This Sunday 775 athletes from 35 countries and 43 U.S. states will compete at the 18th running of the Xterra World Championship at the Kapalua Resort on Maui’s northwest coast. A new rule requiring all pros to compete in at least one Xterra event during the season has taken away the X factor that had become a staple at this event. Reigning world champion Javier Gomez is missing from the start list, and there are no pros competing who also raced in this month’s Ironman World Championship.
Two-time Xterra world champion Lesley Paterson comes in as the heavy favorite. Helene Erbenova (CZE) handed Paterson her only loss this year in an ITU race in Holland, but Paterson was not in peak form at that event. Erbenova will once again be a tough competitor for Paterson and she will be looking for her first world title.
Former ITU star Barbara Riveros of Chile is another top contender. She finished second in Maui last year and finished less than a minute behind Paterson at this year’s Xterra USA Championships. One big question mark will be three-time Xterra world champion Julie Dibens. She has spent the last two seasons rehabbing from surgery and is returning to the race she used to dominate. She competed at Xterra Beaver Creek earlier this summer and was on par with the leaders on the swim and bike, but hadn’t found the run form that gave her the three titles.
One athlete who can’t be counted out at any race she enters is this year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship runner-up Heather Jackson (USA). She was fourth at this race in 2012 and has the skills on the bike and run to contend with Paterson and the other big Xterra names.
Two more former Xterra world champions who can never be counted out are Melanie McQuaid (CAN) and Shonny Vanlandingham (USA).
Also look for athletes like Renata Bucher (SUI), Suzie Snyder (USA), Danelle Kabush (CAN), Jacqui Slack (GBR), Emma Garrard (USA), Kathrin Mueller (GER), Flora Duffy (BER), Carina Wasle (AUT) and Carla Van Huyssteen (RSA) to contend for the podium.
With defending champion Gomez off of the start list and no dominant performances on the Xterra circuit this year, the men’s race is wide open. Last year’s runner-up Josiah Middaugh (USA) has had a fabulous season winning the USA series championship and has to be the favorite. In 2012 he beat everybody except for Gomez by more than two minutes.
Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon easily won Xterra Mexico and then repeated against a strong field at the national championships in Utah. He finished fourth last year and will look to make the leap up to the podium on Sunday.
Always a factor is four-time world champion Conrad Stoltz of South Africa. He’s nearing the end of his legendary career and will be battling hard for a fifth title. Another past champion to watch is Spain’s Ruben Ruzafa. He switched his focus from mountain biking to Xterra this year and had success, winning two races in Europe and finishing on the podium at the USA championships in Utah.
South Africa’s Dan Hugo spent most of last season on the sidelines after a bike crash, but he was the runner-up at this event in 2011 and is capable of finding the top spot with a well-rounded race.
Other men to watch for include Hector Guerra (ESP), Yeray Luxem (BEL), Nico Lebrun (FRA), Asa Shaw (GBR), Richard Murray (RSA), Ben Allen (AUS), Courtney Atkinson (AUS), Brent McMahon (CAN), Richard Stannard (GBR), Olivier Marceau (SUI) and Branden Rakita (USA) to mix it up on race day.
Women’s Start List
(place at last year’s WC) – Name – Age, Hometown
(1) – Lesley Paterson – 33, San Diego, California (GBR)
(2) – Barbara Riveros – 30, Clermont Ferrand, France
(4) – Heather Jackson – 29, Carlsbad, California
(5) – Jacqui Slack – 30, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
(7) – Renata Bucher – 36, Lucerne, Switzerland
(8) – Shonny Vanlandingham – 44, Durango, Colorado
(9) – Helena Erbenova – 34, Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech
(11) – Elizabeth Orchard – 27, Epsom, New Zealand
(12) – Danelle Kabush – 38, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
(13) – Melanie McQuaid – 40, Victoria, B.C., Canada
(14) – Brandi Heisterman – 38, Brackendale, B.C., Canada
(15) – Katie Button – 28, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada
(16) – Caroline Colonna – 49, Taos, New Mexico
(17) – Tamara Donelson – 38, Edwards, Colorado (AUS)
Sarah Backler – 30, Tauranga, New Zealand
Mieko Carey – 35, Tumon, Guam (JPN)
Genziana Cenni – Italy
Laura Mira Dias – 28, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Julie Dibens – 38, Boulder, Colorado (GBR)
Flora Duffy – 26, Boulder, Colorado (BER)
Emma Garrard – 30, Park City, Utah
Dunia Gomez – 30, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Christine Jeffrey – 40, Tucson, Arizona
Kathrin Muller – 29, Freiburg, Germany
Nienke Oostra – Holland
Daz Parker – 45, London, United Kingdom
Nicky Samuels – 30, Wanaka, New Zealand
Suzie Snyder – 31, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Carla Van Huyssteen – 29, Pietermaritsburg, South Africa
Carina Wasle – 28, Kundl, Austria
Chantell Widney – 33, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Men’s Start List
(place at last year’s WC) – Name – Age, Hometown
(2) – Josiah Middaugh – 35, Vail, Colorado
(3) – Conrad Stoltz – 40, Stellenbosch, South Africa
(4) – Leonardo Chacon – 29, Liberia, Costa Rica
(7) – Asa Shaw – 29, Frejus, France (GBR)
(9) – Yeray Luxem – 27, Merksem, Belgium
(10) – Olivier Marceau – 40, Vallauris, France (SUI)
(11) – Nicolas Lebrun – 40, Digne-les-Bains, France
(13) – Felix Schumann – 31, Bad Wimpfen, Germany
(16) – Felipe Moletta – 26, Sao Jose Dos Pinhais, Brazil
(17) – Braden Currie – 27, Wanaka, New Zealand
(19) – Brice Daubord – 28, Orleans, France
(20) – Jan Kubicek, CZE – 33, Chodov City, Czech
(22) – Francois Carloni – 28, Frejus, France
(24) – Jim Thijs – 33, Huldenberg, Belgium
(27) – Branden Rakita – 32, Colorado Springs, Colorado
(31) – Jan Francke – 44, Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech
(35) – Ben Allen – 28, North Wollongong, Australia
(37) – Will Ross – 24, Anchorage, Alaska
Brian Astell – 33, Gualala, California
Courtney Atkinson – 34, Queensland, Australia
Grant Bovee – 30, Boulder, Colorado
Kris Coddens – 32, Torhout, Belgium
Chris Ganter – 35, Boise, Idaho
Marvin Gruget – 21, Beaumes de Venise, France
Hector Guerra – 35, Madrid, Spain
Fabio Guidelli – 38, Arezzo, Italy
Dan Hugo – 28, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Ryan Ignatz – 35, Boulder, Colorado
Dennis Kruse – 24, Schwerin, Germany
Andy Lee – 41, Lakeway, Texas
Kyle Leto – 27, San Jose, California
Jason Michalak – 35, Crested Butte, Colorado
Richard Murray – 24, Durbanville, South Africa
Ruben Ruzafa – 29, Malaga, Spain
Bruno Silva – 35, Aguas Claras, Brazil
Tim Snow – 37, Brockton, Massachusetts
Richard Stannard – 39, Cobham, Great Britain
Adam Wirth – 35, Boise, Idaho