Three men aiming at Maui title
Written by: Timothy Carlson
Date: Fri Oct 26 2012
On the men's side, three-time XTERRA World Champion Eneko Llanos of Spain has managed to straddle all forms of triathlon at the elite level. But this year a new crop of intriguing XTERRA outsiders are storming the gates. They include recent ITU Grand Final winner Javier Gomez of Spain, 2006 ITU World Champion Tim Don of Great Britain, recent Olympian Brent McMahon of Canada (returning to XTERRA after a 5-year Olympic quest). But the newcomer many think has a real chance to crack the podium is Łberbiker Sebastian Kienle of Germany, who is coming off a win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and a 4th at Kona and who says he feels not worn out but exhilarated.
In order to get inside the heads of the men's race, Slowtwitch offers a look at the press conference opinions of Kienle, 4-time XTERRA World Champion Conrad Stoltz of South Africa and recent XTERRA USA Champion Josiah Middaugh of Vail, Colorado.
This 28-year-old German Łberbiker comes to Maui after a win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and a 4th at the Ironman World Championship in Kona. With a win at XTERRA Germany in 2006 Kienle arguably has the best chance of a great crop of Ironman and ITU stars that also includes newcomers Javier Gomez and Tim Don as well as Ironman and ITU star Eneko Llanos who already has three XTERRA World titles.
ST: How much mountain biking have you done prior to this race? If so what have been the results?
Sebastian Kienle: In the last five days I was on my mountain bike. The results -- first I checked out the limit from the lower end, so it was always a little bit too slow. Then I checked out the upper end it was a little bit too fast and I crashed a couple of times. Now I am starting to develop a little more confidence and ride in something you might call in control of the bike. It is far from what Conrad could do on a course like this - I just hope I donít injure myself.
ST: Why race XTERRA?
Sebastian: I do it basically because it is a lot of fun to me. I really love it. I would be involved in a greater way if there were more races like this one in Maui. So I would put a little more focus on it.
ST: You won XTERRA Germany in 2006 and were 12th this year?
Sebastian: In Germany this year I raced basically out of a training week. I also had a little bit of trouble finding the right level on the bike. I was riding with Nicolas Lebrun and he got second place in the race. Now I am in way better shape and maybe I am better recovered even though I just did an Ironman.
ST: What do you think of the quality of the 2012 Maui field?
Sebastian: It is absolutely great that so many great athletes from all the different disciplines of the sport. It is like a big coming together of all the best.
ST: What is the difference in endurance between the Ironman and this race? Here the bike course is only 18 miles.
Sebastian: When you do a road triathlon, 18 miles is done in well under an hour. On this course you do 18 miles and it takes forever. 18 Miles? Come on! It never stops. It is so hard because in a road triathlon you can rest going downhill. Here there is not a place to recover. Here you have to focus on the downhill because you can waste a lot of time on the downhills also. It never stops.
ST: What I the hardest part of choosing a pace?
Sebastian: Maui I think it is harder than all to the road courses. Here is it is possible to blow up your engine on the first uphill and you can never come back. Also if you stop pedaling on the road, you will keep rolling for a while. Here it is not the case. You will stop as soon as you stop pedaling. Of course you will keep going a little on the downhills. But you must go out of the saddle to keep in control and it is definitely very hard all the way.
ST: Do you have a chance to podium in this race?
Sebastian: My guess is as good as yours. I feel very good but there is no meaning behind it. My legs are feeling good. But I do not know what I will have when I have to use them. With pure power and pure abilities, I think I am definitely able to do the podium. But I do not know how I have recovered from Ironman Hawaii and I do not know how my bike skills can cope with this course and this race compared to the specialists like Josiah and Conrad.
ST: How does this course suit you?
This course suits me very well. You have to have a lot of power. Also on the run, it seems very long. Almost like a middle distance race compared to a run course. That is also a format that suits me. So, you never know. I think I may have a shot at the podium.
ST: How can you recover after such a great Kona?
That is one of the advantages I have compared to the older guys. You are faster recovering. That is just a fact. So that is just a little bit of an advantage. Also, I feel very good. And when you are happy, you are recovering faster. That is also a fact. And the third factor is the surroundings here are very nice. There is not a lot of stress. I really enjoy the island and everything. That is good because it is not only your legs. It is also your mind, your mental sharpness. That is the biggest thing. I donít know about my body. But I know about my mental sharpness. I am still looking very, very forward to the race. I am excited about it. And that is the best indicator to see how my body has recovered .
