XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Opener Saturday at Lake Las Vegas

April 11th, 2013

Sports biggest stars Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh highlight men's field; while Lesley Paterson, Shonny Vanlandingham, and Melanie McQuaid lead the charge for the women.

XTERRA West Championship Press Guide

Henderson, Nevada (April 11, 2013) –  The XTERRA U.S. Pro Series opener at the Aston Montelago Resort overlooking Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada on Saturday, April 13 will feature some of the sports biggest stars with Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh highlighting the men’s field; and Lesley Paterson, Shonny Vanlandingham, and Melanie McQuaid leading the charge for the women.

We caught up with XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas to get his thoughts on the upcoming XTERRA West Championship pro race…

“The long winter is over and Spring brings with it a new XTERRA season,” wrote Nicholas.  “The first few weekends of points series races is in the books, and the first Championship weekend is here.

There is little doubt that Lesley Paterson has stamped her mark on XTERRA.  Now a two-time world champ and an amazing 3rd overall in the Philippines surely must make her the favorite going into the year.  The men have been all about Conrad versus Josiah and for Vegas I don’t see an obvious change.

Craig Evans has shown fantastic bursts of speed and can never be taken lightly along with Branden Rakita who is oh so close at times. Will “the thrill” Kelsey gets stronger every year and at 31 – is the youngest of the five.  Dan Hugo won’t be in Vegas but will return to the U.S. for Pelham and Richmond and is always at the sharp end of the field.

For the women, former world champ Shonny Vanlandingham seems ready to return to the top step. She raced really well in South Africa on the bike and has had over a month to get her running legs under her.

Never to be dismissed is three-time world champ Melanie McQuaid. Mel started the season at the Oceanside 70.3 to get her season going and has not had a season without a win in a dozen years. Fellow Canadian Danelle Kabush broke through with a win of her own in Colorado last year and has always been a fierce competitor while the defending USA national champ Suzie Snyder, like Kelsey, is only 31 and getting faster every year.

There are 14 pro women scheduled with great names like Christine “Big Fish” Jeffrey; and Emma Garrard and Kelley Cullen return from becoming Mom’s.  Among the 14 pro men are some experienced XTERRA guys like Ryan Ignatz, Matt Lieto, youngster Will Ross and Chris Ganter.

Looks like a terrific start to the year and regardless of the outcomes a great after party Saturday at the Westin Pool deck should be a ton of fun with adult beverages and lots of war stories.”


Here’s a look at the latest pro start list for Saturday’s race. Rank is where they finished in last year’s XTERRA U.S. Pro Series final standings. NR means they were not ranked.

Rank – Men – Age, Hometown 1 – Conrad Stoltz – 39, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2 – Josiah Middaugh – 34, Eagle-Vail, Colorado 4 – Craig Evans – 35, Hendersonville, Tennessee 5 – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado 6 – Will Kelsay – 31, Boulder, Colorado 9 – Will Ross – 23, Anchorage, Alaska 11 – Damian Gonzalez – 36, Stockton, California 12 – Ryan Ignatz – 34, Boulder, Colorado 28 – Chris Ganter – 34, Boise, Idaho NR – Matt Lieto – 34, Bend, Oregon NR – Matt Mangen – 30, Ivins, Utah NR – Joshua Merrick – 42, Alamosa, Colorado NR – Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado NR – Matt Sheeks – Woodinville, WA NR – Nick Fisher – Ogden, Utah NR – Zach Winter – Roseburg, OR

Rank – Women – Age, Hometown 1 – Lesley Paterson – 32, San Diego, California 2 – Melanie McQuaid – 39, Victoria, B.C., Canada 4 – Danelle Kabush – 37, Calgary, Alberta, Canada 5 – Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia 6 – Tamara Donelson – 37, Edwards, Colorado 9 – Caroline Colonna – 48, Taos, New Mexico 10 – Shonny Vanlandingham – 43, Durango, Colorado 12 – Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah 14 - Christine Jeffrey – 40, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 22 – Brandi Heisterman – 37, Squamish, B.C., Canada NR – Jamie Brede – 35, Breckenridge, Colorado NR – Rachel Challis – 37, Carlsbad, California NR – Kelley Cullen – 32, New Castle, Colorado NR – Lauren Harrison – 35, Los Altos, California  NR – Jennifer Gersbach – 34, Durango, Colorado


Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz  enters his 13th year of XTERRA racing Saturday with an unprecedented four XTERRA World Titles, a pair of ITU Cross Tri World titles, and 50 XTERRA race wins under his belt.

His very first of those 50 happened on August 19, 2001 at the XTERRA West Championship in Half Moon Bay, California, and he’s won the West regional nine times since including five of the last six.

When the XTERRA crew rolled in to Lake Las Vegas Resort on Monday to unload the container, the Caveman was the first person they saw, pulling a great big bike out of a little tiny car.  We cornered him, and got his thoughts heading into the 2013 season…

XTERRA: You raced a lot in the off-season, any injuries, or concerns?

Caveman: No, after three years of net being able to run much because of injury, I’ve finally been able to train some running. I really missed running- there is that something special about running you don’t get from other sports. Other than the great time/fatigue ratio…

For fun, I decided to do the Abu Dhabi long distance tri in Feb. The long hours’ training was definitely a shock to the system, but we think all those hours at tempo will have some interesting effects (positive!) on my long racing season.

XTERRA: Here in Vegas, you and Josiah Middaugh have had some pretty good battles. In the first three years of racing here a total of 12 seconds was the difference in your finish times.  Josiah won in 2011, you’ve won the other three, including last year. Any specific game plan for the 2013 showdown?

Caveman: Other than: “Keep it in the big blade?!” Josiah had a great race at Worlds last year and definitely ups his game every year (Clearly he too, trains scientifically). This Vegas bike and run course is quite hilly and non-technical, both aspects play into his hand, so the racing is guaranteed to be hard, fast and painful!

XTERRA: Your next several months are jam-packed, is your spirit of adventure/competition still burning strong, ready to tackle the challenges ahead?

Caveman: I love adventure, adrenaline, lactic acid and visiting interesting places. A perfect fit for most XTERRA venues. Princess Hotstuff and I are going to Brazil and Italy for the XTERRAs there- which we are really looking forward. There is also ITU Cross Tri Worlds in Den Haag, Holland, I’m excited to race on the dunes and beaches. And defend my World title!

Other fun races this year: – Sea Otter Festival Short Track and XC – Rev 3’s in Knoxville and Main – BE Off road racing in Craig Evans’ backyard – TriLanai on the island of Lanai, Hawaii – perfect fun race the week after XTERRA Worlds.

What can I say- I love fun racing!


XTERRA has long been known for its easy going and incredibly supportive community, filled with inspirational and humble characters all around – from the first finisher to the last.

It is this established collection of role models, more interested in the “Live More” lifestyle and thrill of adventure than anything else, that perpetually attracts like-minded souls into the sport.

At the XTERRA West Championship on Saturday – amidst a sea of regulars who’ve raced off-road for more than a decade – are a few first timers.  Although they may be new to XTERRA, their stories ring a familiar bell – of passion and dedication – and we’d like to welcome them to the Tribe…

Winter Vinecki – Winter may be the most ambitious person you could ever meet. She also happens to be an extraordinary endurance athlete who will be making her XTERRA debut this weekend.

Winter is only 14, but is already an established name in the sports of triathlon, distance running, and aerial skiing. In keeping with her enterprising year-round schedule, her XTERRA debut will cover two days of competition. Winter will compete in both the XTERRA West Championship off-road triathlon on Saturday, April 13, and the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run 21-kilometer race on Sunday, April 14.

“The one great thing about being young is our remarkable ability to recover quickly,” Winter said. “I’ve done numerous triathlons back-to-back, such as youth draft legal or spring tri one day and Olympic distance triathlon the next. I’ve also combined triathlons and running events on the same weekend. I run five days a week for my marathon training and will use the XTERRA Trail Run as training for my next marathon on the Inca Trail in June. I will see how I feel on Sunday and determine at that time how hard I will push the pace on the 21K. This is my very first race with XTERRA so it will be a learning weekend for me.”

It might be a learning weekend for Winter, but everyone could use a lesson from her as well. This XTERRA weekend is the latest in her journey around the world to raise awareness for prostate cancer.

In 2009, Michael Vinecki – Winter’s father – died less than a year after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Shortly after, Winter and her mother started the non-profit Team Winter to bring attention prostate cancer awareness.

“Since I’m racing for a cause, my non-profit Team Winter, I find myself always trying to do my very best and setting big goals and dreams,” she said. “I race not for myself, but in memory of my dad and the 1 in 6 men affected by prostate cancer. My goal this season is to qualify for XTERRA World Championships either through a qualifying race like Vegas or through points. I never look at my age as a barrier.”

Because of her busy schedule, Winter completes her school work online through EPGY (Educational Program for Gifted Youth), run by Stanford University. She is originally from Michigan, but now resides in Park City, Utah, so she can train year-round in her various sports.

Her most ambitious project for 2013 involves “seven marathons on seven continents.” Winter has already completed marathons in North America (Oregon), Africa (Kenya) and Antarctica. Later this year, she plans to run marathons in South America (Peru), Asia (Mongolia), New Zealand and Europe (Greece).

The Antarctica event was just last week, and she became the youngest runner ever to complete a marathon on that continent.

“Running a marathon in Antarctica cannot really be explained,” she said. “It is one of those things you just need to experience first-hand. The marathon to me was not just the day of the race. Ninety percent of the marathon was just traveling to and from Antarctica and all the obstacles you face along the way. The marathon was about falling in love with a continent and the beauty and secrets it holds.”

Winter has been competing in triathlons since she was 5, and is a two-time IronKids National Champion. This weekend, however, will be her first major off-road events, including her first competition on a mountain bike (the XTERRA West Championship triathlon consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 30K mountain bike, and a 10K trail run).

If Winter places first in her age group during Saturday’s triathlon, she will qualify for the 2013 XTERRA World Championship on Maui later this year. It won’t be easy though, as her age division includes the reigning XTERRA amateur world champ, Hannah Rae Finchamp.

“It will give me a chance to gain experience amongst some of the best triathletes in this off-road series,” Winter said.

“Achieving my goal of qualifying for Worlds will mean more awareness for prostate cancer and more people knowing my story. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m always up for a challenge, and as I always tell others, Never Give In!”

Sam Cila – “Snoble’s fault, I blame him,” said Sam Cila on how he ended up on the start list for Saturday’s XTERRA West Championship.

Cila is referring to fellow New Yorker Anthony Snoble, a long-time XTERRA racer and ambassador and last year’s Double Champ having posted the best combined time at the Hawaii Ironman and XTERRA World Championship races.

Snoble met Cila through a friend of a friend at a pivotal time in his life.

“He was in a dark place for some pretty obvious reasons. Was having a ton of trouble with his hand, and just depressed,” explained Snoble.

Cila, an Army Sergeant, was more than half-way through a year-long combat tour in Iraq when on July 4, 2005, he was wounded in an IED blast while on patrol just outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The sever blast wounds Cila sustained left him with limited left arm mobility and no use of his left hand, which eventually had to be amputated in December of 2008.

“I tracked down Willie Stewart’s number and hooked those two up,” said Snoble.  Snoble knew Stewart, an inspirational above-the-elbow amputee, from the XTERRA races.  “Whatever Willie said to him got him going, got him stoked. Doing triathlon pulled him out of a whole.”

Cila has since become a source of inspiration for all of those lucky enough to hear him talk, and see him compete.  He’s key player in Operation Rebound, a program run by the Challenged Athletes Foundation which helps wounded vets and first responders get back on their feet by participating in athletic competitions that may seem otherwise impossible.

