On a true-to-form Xterra course—conditions were hot, windy and hilly—reigning Xterra world champion Lesley Paterson and U.S. champion Josiah Middaugh proved best on the day to take the women’s and men’s titles, respectively, in the 1.5K swim, 30K mountain bike and 10K off-road run at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada. Middaugh used a strong bike-run to overtake Stoltz, who gashed open his hand in a spill off the bike, and a hard-charging Paterson went out like a rocket in the swim and sustained the blistering pace that earned her a fourth-place overall finish.
Christine Jeffrey was the first pro out of the water, but trailing just seconds back were Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Stoltz and Matt Lieto. Onto the bike, Stoltz surged to the front, opening up an early 45-second lead over Rakita, with Evans and Lieto in close chase. At mile 8 of the bike, Stoltz was riding with a bloody hand, the aftermath of a tumble off the bike, but still enjoyed a 2-minute lead over Rakita and Evans. But Middaugh, despite a lackluster swim and dealing with a tangled chain on the bike, was gaining ground. By mile 10 Jeffrey still had the lead in the women’s race, but Paterson was closing the 40-second gap by the pedal stroke and beginning to open up her lead over three-time Xterra world champ Melanie McQuaid and Luna Chix rider Suzie Snyder.
By the second loop on the bike, Stoltz’s lead over Middaugh had shrunk to 2:15, with Rakita four minutes back, Evans eight minutes back, and Ryan Ignatz riding in fifth. The men held their position heading into T2. Paterson built up a healthy lead on Lap 2, with neither McQuaid or Snyder in sight as she headed into transition.
Onto the 6.2-mile run, Conrad had a minute lead over Middaugh, a super-strong runner. (In a pre-race interview, Stoltz said he typically needs a 2:30 lead over Middaugh coming off the bike to hold the lead through the finish.) Middaugh ticked off 6:47 miles to overtake Stoltz on a climb about halfway through the run, and he ran unchallenged through the breaktape, finishing in 2:20:18. Stoltz, hand now bandaged, came across a little more than three minutes later, and Branden Rakita claimed the final podium spot, with his 2:28:21 finish.
“I had some false confidence in my swim ability,” said Middaugh in a finishline interview. “I had a terrible swim and didn’t expect to have that much of a deficit to have to overcome. I was worried I was out of the race, but I just kept working hard, just focusing on riding every climb like it was my last. I dropped my chain about halfway through the first lap and I couldn’t pedal it back on—it was twisted into a knot. So I got it back on and thought I was out of the race but then I heard I hadn’t lost any more time so I figured I was riding faster when it counted so I kept working hard and was able to whittle about a minute off the gap but I still went into the run a little too far behind but it worked out. I caught Conrad a little earlier than in thought I would—I think he was suffering. I’m psyched, I’m really happy with the win but I know I have a lot of work to do, mostly on the swim. I just got on the dirt for the first time a week ago—I hadn’t ridden outside all winter so it will take me a while to get comfortable on the mountain bike again.”
Paterson continued to pick off pro men on the run, running a race-best (including men) 42:42 10K to clinch the women’s title and an inpressive fourth-place overall finish. Snyder finished about 13 minutes later, and former Xterra world champion Shonny Vanlandingham garnered third, finishing about 2:30 behind Snyder.
“I have just been having so much fun this year,” said Paterson. “I have worked my butt off for this. Anyone that knows me knows I train all hours of the day and night—it’s really nice to see it pay off. My biking has really improved. I have a great new bike in Scott bikes and I’ve put a lot of miles in. I felt really strong and consistent. My skills are better, my strength is better, and I’m just enjoying it. I’m no longer scared.”
Xterra West Championship
Henderson, Nev. – April 13, 2013
1.5K swim, 30K mountain bike, 10K off-road run
1. Josiah Middaugh 2:20:18
2. Conrad Stoltz 2:23:24
3. Branden Rakita 2:28:21
4. Ryan Ignatz 2:30:32
1. Lesley Paterson 2:30:04
2. Suzie Snyder 2:43:00
3. Shonny Vanlandingham 2:45:36
4. Melanie McQuaid 2:47:29