ST: How do you know when you are not physically ready to race?
Sebastian: I have discovered that when I am not feeling 100 percent before the race, normally my body isnít also. I think I am better recovered than I expected and there are still a few days to go. I know I will not be 100 percent. That is very difficult anyway. But 100 percent this year is better than 100 percent last year. So - I am happy with it.
ST: You have had an almost perfect 2012 with wins at XTERRA South Africa, XTERRA Southeast, XTERRA West and XTERRM Mountain. Why did you finish 4th at XTERRA USA?
Conrad Stoltz: I had the flu the week before and on a course like that it takes all of your abilities. On such a brutal course which starts at the bottom of a ski mountain, For me being a big guy, it is hard to win on my best day. Not being 100 percent it is impossible to compete against someone like Josiah.
ST: Coping with any lingering injuries or illness coming into this race?
Conrad: Not that I know of.
ST: How does this course in Maui fit your strengths and weaknesses?
Conrad: This is an ocean swim and I really enjoy swimming without a wetsuit in the ocean -- especially if you go in and out all the time. So the swim is good for me. and the bike course is good because it is long. It is going to be a long, long ride. The other thing is that it much of it is really soft. There is a lot of sandy terrain. As long as it is not so steep uphill I am pretty good through those sections. There are also some very technical sections added since last year. While they are not very difficult, I think that is good for me because they come near the end when guys get tired and can make mistakes. Also if I can make 2 seconds on each corner, that's good.
ST: You go fast in the downhills.
Conrad: People say that I am good in the high speed downhills, and they say 'Ah Conrad loves it.' But actually I enjoy the technical stuff more. Because it is really hard to do the climbs and the technical stuff and uphill sections and if you are strong you can gain more time. But the downhills you can do them in just a few minutes. You can do 60 kilometers an hour on the downhill without trying too hard.
ST: What is the toughest thing about this course?
Conrad: This course has a lot of climbing and on the bike and the run. The bike has about a 1000 meters of climbing and the run has 400-500 meters. So to me that's the biggest hurdle.
ST: Who does this course fit best?
Conrad: Josiah is a great climber, he has great skills, he runs well and he is coming off a win at XTERRA USA. So he has all the bases covered. He has not won the World Championship, so he is quite eager to get that done.
ST: What about the rest of the field?
Conrad: There are a lot of new guys I am not too sure about. Brent McMahon, was a great XTERRA athlete five years ago. Then he went to follow the Olympic dream. He is swimming faster than he ever has and is running faster than he ever has. And he had the skills. Also this course demands a lot of climbing and he is a little guy so he goes well on climbs and in the technical sections. So he is a good dark horse. Also, there are a lot of other athletes coming from other sports to XTERRA. That is super exciting. Javier Gomez, who won the Auckland ITU Grand Final in a sprint finish. Then we have Sebastian sitting out there who is the new triathlon rock star. He almost won two world titles in a month. Tim Don, the 2006 ITU World Champion. He did a lot of mountain biking this year when he didnít make the British Olympic team. Half those guys are on Specialized bikes so they ride the same bike I do. I have no advantage.
ST: How many people can win here?
Conrad: It is going to be a very, very open race. If Javier Gomez swims 16 minutes, it is going to be very interesting how that might impact the race.
ST: What about age? Ned Overend won an XTERRA world title when he was 44 or 45. Now you are nearing 40, how has the game changed? Are you in the midst of your prime years?
Conrad: Never mind XTERRA. If you look at even ITU racing, Greg Bennett is 40 and Chris McCormack is near that. Hunter Kemper and Simon Whitfield are from my time and are still at the top of the game at 39, 40 and 41. Cameron Brown is 40.
ST: So how does age affect XTERRA racers?
Conrad: When you come to XTERRA, it is even more important to build skills and over time to build that confidence in how to race. So to me getting older is a good thing not a bad thing. And over the last three years we can measure my power and it has been increasing every year with scientific training. So that is very encouraging. Now I think you will see more and more athletes getting older and being able to compete at the highest levels.
ST: What about other sports?
