XTERRA WEST CUP- LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – Defending XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and three-time World Champions Conrad Stoltz, known as “Caveman” for his intensity as he hunts down competitors and Melanie McQuaid known as “the Queen of XTERRA” proved to be at the top of their game in a loaded pro field.
The weather proved to be as perfect as can be for Vegas, with 68-degree temps and a light breeze. The dry heat of Vegas, coupled with the short steep climbs, covering over 2,000-ft of upward ground, and loose & rocky terrain would add plenty of difficulty to the bike & run. Stoltz & McQuaid, backed by the MelRad Racing team in the first debut of the season, would have an extra dose of inspiration as both were hoping to take a third title home for the West Championship.
In the men’s race, the swim lead by Craig Evans, would head farther off-shore than race directors anticipated. With the sun in his eyes, this mis-judgement would allow serveral women to exit the swim ahead of the men’s pack. Stoltz, determined to gain back time lost in the swim, lead for much of the bike. But with some mechanical errors, relinquished his lead to Josiah Middaugh.
“I had a couple hiccups today,” said Stoltz. “I dropped a chain and had to stop and fix that which probably cost 30 seconds and I took a digger too, and that didn’t cost much time but it sure was humbling. It’s interesting because at first I thought this course would be too easy because it’s not real technical, but then with all the riders churning up the dirt it really made a lot of sections loose and tricky.”
Stoltz, never willing to give up a win until the finish line has been crossed, battled endlessly, with several trades in the lead throughout the 10k run. The race was certainly more exciting for spectators. In the end Conrad would prevail by a 32-second lead over Middaugh and Dan Hugo trailing several minutes back.
“I was really excited when I caught Josiah and very surprised, because I thought he’d run away with it. I didn’t know his run wasn’t in top form,” said Stoltz. ‘He’s really a great competitor and during the run we’d be side-by-side and he’d find the right line and I’d be in the jagged rocks and it was great racing.”
The championship win is Stoltz’ 27th dating back to his rookie year in 2001.
In the women’s race, Melanie McQuaid would put her early season fitness to the test and gave the crowd a battle, with LUNA Pro Shonny Vanlandingham, they have come to expect. Melanie would take the lead on the second downhill on the bike course from swim-expert, Christine Jeffreys.
“It’s a fun course to race on because you see people everywhere,” said Shonny Vanlandingham, who inched her way to within striking distance of victory but ultimately came up just 23-seconds behind McQuaid in second. Vanlandingham who specializes in the bike-to-run combo would begin the the run in second position and continue gaining on McQuaid.
“I was maybe a minute-and-a-half back out of transition and just started plugging away. I was really happy with my run and feel great, could have kept going,” said Shonny V,
Out of nowhere came Lesley Paterson, blowing by Shonny V. and ready to chase McQuaid. “I thought it was one lap,” she smiled. Paterson hung on but Shonny & Melanie’s combo of endurance, speed, and the new AVI-BOLT II’s they were sporting left Paterson over a minute back from McQuaid’s champion finish, and Vanlandingham’s 2nd place.
“I thought this was one of the hardest XTERRA races ever,” said McQuaid after the win. “There was just no place to hide and no place to rest and not a second to catch my breath. I’ve never been more tired in my whole life. The girls are just top notch and in great shape and have a couple races under their belts. I’m in pretty good shape but need to get faster. This is going to be a really exciting season and you can expect some more battle royale’s coming up.”
Additional AVIA sponsored athletes competing included: Danelle Kabush (9th)
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