – and the 23-year-old hometown hero Olly Shaw from Rotorua who was third last year.
“For me to beat or even contend with both Braden and Conrad I will have to have an awesome day in all three disciplines and use my home course knowledge to my advantage,” noted Shaw, who’s been racing at XTERRA New Zealand since he was 15-years-old.
“As a young elite athlete these are the guys you look up to in the sport so it would be awesome to be racing alongside them. Braden is at the top of his game at the moment and Conrad has more pedigree, knowledge and experience than any other XTERRA athlete so I know it is going to be a tough race but I’m looking forward to the challenge!”
Shaw traveled all around the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour last year with stops in Motatapu, Saipan, Guam, and Australia but insists the Rotorua route is the most special of all.
“The course in Rotorua is a dream XTERRA course,” he says. “A beautiful fresh water swim in the Blue Lake, surrounded by thick green bush on all sides, followed by both a physically and technically challenging mountain bike taking in some of the best tracks and views the world-class Whakarewarewa Forest has to offer. Then top that all off with a two-lap run around the Blue Lake that is both fast and hard, with an atmosphere that is hard to match anywhere. To make it even better the temperature at this time of year in New Zealand always makes for close, fast racing so Saturday will be exciting!”
In the women’s race American stand-out Suzie Snyder is fulfilling a bucket-list dream to toe the start line in Rotorua and will be up against a host of strong local elites like Sarah Backler, Lizzie Orchard, and Rachel Challis.
“I’ve been working really hard this off-season and I’m feeling good about my fitness going into the year so I’m really excited about the season,” said Snyder, the 2012 XTERRA U.S. National Champ. “I’m really excited to be here, it’s been in my list for about five years now since bumping into Jay Shelgren at Worlds in 2010.”
Shelgren is an XTERRA amateur racer from New York who lives in New Zealand now and has been taking Snyder around to show her the trails.
For Backler, a 32-year-old industrial designer and creator of beautiful porcelain objects from nearby Tauranga, XTERRA was a passion brought on by her husband that has turned into more than just a hobby.
“I watched my husband get hooked by XTERRA in 2010, and decided that if he was going to continue I didn’t want to be a supporter and should give it a go,” explained Backler. “2011 was my ‘taster’ at XTERRA Rotorua, AND 2012 was the chance to do it a little better and the trend has continued ever since.”
Indeed it has. In 2012 she won the amateur title at Rotorua then went to Maui and won the 30-34 XTERRA World Championship crown. Turning pro was the logical “next challenge.”
Last year Backler finished third at XTERRA New Zealand behind ITU star Barbara Riveros and many-time XTERRA champ Jacqui Slack, neither of whom are on the start list this year. As for being one of the favorites to win it, Backler humbly defers…
“It’s always hard to know who will be lining up on race day and what form they are in as there aren’t a lot of other XTERRA races in NZ. It hasn’t really been a scenario that I’ve given a lot of thought to as there are others I know who are very capable of that position. What I do know is if I can have the race I’ve been training for, leave nothing in the tank and enjoy it I’ll be very satisfied and happy with a job well done.”
Speaking of well done, organizer Frank Clark and his team from First Tier Sports Productions have been putting on a first tier event since 2003. The Paymark XTERRA Rotorua Festival is one of the single biggest multisport events in the world, with more than 2,000 racers taking part in a variety of challenges including a 5.5 km, 11km or 21km walk or run, a 26km mountain bike as well as a team or individual triathlon.
“At XTERRA we want everyone to “Live More” so that means getting out there and giving it a go, whether it be doing the 11km trail walk or racing on an XTERRA team. We have events for everyone, including a Kids Zone,” said Clark, a racer himself who went head-to-head against the likes of Conrad Stoltz in France back in the 90’s.
More information can be found at www.xterra.co.nz and follow along on race day, April 11, on their Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Paymark-XTERRA-Rotorua-Festival.
XTERRA ANZ DOUBLE
Among the many adventure-rich journey opportunities on this year’s XTERRA World Tour is a gem in Oceania with XTERRA New Zealand in Rotorua on April 11 and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in New South Wales, Australia the following Saturday on April 18.
Dozens of racers are taken on the challenge this year – highlighted by Conrad Stoltz and Suzie Snyder – and XTERRA will recognize the fastest pro and age group male and female finishers with special “Double” trophies.
The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, which again doubles as the XTERRA Australia Championship, is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.
Up for grabs is $50,000 AUD in pro prize money and the title of Asia-Pacific champion in every division. The event will also serve as XTERRA’s Australian Championship – giving Aussies the chance to grab this very special national title; and it’ll be televised for international distribution.
The men’s elite field is stacked with seven-time World Champ Conrad Stoltz of South Africa, hometown hero and two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson from the Gold Coast, Kiwi adventure racing star Braden Currie, and Australian XTERRA superstar Ben Allen from Wollongong leading the way.