Conrad: Olympic swimmers used to retire at 22 because they could no longer compete. But the reason they could no longer compete was because of bad training. Now with scientific training you see Dara Torres swimming in the Olympics at 42. The time when age absolutely determines when you retire is no longer.
ST: When you started racing XTERRA, winning world titles seemed to come easy as you won Maui in 2001 and 2002. But you have had several years of tough breaks between winning again ion 2007 and 2010, . When will that door of opportunity close?
Conrad: When I won my first XTERRA Worlds, I thought this is so easy. I won by 10 minutes. I won the next year. But after that I had 5 flat tires. Then my pedal fell off. The following year I was in bad shape. Then I realized how hard it is, especially on the old course at Wailea. So I am standing on four wins now and hopefully going for a 5th. I've won 49 XTERRAs globally. So if I win this race I would have my 5th world title and 50 XTERRAs, which would be quite significant for me.
Middaugh, 34, of Vail, Colorado, made a career breakthrough with a win at XTERRA
USA. This year he placed 2nd at XTERRA West, 4th at the ITU Cross Worlds, and 2nd at XTERRA East and Mountain. But his greatest challenge has been Maui as his best finishes there was 3rd in 2004 and 4th last year. Stoltz believes that Middaugh has the best chance of doing just that this year.
ST: You just won XTERRA USA which has some similarities to Maui - there is a lot of climbing on the bike and run. Who does this course suit?
Josiah Middaugh: Yeah this course has a profile that is similar to Ogden, similar to Beaver Creek. There is a lot of elevation gain. But there is a lot more variation than what we saw in Ogden. There are a lot of different conditions on the ground - hard packed dirt, grass and sand that we have to handle. It's going to take a technical rider but also somebody who can really put the power to the pedals going uphill too. There are a lot of different pitches. Ogden has a long sustained grade. But Maui has some steep, flat, and downhill sections. It has a lot of steep pitches but a lot of variation in between.
ST: Last year you came in 4th here. What did you learn from last year that you can carry over into this year?
Josiah: I felt I had a very good race, effort-wise. That was as good as I was on that day. I wish I had more on the run. But I just didnít have it. This bike course really takes it out of you and I was pretty much done with a couple miles to go on the bike. I learned that it is worth being trained for a little bit longer race. I've changed the length of a lot of my longer workouts. I trained with just a little bit more volume. I've trained with very little volume than the other guys. I felt like I ran out of steam a little but toward the end. So I've trained for a little bit longer races here and we will see how it works out.
ST: Which of the Ironman and ITU stars coming to this race might be the biggest threat?
Josiah: I am not somebody who studies potential opponents. I am very busy in my own life. I am not a crazy fan in that way. I know how these guys are on paper. I recognize their names and I see their accolades. I see guys that are super talented and have more accomplishments than me. I know they have a lot more talent than I do. I know a few of them are trained specifically for XTERRA and could potentially win and could really surprise everybody. But I canít worry about that.
ST: What happened to the beard?
Josiah: My wife stopped kissing me. Too scratchy. Just couldnít take it.
ST: Seems like you got the monkey off your back by winning XTERRA USA after years of trying. Do you come to this one more relaxed?
Josiah: Yes. I won that race in Utah and that was the biggest accomplishment so far in my career. I don't have to come to this race to salvage my season. I donít have to have a great race to make myself think I had a good year. I had a good year. I have a lot of momentum now. So I just have to keep the momentum going. keep doing what I'm doing and just enjoy it.
The 17th XTERRA World Championship on Maui offered 3,100 feet of climbing on the bike and 1,000 feet of elevation gain on the run, great competition and breathtaking beauty. Photo Gallery by Timothy Carlson. 10.29.12
Conrad Stoltz is best known for his XTERRA domination, but the tough South African also ventures onto the road. We took a look at his race ready Specialized S-Works Shiv. 3.13.13
Michael Weiss won it on the bike and Lesley Paterson did it with a fearsome run to take their first World titles on a hot day on a tough new course at XTERRA Maui. 10.23.11
Josiah Middaugh of Vail, Colorado and reigning XTERRA Elite Womenís World Champion Lesley Paterson of San Diego and Scotland won the XTERRA USA National Championship at Snowbasin Resort in Utah. 9.22.12