Makena, Maui – TEAM AVIA’s Eneko Llanos, of Spain, won his third XTERRA World Championship this Sunday. After a somewhat disappointing day (14th place) at the Ironman World Championships, Eneko decided he wanted to have a positive and decisive finish to his 2009 season. So, back to Hawaii he went, less than 2-weeks later.
The men’s race was stacked with past XTERRA World Champions, Ironman Champions, XTERRA US & France Champions, as well as some up & coming competitors that have yet to fear the slopes of Haleakala, the intense sun, waves, and lava-laden terrain. Luke McKenzie led the swim, followed closely by Seth Wealing and Eneko Llanos; the second pack to emerge the warms Pacific waters, included Olivier Marceau, Franky Batelier, and Conrad Stoltz.
Stoltz jumped to an early lead on the mountain bike and the first to hit the infamous “Heartbreak Hill”. Stoltz still held the lead to “Ned’s Climb”, the 1,400 feet climb to where the “Plunge” begins,.
with Batelier, Llanos, Marceau, and Lebrun waiting for the opportune moment to gain in position. Stoltz’ has built his legend and the spot where in past years he could put guys away with his fearless downhill riding but the course this year was smoother and less of a deciding factor in the bike outcome.
“This was a tough race, but the bike course was a little smoother, a little faster,” said Llanos, who became the first racer in 14 years to win XTERRA Worlds after competing at the Ironman World Champs. “The course was a little less technical, and I went at a steady pace and it went really well.”
At T2 Stoltz, Llanos, and Middaugh entered and exited the lush luau grounds at Makena Resort together. The timing was perfect and Llanos jumped into the lead.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be this strong,” said Llanos, who finished 14th at the Ironman World Championship in 8:37:55 and captured the Hawaiian Airlines Double award for the fourth straight time. The award is given annually to the pro man with the fastest combined time at Ironman Worlds and XTERRA Worlds. “Just two weeks ago I was really disappointed in Kona, and now here I am so happy. I came here with no pressure and just wanted to have fun and then I felt strong from the swim and had a good day. When I crossed the finish line I couldn’t believe it, how fast feelings change, and something amazing happened and I’m just so happy now.”
Llanos finished in 2:37:22. Additional AVIA athletes racing included: Nico Lebrun (2nd), and Conrad Stoltz (5th).