The women’s elite field features reigning XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, four-time XTERRA European Tour Champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland, former XTERRA USA National Champion Suzie Snyder, XTERRA Triple Crown champ Jacqui Slack of the United Kingdom, eight-time time World Tour race winner Carina Wasle of Austria, and Ironman star Caroline Steffen.
For more information visit www.xterraasiapacific.com.
XTERRA GUAM PRO RACE PREVIEW
The 11th annual XTERRA Guam Championship on Saturday will serve as the third of five stops on the 2015 XTERRA Asian Tour, and most of the major players are on island to take part.
In the men’s race all eyes are on Brad Weiss from South Africa, who won the XTERRA Philippines Championship to open the season, and Ben Allen from Australia, who won the XTERRA Saipan Championship just two weeks ago.
“I’ve been out here for almost a month now and these races (Saipan/Guam) are tough, honest courses,” said Allen, the 2012 and 2013 XTERRA Guam Champ. “It gives you an idea as to where you are at, at the beginning of the season. Steep climbs, natural rugged terrain and the heat and humidity provide the perfect opportunity to race and train in similar conditions to Maui for the World Champs. It’s also a great stepping stone towards the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs which is the main focus for the first half of the season.”
Nearly a dozen pros this year used the Tagaman Triathlon, XTERRA Saipan, and XTERRA Guam races as a great excuse to live and train in the Marianas for a month.
“Being in the warmth and getting your daily dose of vitamin D, always brings a smile to your face. You spend your days’ outdoors exploring and living life, the way we should…” is how Allen described it.
For Weiss, the trip came at a great time for a mix of solid training and healthy recovery from an early ITB issue.
“Training is finally back to some form of normality but the body is certainly feeling a little sluggish with the added running volume,” said Weiss. “Just incredibly grateful to be running pain free again and the injury seems to be well and truly a thing of the past. Guam provides a really challenging mountain bike course and truly tests the full array of skills. It has it all from steep climbs to fun flowing pump track style racing. It really is a favorite of mine and I look forward to racing here on the 11th. It has already been a great week of training and I look forward to continuing the momentum into next week. I may be a little fatigued going into the race but there is a long season ahead I must prepare for. Regardless, racing in Guam is always incredibly fun.”
The elites racing overseas have also been of great value to the local community, and have taken advantages of opportunities to meet with the island youth and inspire them with their stories.
“Kanae Quinn (long-time XTERRA racer and supporter from Saipan) gave me the opportunity to come and talk with her students about my job of being a professional XTERRA athlete as well as the country I come from,” said Weiss. “Many had never heard of South Africa or triathlon for that matter. A truly awesome experience all round. I am very grateful to Kanae and what she’s doing. It’s very cool to see how she’s helping the local students broaden their horizons.”
In the women’s race the reigning and three-time XTERRA Guam Champ Renata Bucher is back to defend her title, but will be up against familiar foes (friends, really) in recent Saipan winner Jacqui Slack, hometown favorite Mieko Carey, and Austrian Carina Wasle.
“This will be my 3rd time in Guam,” said Slack, who won the 2013 edition. “Similar to Saipan I love the natural courses as opposed to the man-made trails. There is heaps of climbing and riding in the red dirt is something special, it’s a great test of awareness and ability as you have to negotiate the terrain to pick the correct lines. We also have a great home stay, we love spending time with Cameron and Karly as they show us all the best spots on Island. Eric’s band is pretty good too and makes for a pretty awesome after party.”
Indeed “Mojo” has been rocking XTERRA for a decade now.
As for her favorite part of the course, Slack says “it has to be the waterfall, you need to be pretty gutsy to allow yourself to jump from those heights into the rock pools it’s pretty slippery so a good level of skill and fearlessness is required.”
Like the others, Slack said she relishes the opportunity to race in train on the islands.
“It’s pretty incredible to be able to train on mountainous terrain, natural bush land and crystal clear waters, being on a small island allows you to relax and recover much easier as there are less distractions. It’s been great to get into a routine and I’ve had plenty of time to prepare well for Guam and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs next weekend.”
Wasle, who travels as much as anyone around the world with XTERRA, is quick to agree…
“After XTERRA Saipan I stayed one-week longer on this beautiful island together with Austrian Markus Benesch, who will also compete at XTERRA Guam,” said Wasle. “The training was quite good and also quite fun biking and running through the jungle. Swimming in the ocean is just amazing. Warm water and lots of fish. I have never sweat so much, but now I think I’m better used to the heat and humidity. Beside training and getting ready for the next race, there was so much fun things to do, like archery, paddeling, snorkeling, basketball, surfing…..It never got boring. Perfect training and racing vacation.”
2015 XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS
XTERRA Guam and New Zealand are just two of 40 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the world can qualify to race at the 20th annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on November 1, 2015.
* European Tour / + Asian Tour / # America Tour / ! Canada Series / = Hawaii qualifiers