Conrad Stoltz, 38, of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Danelle Kabush, 36, of Calgary, Canada won the men’s and women’s titles at the XTERRA Mountain Championship at Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Stoltz won virtually wire-to-wire with a 3rd-best 0.7-mile swim (18:25), race-best 14.85-mile mountain bike (1:09:46) and 7th-best 5.85-mile trail run (38:54) to finish in 2:07:05 with a 1:19 margin of victory over runner-up Josiah Middaugh of Vail, Colorado and 3:35 over 3rd place Ben Hoffman of Boulder, Colorado.
“I must admit it was a very pleasurable experience," Stoltz told XTERRA media, speaking of some unusual sights he encountered his first time racing at Beaver Creek. “I saw a black bear up there while I was racing. I heard some branches break and I could see it getting away and Josiah saw it too.”
Stoltz paid tribute to Middaugh, a nearby Vail, Colorado native who had a home court advantage at the 7,400-foot plus altitude in the Rockies and the bike course which had nearly 4,000 feet of climbing in 15 rugged miles.
“I was really surprised at my win,” Stoltz told XTERRA media. “I thought Josiah was going to take it, because beating him on this course is really tough so I think I had to have a very special day.”
“When you put together a good race and get beat it’s not because something went wrong, it’s just that you’re not fit enough,” Middaugh told XTERRA media.
Middaugh has now finished second to Caveman Stolts in three XTERRA races this year.
“Conrad had an awesome race and kudos to him for having that fitness and power that I’m going to be looking for in the next few months.”
Stoltz emerged from the swim 2 seconds back of Craig Evans, 1 second back of Branden Rakita and 6 seconds ahead of pavement long course star Ben Hoffman, racing in his first major XTERRA.
Middaugh and Spanish XTERRA star David Henestrosa were one minute further back.
By the end of the bike, Stoltz posted the fastest bike split and Middaugh, with a second-best 1:10:57, had surrendered 1:11. By Mile 10 of the rugged bike, Middaugh had passed everyone else and moved into second place. But even with a home town edge, Middaugh had his work cut out for him as he trailed by more than 2 minutes with just 5.8 miles to run Stoltz down.
Hoffman embraced his first crack at the XTERRA big time. “It was awesome today,” he told XTERRA media. “I’m fired up, had fun out there.”
Henestrosa, the Spanish competitor who now earns a living teaching in Utah, last placed in the top 5 of an XTERRA Championship race at Keystone, Colorado in 2004.
“I feel OK in the altitude,” he told XTERRA media. “I grew up just outside of Barcelona at a little over 4,000-feet and now live in Utah and [the altitude is] similar and it’s very comfortable.”
The win was Stoltz’s fourth straight in the 2012 XTERRA U.S. Pro series and maintains his perfect record after victories at XTERRA West in Las Vegas, XTERRA Southeast in Pelham, Alabama and XTERRA East in Richmond, Virginia.
Kabush combined a 4th-best 22:15 swim, a race-best 1:24:23 bike split that was 1:16 faster than Sara Tarkington of Boulder, Colorado, and a race-best 42:57 run that was 2:31 faster than runner-upo Tarkington. Kabush finished in 2:29:35 with a 2:53 margin of victory over Tarkington and 5:44 over 3rd place finisher Suzie Snyder of Stafford, Vermont.
Snyder led out the swim, trailed 26 seconds later by Melanie McQuaid and 54 seconds later by Tarkington. Kabush was 1:48 back of Snyder.
On the bike, McQuaid broke into a big lead until she ran over a nail and suffered a flat which required two tube replacements and took her out of contention for the win.
While Snyder fell back, Kabush and Tarkington traded the lead until Kabush surged to the front on the final downhill, gaining a 1:16 advantage at T2.
On the run, Kabush’s race-best 42:57 run secured the win.
In an 8-year XTERRA career, Kabush won 2 XTERRA events in Canada, finished 2nd at the XTERRA World Championship twice, but until Saturday had never won a major XTERRA race in the U.S.
“It’s very satisfying,” Kabush told XTERRA media. “It’s always a tough course going uphill all day but it’s so scenic and beautiful I really enjoyed myself. I had a fun battle with Sara out there on the bike. She was really strong on the flats, and it wasn’t until the last descent I took the lead and got a bit of a gap.”
“This climbing course really suits me and this time of year my fitness starts to show,” Tarkington told XTERRA media. “We both pushed each other so hard, and if you’re coming off the bike with Danelle you know you’re in trouble, because she is fast. I had her in my sights for a mile and then she was gone.”
Kabush’s win was the highlight of the Canadian’s 2012 XTERRA season and comes after a 4th place at XTERRA West, a 6th place at the XTERRA Southeast Championship and a 1:19:08 second place finish at the Calgary half marathon.
XTERRA Mountain Championship
Beaver Creek, Colorado
July 14, 2012
S 1.1k / B 24k / R 8.7k
1. Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 2:07:05
2. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:08:24
3. Ben Hoffman (USA) 2:10:40
4. David Henestrosa (ESP) 2:10:50
5. Cody Waite (USA) 2:13:57
6. Ryan Ignatz (USA) 2:14:07
7. Brian Smith (USA) 2:14:12
8. Branden Rakita (USA) 16:50
9. Travis Macy (USA) 2:19:09
10. Ryan Petry (USA) 2:20:34 * M20-24
1. Danelle Kabush (CAN) 2:29:35
2. Sara Tarkington (USA) 2:32:28
3. Suzie Snyder (USA) 2:35:19
4. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:36:36
5. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 2:37:27
6. Tamara Donelson (USA) 2:40:16
7. Anne Gonzalez (USA) 2:44:32 * F50-54
8. Heather Holmes (USA) 2:45:06
9. Kim Baugh (USA) 2:45:41
10. Maia Ignatz (USA) 2:46:22 * F30-34