After 15 years on Maui’s south shore, the iconic off-road race moves from Makena to Kapalua.
If you’ve ever raced the Xterra World Championship, you’ve experienced the white-knuckled ride down the jagged face of Haleakela under an unrelenting, scorching sun. Maybe you even still have the trail rash to prove it.
You can say “good-bye” to The Plunge and “aloha” to the Kapalua rainforest, part of the new venue for the Xterra World Championship (October 23) on Maui’s northwest coast. Xterra reps describe the new racecourse as “a tropical roller-coaster ride through pineapple fields and forests.”
Sounds fun, huh?
In creating the new course, the Xterra crew explored much of Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s private 22,000-acre property to devise an 18-mile mountain bike loop and six-mile trail run route worthy of the world’s best athletes.
“This course will give our competitors a new and exciting taste of Hawaii,” says Xterra managing director Dave Nicholas.
The race starts with a 1.5-kilometer rough water swim (read: big surf) at Flemings Beach fronting the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Both transitions and the finish line are a few hundred feet above the ocean at the resort’s lawn area. The bike is one big loop that goes up-and-down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains more than a dozen times.
“First blush of the bike course shows 18 miles with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain,” says Nicholas. “The terrain varies from hard-packed red dirt to new single track peeled out of an abandoned golf course that now rides like high speed grassland cross-country trails. There are major gulch crossings that drop into riverbeds and head-high vegetation to navigate through. One thing is for certain, to do well riders will need to bring their climbing legs and descending courage.”
Once on the run competitors will be faced with a whole lot of climbing while they weave along dirt trails, through Oleander forests, and into 60-foot high ironwood evergreens to an unexpected mountain lake at the 650-foot level.
“It descends like a slalom course through high green Bermuda grasses and opens up in spots to expose fantastic views of the Pacific,” explains Nicholas. “Obstacles are everywhere, including a technical, steep downhill into a gully where racers will have to jump over and duck under fallen trees, navigate a rocky dry creek, head through thick elephant grass, into a Cook pine nursery, up a short rope-assisted scramble and along a narrow single track trail with switchbacks that drop all the way down to the beach. The final test of skill and endurance is a calf-busting 250-meter white sand beach run and of course, one-last uphill back to the Ritz.”
To gather feedback and capture images to create a preview on the new course, Xterra invited a dozen Maui-based athletes to a pre-ride. Take a look at the photo and video links below to preview the new Kapalua course: