XTERRA World Championships this weekend in Maui
December 1, 2021
Star-studded elite fields are headed to Maui for the XTERRA World Championships of trail running and triathlon this weekend, led by Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Flora Duffy of Bermuda.
/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – “If it wasn’t unpredictable, it wouldn’t’ be XTERRA,” exclaimed 15-time XTERRA World Championship participant and three-time women’s elite winner, Melanie McQuaid from Canada.
Indeed, the saying that ‘Mother Nature is your toughest competitor’ has been XTERRA’s mantra since the sports’ inception in 1996 on the island of Maui.
The wild unpredictability is what lures athletes to the challenge, and the 25th edition of the XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon this Sunday, December 5, 2021, at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui is living up to it this week.
The weather, trail conditions, surf conditions, even the start list is day-to-day.
Reigning and two-time men’s elite champion Bradley Weiss from South Africa was unable to travel to the U.S. this week due to the covid-related travel ban put in place on Monday. His good mate, Sam Osborne from New Zealand, who has been as fast as any man over the past two years, wasn’t lucky enough to win the lottery to secure a quarantine spot upon return to Auckland and is also out.
Big rain is in the forecast, big waves too, and the Maui County lifeguards – a collection of the best watermen on earth – are watching conditions at D.T. Fleming Beach closely. While the Maui swim has never been cancelled due to surf, monster waves are another story altogether, and if the ocean safety team doesn’t think it can protect life, the swim is off.
As for the trails, 2015 XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh summed it up yesterday, posting, “The course changes by the hour. Yesterday tacky and great, today a bit too sloppy. We either need more rain or less rain…”
Clear as mud! Yet still, the XTERRA Family is rolling into Maui from around the world this week with big smiles and open hearts, happy to be together, and excited for the opportunity to race in Maui.
In the men’s elite race, a whole lot of Maui first-timers are coming to shake things up, and with the lack of international racing over the pandemic it’s hard to tell how everyone will stack up.
“There are more unknowns this year than ever, since it has been two years since that last World Championship,” said Middaugh. “That means some young racers have had time to develop and some racers have had time to slack off. There have been less head-to-head matchups so it is tough to know how strong guys are in each discipline. The Europeans have had several competitions and established somewhat of a pecking order, but it is still hard to know how they match up against the rest of the field. Then you throw a couple Olympians into the mix and four past world champions and it gets really exciting.”
*Bib # – Name NAT
2 – Arthur Serrieres FRA
3 – Ruben Ruzafa ESP
5 – Josiah Middaugh USA
6 – Karel Dusek CZE
7 – Maxim Chane FRA
8 – Xavier Dafflon SUI
9 – Geert Lauryssen BEL
10 – Rom Akerson CRC
11 – Branden Rakita USA
12 – Taylor Charlton AUS
14 – Andy Lee GBR
15 – Samuel Jud SUI
16 – Florian Bogge GER
17 – Sebastien Carabin BEL
18 – Brice Daubord FRA
19 – Austin Hindman USA
20 – Eric Lagerstrom USA
21 – Mauricio Mendez MEX
22 – Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen DEN
23 – Keller Norland USA
24 – Edward Oingerang GUM
25 – Irving Perez MEX
27 – Seth Rider USA
28 – Hans Ryham USA
29 – Francisco Serrano MEX
30 – Drew Shellenberger USA
31 – Darr Smith USA
33 – Jimmy Sosinski USA
34 – Brian Summers USA
35 – Hayden Wilde NZL
In the women’s elite race, all eyes are on five-time XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy, but remember the theme this week is anything can happen.
“I’ve got no expectations, just appreciation that I am still competitive this late in my career so why not go and compete,” said three-time XTERRA World Champ and two-time ITU Cross Tri World Champ, Melanie McQuaid.
“I am sure the level (not even counting Flora) is really high so no idea how I am going to stack up. It is a fact-finding mission for me to see the new course and see the level of competition both at a pro and AG level. I coach athletes that aspire to the podium in these races (and have two racing this year) so being in Maui keeps me in touch with how the sport is evolving. You don’t know what you don’t know … so I am going to toe the line to go and learn something.”