Cila has competed in numerous triathlons, cycled the Pacific Coast Highway and finished the Ironman World Championship in 2010. On Saturday, he’ll be doing his first XTERRA, just a couple miles away from where his Dad lives here at Lake Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I am fired up to race my first XTERRA,” said Cila.  “What really excites me is the guys racing, great guys with killer mindsets! Craig and I know each other and Jamie and I have a bunch of mutual friends. Looking forward to meeting Michael as well.  Competition is steep here, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Indeed, the PC division is stacked with Cila, Craig Vogtsberger, Jamie Brown, and Michael Stone all racing on Saturday.

“He’s an inspiration to everyone,” said Snoble of Cila.  “He swims in my swim class, and just blows people away, and is the coolest guy.  He may be missing a hand, but he doesn’t miss a beat.”

For his part, Cila feels the same way about Snoble and Stewart.

“I love Willie and Anthony.  Those guys are awesome, and big contributors in me getting back on my feet.”

Jamie Brown Jamie is another PC athlete taking on XTERRA for the first time.  He’s also a member of the Challenged Athletes Foundation Elite Paratriathlon Team that focuses on the development of top performing U.S. paratriathletes in anticipation of the inaugural inclusion of paratriathlon in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

We share his story here, courtesy of the Challenged Athletes Foundation…

Like many little leaguers Jamie Brown dreamed of growing up to play high school and collegiate baseball. He lived to play the game and was a rising star on his team. And to his teammates Jamie was simply a pitcher, an athlete, a friend. But there was something different about Jamie – Jamie was an amputee.

Born missing his fibula in his right leg and three fingers on his right hand due to a congenital birth defect, at just 11 months Jamie had the surgery that would change the rest of his life. His parents decided to amputate his leg to give him the best change at living a normal and active life just like other young boys. Just two weeks after his surgery he was fit for his first prosthetic, and from that moment he was off and running.

A Natural Athlete From a young age, Jamie’s parents got him involved in as many sports and athletic events as possible to keep him from feeling different than other kids. So you name it, he’s played it! While most kids grow up playing one or two sports, Jamie played roller hockey, soccer, football, basketball, skiing, and wakeboarding – but, by far, his favorite sport was baseball.

With much hard work and determination he was a two-time all-league player in arguably the strongest high school baseball league in the nation. He then earned a college scholarship and played at Chapman University. In 2001 Jamie even played in the College Baseball World Series.

The Road Blocks After college Jamie discovered the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), an organization that helps athletes with physical disabilities so they can play the sports they love. Jamie attended the CAF San Diego Triathlon Challenge and fell in love with the sport of triathlon. But with this new sport he learned he needed new equipment like a running leg and cycling leg, expensive pieces of adaptive equipment his medical insurance wouldn’t cover. But fortunately CAF was there to help.

Overcoming Obstacles To Succeed The Challenged Athletes Foundation provided Jamie with a running leg and coaching at the CAF Dodge Paratriathlon Camp. And just last year he took first place at the USAT Paratriathlon Championship in New York City. This July Jamie will head back to defend his title in New York. While hard work and support from family and friends have helped Jamie in becoming the champion he is today, he wouldn’t be at the starting line without his prosthetics and adaptive equipment and proper training to learn how to use it.

When you donate to CAF you help athletes like Jamie get the equipment and tools they need to succeed in sports.

Here at the XTERRA West Championship, Paul Mitchell stylists will cut hair from 10am-2pm on Saturday and 9am-12noon on Sunday at the finish line area and 100% of the proceeds will go to the CAF.


For amateur racers the XTERRA West Championship is a qualifier for not only the XTERRA World Championship in Maui, but also for those wanting to represent Team USA at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship to be held July 13, 2013 at Den Hague, Netherlands.  Age group athletes that finish in the top 33% of their division qualify for Team USA.


There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding the current and former Mr. XTERRA award-winners here at the West Championship race.  Last year’s winner, Jay Heller, doubles as Mr. Las Vegas as well.

