2012 XTERRA Maui

On very rare occasions athletic talent is so transcendent that a superior competitor can walk into a very different, very new challenge and prevail on his or her first attempt. At the 17th XTERRA Off Road Triathlon World Championship in Maui, Javier Gomez of Spain was such man and prevailed against the best talent not only in off road triathlon but also extraordinary talent from pavement racing at the Olympic, 70.3 and Ironman distances. Of course it was no cakewalk. XTERRA USA Pro Champion Josiah Middaugh of Vail put up a valiant fight and came within 47 seconds of Gomez, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist,. Hy-Vee and ITU Grand Final Champ.

In the women's contest, defending champion and XTERRA veteran Lesley Paterson did everything she could to make it no contest. In the end, she defended the reputation of the XTERRA talent against a creditable performance by ITU star and XTERRA rookie Barbara Riveros-Diaz of Chile by a margin of 4 minutes.

For the hundreds of age groupers who joined their pro counterparts in taking on the challenge of this rugged tropical course, the memories will last forever.

All photographs Timothy Carlson

Danelle Kabush of Canada rides a ridge 1,200 feet above the beach at Kapalua.

Prepping the bike by inserting rubber bands to hold the bike shoes in place on the pedals for a fast takeoff.

Nicolas Lebrun of France has a win, two seconds and third place at XTERRA Worlds but did not break the top 10 this year.

Swim start!

Swimmers body surf a crowded wave to get to the beach faster.

Exiting the swim.

Javier Gomez led the swim by 1:19 and held the lead to Mile 14 of the bike.

Pro Mike Vine fights his way past an age grouper on a narrow trail.

Leonardo Chacon, a Costa Rican Olympian, finished 5th.

Brent McMahon of Canada rides the high ridge.

Lesley Paterson of Scotland was well back on the swim but took charge of the women's race in the first 7 miles of the bike.

Barbara Riveros-Diaz of Chile used her ITU skills to take the lead after the swim, but bowed to Paterson's off road skills by Mile 6 of the bike.

Javier Gomez showed more mountain biking skills than even he expected.

Josiah Middaugh posted the fastest bike split but after a slow swim, he never caught Gomez.

Gianpietro De Faveri of Italy rides through the Maui woods.

Conrad Stoltz passed Javier Gomez a few miles before the bike to run transition, but surrendered his lead by Mile 1 of the run.

Josiah Middaugh fights through the pain on the run.

Mari Rabie, a Rhodes Scholar from South Africa and a 2008 Olympian, fought through the mud and repulsed a charge by Heather Jackson to place 3rd.

The usually humble Javier Gomez strikes a pose after his unexpected victory.

Lesley Paterson forms a heart with her hands - perhaps a tribute to her nickname 'Braveheart?'