See how it all shakes out this Sunday starting at 8am Hawaii time here:
Live Timing: https://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-63791
Highlight video will be up Sunday night on https://www.facebook.com/XTERRAplanet
*Bib# – Name NAT
51 – Flora Duffy BER
52 – Suzie Snyder USA
53 – Alizee Paties FRA
55 – Carina Wasle AUT
56 – Amanda Felder USA
57 – Katie Button CAN
61 – Loanne Duvoisin SUI
62 – Michelle Flipo MEX
64 – Melanie McQuaid CAN
65 – Irena Ossola USA
66 – Eleonora Peroncini ITA
67 – Chelsea Raymond CAN
68 – Brandi Swicegood USA
*Bib numbers based on finishing position at 2019 World Championship, then alpha
XTERRA Trail Run Worlds this Saturday in Maui
USA Track & Field’s 2021 MUT Runners of the Year, Joseph Gray and Grayson Murphy, highlight an all-star cast of trail runners from the US Mountain Running Team racing in Saturday’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship half-marathon at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
Other US team members racing in Maui include Eddie Owens (Larkspur, CA), Joseph DeMoor (Carbondale, CO), and Andy Wacker (Boulder, CO) for the men; and Rachel Tomajczyk (Lynchburg, VA), Bailey Kowalczyk (Nederland, CO), and Megan Lacy (Boise, ID) for the women.
These eight elite athletes qualified for the US team at the USATF Mountain Running Championships held this past August in conjunction with the Gnar race at Mt Hood, Oregon.
“Racing for Team USA is always an honor, and I am so happy we will get to do that this year,” said defending XTERRA Trail Run World Champion Grayson Murphy (read full article at trailrunner.com). “XTERRA World Champs is one of my favorite races ever so I can’t wait to share that with my USA teammates this year!”
Polina Hodnette, a two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ who finished second behind Murphy in 2019 and second behind Daniela Moreno in 2018, has traveled in from Chicago for another shot at the crown and a chance to visit Hawaii, where she called home for many years.
“Chicago is great, but I do miss Hawaii a lot,” she said. “And I’m excited about the race going to Maui, and I can’t wait to experience the new course!”
After 12 years of racing at Kualoa Ranch, this will be the first year for Trail Run Worlds in Maui, so it will be a new experience for all involved.
“I’ve never raced here before and I always love exploring new trails so I’m most excited for beautiful views on the trails and great competition,” said Rachel Tomajczyk.
For Megan Lacy and Bailey Kowalczyk, the fun part is getting to wear the USMRT red, white, and blue race kits and to be part of a team.
“As someone who doesn’t represent a specific team right now in normal races, I am looking forward to getting to experience that again by racing as a team, and I look forward to spending the whole weekend with the rest of Team USA and getting to know all the other athletes better,” said Lacy.
Kowalczyk, the youngest athlete on the US team, was quick to agree.
“I am very excited to race on my first US mountain team! During a hectic time in the world, it is really great that we will be given the opportunity to race as a team in some capacity! I have dreamt of being on a US team since running track in high school and college, and it will be amazing to live out that dream. This will also be my first time to Hawaii, and my first XTERRA worlds race. From what I have seen so far, I am expecting a very fast course, and am preparing accordingly. I am very excited to finish out the season wearing red, white and blue!”
In the men’s race, Andy Wacker is no stranger to XTERRA Trail Run Worlds. He finished fourth in 2019, and third in both 2017 and 2018.
“Each of the three times I have raced the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship has been an incredible experience,” he said. “The competition, the scenery, and the people behind the race are what keep me coming back. I’ll never forget watching the sunrise over the Hawaiian Islands, or jumping into the Pacific after the race. Being part of Team USA makes this year even more special. Team championships bring out the best in runners. It makes the race more competitive, and also creates a positive atmosphere, where teammates can push each other to achieve a bigger goal. Wearing the USA jersey is always special, and has led to some of the biggest achievements of my life!”
In addition to his speedy teammates, Wacker will have to contend with three-time XTERRA U.S. Trail Run National Champion Brett Hales.
