Eneko Llanos avenged his somewhat disappointing Ironman Hawaii performance with a superb win at the 2009 XTERRA World Championships in Maui. Julie Dibens captured her third title in a row with a dominating performance in the women's race, and is thus the first person to achieve this feat.
With last year's champion Ruben Ruzafa out because of an injury he had sustained a couple days ago while training on the course, it was clear that there would be a different champion this year. But with several other previous champions at the start line there was certainly no shortage of fire power.
Luke McKenzie in his first XTERRA Worlds adventure led the bunch out of the Makena Bay waters in a time of 19:30 and he was followed closely by Seth Wealing and 2003 / 2004 XTERRA World Champion Eneko Llanos. 2007 champion Conrad Stoltz was 12th out of the water and he was just about a minute behind McKenzie.
Once on the bikes though, Stoltz quickly charged into the lead and he had Franky Batelier, Olivier Marceau, Josiah Middaugh and Eneko Llanos breathing down his neck. Stoltz tried to shed these unwanted companions but they just would not budge and by the time the front group hit the Plunge, Llanos and Batelier actually had moved ahead of the 3-time XTERRA Champion (2001, 2002 and 2007). Stoltz though managed to regain the lead during the descent and stayed in the front all the way to T2. But his lead over Batelier, Llanos and Josiah Middaugh was only a few seconds.
A few miles into the run Llanos pushed to the front and slowly eased away from his competitors. The Spaniard who had finished 6th here in 2008 (after a second place in Kona) was clearly on a mission here after finishing in 14th place two weeks ago at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. A win here would tie him with Conrad Stoltz for all time XTERRA World Championship titles. Plus with Ruzafa out, here was his opportunity to make it 2 Spanish victories in a row on Hawaiian soil. With a mile to go his lead was over 40 seconds and when he crossed the finish line at the Makena Bay Resort he had an almost 60 second margin over runner-up Nicolas Lebrun. Lebrun came back from the 35th fastest swim with the 3rd fastest bike and the fastest run of the day to capture second place. Austria's Michael Weiss had the fastest bike split of the day as he captured the final podium spot.
"I wasn't able to push my self very hard in the Ironman due to stomach problems and I guess my recovery has been faster for that reason.," said Llanos to slowtwitch. "In Maui I had a very good swim, on the bike once Conrad and Batelier caught me I was riding well with them on the climbs and I was taking it easy on the downhills trying to keep my bike and myself in on piece. I was gaining confidence and strength on the last miles of the bike course. On the run I took my rhythm from the beginning, at the top of the first big climb. I saw Nico Lebrun was chasing me hard but I had some energy left for Makena Beach and the last miles of the run."
It wasn't much of a surprise that Christine Jeffrey was first out of the water among the women, and in 5th position overall. She is an amazing swimmer and had been among the lead men in the water all year. Thus most eyes were focused on 2-time defending champion Julie Dibens and Melanie McQuaid, the 2006, 2005 and 2003 champion. Dibens exited the waters 43 seconds behind Jeffries and 2:16 up on McQuaid, and the race was on.
The smooth riding Dibens swiftly moved past Jeffries and steadily grew her lead over all other pursuers. McQuaid looked very solid in second position and a hard charging Shonny Vanlandingham had moved herself into third. Behind Vanlandingham, Carina Wasle and Lesley Paterson made sure that they were not getting too far away from the podium positions. Up front though, Dibens kept gaining time and by the time she got to the bike-run transition, her lead over McQuaid was 4:20 and Vanlandingham was a further 1:40 back.
If any of the other competitors had hoped that Dibens would slow down on the run, they would not get their wishes today. Dibens looked very solid all day and flew on the run. She crossed the line first in 2:56:44 and thus became the first person to win 3 XTERRA World Championship titles in a row. McQuaid got passed late in the run by the surprising Paterson and had to be satisfied with 3rd place.
"It was fantastic to win in Maui this year. It really showed me that everything leading into CW is on the up, and that our move to Boulder earlier in the year was the correct one," said Dibens after the race. "I felt good and strong pretty much all day, and felt very much in control. It will always be a hard race however, especially the last couple of miles on the run. I am probably most proud of the fact that I didn't manage to throw up across the finish line this year."
Related image gallery
A Maui 2009 XTERRA gallery
XTERRA World Championships
Makena - Maui, HI / October 25, 2009
Top 10 men
1. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 2:37:22
2. Nicolas Lebrun (FRA) 2:38:17
3. Michael Weiss (AUT) 2:40:24
4. Olivier Marceau (SWI) 2:41:06
5. Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 2:41:40
6. Franky Batelier (FRA) 2:42:15
7. Felix Schumann (GER) 2:42:57
8. Seth Wealing (USA) 2:43:58
9. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:44:14
10. Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER) 2:44:31
Top 10 women
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 2:56:42
2. Lesley Paterson (GBR) 3:04:16
3. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 3:05:46
4. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:07:23
5. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) 3:08:00
6. Marion Lorblanchet (FRA) 3:13:15
7. Danelle Kabush (CAN) 3:13:50
8. Christine Jeffrey (CAN) 3:15:01
9. Sara Tarkington (USA) 3:15:56
10. Rebecca Dussault (USA) 3:17:22