Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) stunned experts and onlookers alike as he came from nowhere to win the 2008 XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii. Julie Dibens looked very strong as she repeated her title from 2007.
Over 500 athletes from 25 countries and 35 states started the 2008 event in very warm tropical conditions and Brent McMahon emerged first from the 2 lap swim of Maui’s south shore. He was followed closely by Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Eneko Llanos and early female leader Linda Gallo into T1.
The defending World Champion Conrad Stoltz and a host of other favorites were also within striking distance and about 4miles into the mountain bike segment, Stoltz had taken the lead and started to build a gap on Olivier Marceau, Dan Huko, Franky Batelier and Eneko Llanos. By mile 10 his lead had grown even more, but just when it appeared that he might be on his way to a 4th World Championship title, Stoltz punctured and had to deal with this unfortunate break.
He was soon passed by relatively unknown Ruben Ruzafa from Spain and Austrian XTERRA Champion Michael Weiss, 2 athletes with very good mountain biking background. The 2 mountain bike hot shots ended up with the fastest bike splits of the day and started the run well ahead of any other pursuers.
The 7 mile run with 1,600-feet of climbing on rocks, dirt, lava, and sand proved to be not too much of an obstacle for Ruzafa and Weiss and much to the surprise of onlookers, the new World Champion was Ruben Ruzafa from Spain. Weiss held on to the runner-up spot and Brent McMahon ended up with fastest run of the day and captured the final podium spot, just like he had in 2005. A somewhat sweet reward for the Canadian who was not chosen for the Olympic team this summer. Conrad Stoltz showed great attitude by not giving up and he ended up finishing 12th.
In the women’s race Melanie McQuaid was supposed to challenge Dibens for the World title but another Canadian had to step up to the plate instead.
Linda Gallo led all women and almost all men out of the water, but Julie Dibens surged into the lead on the bike in no time. Shonny Vanlandingham also showed her mountain biking prowess with the fastest bike split among the female athletes, but she wasn’t close enough to catch Dibens. After taking last year off to give birth to a baby, Danelle Kabush came back to Maui looking lean and mean and managed a great bike split.
Once on the run, it looked like Dibens could cruise to victory uncontested. However, no one had talked to Kabush about that, and the Canadian who had been the runner-up two years ago, ran past Vanlandingham with the fastest run of the day. She started to gain on Dibens too, but the defending Champion was not going to be denied and Kabush had to settle for second place. Vanlandingham held on to the third spot and Renata Bucher, the three-time XTERRA European Tour Champ finished fourth.
XTERRA World Championships, October 26, Maui, HI
1 mile swim / 20 mile bike / 7 mile run
Top 10 men
1. Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) 2:37:36
2. Michael Weiss (AUT) 2:38:10
3. Brent McMahon (CAN) 2:40:56
4. Mike Vine (CAN) 2:41:37
5. Olivier Marceau (FRA) 2:42:01
6. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 2:42:49
7. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:42:56
8. Dan Hugo (RSA) 2:43:28
9. Brian Smith (USA) 2:43:47
10. Chris Legh (AUS) 2:45:20
Top 10 women
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 3:03:57
2. Danelle Kabush (CAN) 3:04:56
3. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) 3:10:46
4. Renata Bucher (SWI) 3:11:06
5. Christine Jeffrey (CAN) 3:11:50
6. Jennifer Smith (NZL) 3:15:59
7. Jenny Tobin (USA) 3:16:08
8. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:17:31
9. Sara Tarkington (USA) 3:19:16
10. Lesley Paterson (GBR) 3:19:53