“I have respect for Andy Wacker and the rest of the US Mountain Running Team, and honestly don’t know what kind of trail shape I’m in but I can guarantee that once I toe the line, the Maui course is going to get everything I’ve got. Maybe I play spoiler, you never know,” said Hales, who finished second behind Gray at the 2018 World Championship.
XTERRA Worlds Amateur Race Preview
This weekend, some of the fittest off-road athletes in the world will be lining up on D.T. Fleming Beach in Kapalua for the 25th XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon.
They speak Italian, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, and English. They’re tall and short; fair and dark; giddy and nervous. The youngest are a trio of 15-year-olds – Antonios Lafis from Greece, AJ Stacey from Tennessee, and Julia Allred from Utah. The most experienced are 84-year-old Manfred Klittich from Germany and Jo Garuccio, 70, from Utah.
They’re all in Maui for an endurance challenge like no other, starting with the intimidating waves of a 1.5K rough water swim then on to a tropical roller coaster of a 31K mountain bike ride just to get to a final, grueling stretch of soft beach sand before the finish of the 11K trail run.
Trying to guess who can manage this beast of a course the best to win the overall amateur crowns is a tough task. With hundreds of the fastest age groupers in XTERRA representing 35 countries across the globe on the start line, there’s just no way of telling who is coming in healthy, happy, and determined to take the title.
History, however, gives us some clues.
Anders Johnson and Hite Stromberg from Utah posted elite-level mountain bike performances to finish 6th and 8th overall in a field full of legit pros at the XTERRA U.S. Champs in September, and both have come to Maui to take it to the next level.
“I’m going to give it my all to represent the USA,” said Johnson, a researcher at Stanford who is currently studying the genetics of elite athletes within the department of cardiovascular medicine.
Sullivan Middaugh, 17, son of 15x XTERRA US Champ Josiah Middaugh, placed sixth overall at XTERRA Beaver Creek in July. He had the fourth best bike split of the day behind only four iconic elites = his dad, who finished third, Sam Long who was second, and Sam Osborne who won it.
Edmond Roy is a speedster from Canada who raced in the elite field in 2019, but is back racing age group after a couple years away from serious training (but you know he can still fly).
Look out for Jason Michalak who placed 10th overall (3rd amateur) at the USA Champs, plus Dwayne Dixon and Michael Dorr who were right behind him among the top five amateurs at Nationals.
And for every international age grouper, man and woman, who went all-in to make it to Maui amid a sea of pandemic uncertainty, getting to the start line is half the battle – and the opportunity is golden.
In the women’s amateur race, Cathy Yndestadt, who last raced Maui 15 years ago when she placed third in the 25-29 division, returned to off-road racing in grand fashion this summer at XTERRA Beaver Creek by winning the women’s amateur title, and placed a remarkable fourth overall. She’s fast, and having fun.
“After 20 years in the sport of triathlon, I choose my events now based on beautiful locations/courses and/or joining great friends,” she said. Maui checks all those boxes!
Jennifer Johnson, Amber Tingey, and Holly Wright all had standout performances this season, as did Abbi Milner and Julia Allred.
There are three age groupers back to defend their titles from 2019, including Lorenn Walker (65-59) who is shooting to win her 8th XTERRA World Championship, Alan Moore (70-74) looking for two in a row, and the legend Cal Zaryski (pictured above) from Canada who is going for his 10th title which would tie him with Peter Wood for most amateur crowns.
There’s also an awesome group of racers in the physically challenged division this year with Craig Vogtsberger of the U.S., Maui first-timer Miroslav Motejzik from the Czech Republic, and the amazing Pepe Candon from Spain.
There are other titles on the line as well, like most XTERRA World Championships completed. That honor belongs to two Maui racers – Gerry Clark (pictured below) and Steve Fisher – who have done every one so far … 24 and counting. Jay Heller is back in Maui for his 23rd Worlds, Lorenn Walker and GL Brown will be doing their 21st, and Josiah Middaugh will join the exclusive 20+ club this year.
They keep coming back because Maui offers an unforgettable race experience, and has remained true to its heritage as a challenge against both the best in the sport as well as a test against Mother Nature.
Of course, the beauty of XTERRA is the people, who will inevitably surprise us with their talent, grit, and grace.