Heller, a long-time Las Vegas resident, has been instrumental in pulling all the pieces of the puzzle together so XTERRA can put on a good show here.  He’s gathered the volunteers, and the water, and the recovery food, and the bike tech, connected this person with that person and received and stored truckloads of miscellaneous shipments sent to his house over the past few months, all the while maintaining his own business and family life.

On Saturday he’ll get to relax…and race in the championship.  He’s been racing XTERRA since ’97, and will get the whole family dirty on Sunday as Elliana, Blake, Charles, Rebecca, and Michele join him in the trail run.

2007 Mr. XTERRA Will Kelsay is here – and has another killer racing schedule lined up that will take him all over the U.S. and to France, Italy, and Mexico as well.  This year he has even taken on the role of “American ambassador” to XTERRA Mexico. Seriously, all those wanting a great adventure south of the border need to write him, will@willkelsay.com. He’s got travel plans and itineraries brewing.

“I’m always in the mood for an adventure. Big or small, sane or crazy, if it sounds like it could be fun (or make for a good story), I’m always game,” said Kelsay.

Mr. XTERRA 2006 Courtney Cardenas is in town too – and will be making his inaugural ride and run as Guide to the great Michael Stone, a two-time XTERRA USA PC Champ.  Stone is legally blind, and if you want to see what it’s like to ride a bike through his eyes, check this out.  It’ll be Courtney’s job to keep him straight and keep him safe.

The 2004 winner is here too, and you can read what kind of impact Anthony Snoble has had on this race by reading the Sam Cila story to the left.

Sometimes the Mr. XTERRA award goes to a “Mrs. XTERRA” and that applies to Barbara Peterson (2003) who is back on the start list and as fast as ever, having done over 100 XTERRA’s and pulling in her 10th regional championship in the West region 55-59 division last year.

Then there’s Billy Anderson, Mr. XTERRA 2003, who’s not in Vegas but you’d think he was based on this picture of him with the famous Guy Fieri of the Food Network yesterday in Chicago.  Apparently the two hit the town last night and at some point Billy got called out for his twitter handle, @mrxterra, and had to phone a friend to get a pic of the perpetual trophy with his name on it to prove he was indeed, Mr. XTERRA. Pic came thru, and he won that bet, we hope.

They are legends, one and all.

XTERRA West Championship Key Times

Friday, April 12

2-5pm : Registration, packet pick-up, pre-swim allowed

4pm : Race briefing & XTERRA University, presented by Paul Mitchell, led by XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson and XTERRA USA Champ Josiah Middaugh.  Race director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas will also be on hand to answer any questions.

Saturday, April 13

8:30am : XTERRA Sprint race start

10:30am : XTERRA West Championship race start

10:00am-2:00pm : Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon

2pm: XTERRA After-party at Westin Montelago pool (food & drink specials for XTERRA athletes)

Sunday, April 14

8:30am : 21k trail run / 8:35am 10k / 8:40am 5k

9am-12:00pm : Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon

The 2013 XTERRA West Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell and AVIA. Sponsors include the Utah Sports Commission, Muscle Milk, XTERRA Wetsuits, PowerBar, Gatorade, XTERRA Fitness, Zorrel, Rudy Project, Aston MonteLago Village Resort, LifeProof, FootBalance, Choice Hotels, McGhies Bike and Board, Aquafina, and Walmart.

About TEAM Unlimited/XTERRA

TEAM Unlimited is a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, founded in 1988.  It owns and produces XTERRA and in 2013 will offer more than 100 XTERRA off-road triathlon and trail running races in 18 countries worldwide.  In the U.S. alone nearly 200,000 participants took part in the XTERRA lifestyle last year.  In addition, TEAM TV has produced more than 300 adventure television shows resulting in three Emmy’s and 42 Telly Awards for production excellence since 1990.  View samples at www.xterra.tv, and learn more at xterraplanet.com and xterratrailrun.com.


TEAM Unlimited / XTERRA

XTERRA U.S. Pro Series Opener Saturday at Lake Las Vegas

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Trey Garman

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