The 2013 XTERRA USA Championship proved that there is no specific formula for success, especially when it comes to XTERRA experience.
Leonardo Chacon took the overall title in his first appearance at the XTERRA USA Championship, and just the third XTERRA race of his career.
Meanwhile on the women's side, Lesley Paterson captured the title for the second consecutive year, continuing her amazing streak of XTERRA victories.
The 2013 XTERRA USA Championship was staged in picture-perfect conditions on Saturday at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah. The off-road triathlon consisted of a 1,500-meter swim, a 28-kilometer bike and a 9.8-kilometer trail run.
CHACON OUT-RUNS MEN'S FIELD
Although it is called the XTERRA USA Championship, the pro start list featured an international cast of stars. One of them was Leonardo Chacon, who participated in the 2012 Olympics and is considered a triathlon legend in his home country of Costa Rica.
His XTERRA experience, however, was limited to a fourth-place finish at the XTERRA World Championship last year in Hawaii, and a victory at the XTERRA Mexico Championship this year.
To make up for his relative lack of off-road experience, he trained in the mountains of Costa Rica. In particular, he found a trail that matched the elevation levels of Snowbasin (start at 4,900 feet above sea level, and reaching a peak of 7,300 feet).
"I've been training for this many months, like five to six months, improving my techniques," said Chacon, 29. "Now I'm very happy I can be with these fast guys up there."
Chacon said his first XTERRA experience in Hawaii last year sparked his desire to improve on that fourth-place showing.
Chacon completed the course in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 31 seconds - including the fastest run split at 39:57.
He came out of the swim just seconds behind Australia's Ben Allen, and had the lead for the first half of the bike leg. XTERRA veterans Conrad Stoltz of South Africa and American Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colorado) eventually passed Chacon in the second half of the bike. At that point of the race, Chacon said he was content just to stay within sight of Stoltz and Middaugh.
"I knew I could run a bit faster than them, and I attacked," he said of his run split.
Chacon and Middaugh were shoulder-to-shoulder midway through the run course before Chacon eventually turned it up in the final two miles and took the win by 57 seconds.
"I thought I had something in the tank, but I didn't," said Middaugh, who won the USA Championship in 2012. "Reached for it and it wasn't there. I thought I was running the downhill stuff pretty good, but I was bonked and tired that last mile."
Middaugh finished in 2:33:26, and his second-place showing was enough to net him the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series championship - his first in 10 years on the tour. "It's been a long pursuit for this title," he said. "Glad it finally worked out."
Spain's Ruben Ruzafa - another of the international stars to show up at Snowbasin this year - finished third in the USA Championship. It was his first time racing at the USA Championship, and just his second appearance in an XTERRA race in the United States, following his 2008 XTERRA World Championship victory in Hawaii.
Nicolas Lebrun, a two-time former winner of the USA Championship, has announced his retirement from competition, so it was likely his last time racing on the course at Snowbasin. When asked what he would remember of the course, he replied: "Every part. I took it easy and enjoyed the race."
Chacon received $2,500 for the victory, but said the victory goes much deeper than the title and the check. "If I train hard coming from a small country as Costa Rica, I can make my dreams come true," he said. "With this, I can show to the people in Costa Rica that we can do it."
2013 XTERRA USA Championship Results:
Ogden, Utah - September 21, 2013
|Pro Men Results||Time||
|Pro Women Results||Time|
PATERSON CONTINUES XTERRA SUCCESS
There was a point early during Saturday's race when Lesley Paterson actually thought she was having a "horrible" day, thanks to lingering effects of a cold she carried into the race. That she went on to beat the women's field by 43 seconds to win the XTERRA USA Championship for the second consecutive year shows just how dominant she has been in the past two years.
Paterson, 32, turned in the fastest bike split among the women and then held off 2012 Olympian Barbara Riveros (Chile) on the run to take the win. Paterson, who is originally from Scotland but now resides in San Diego, California, has now won the last two XTERRA USA Championships and the last two XTERRA World Championships.
"It was a tight race, there were a lot of good girls here," Paterson said. "It took me a good half the race just to get into it."
Paterson came out of the swim in fifth place, but surprisingly got passed by several others during the first half of the bike course. "The legs just felt horrible," she said. "We were at Wheeler Canyon and everyone was passing, and I'm a climber. I was like 'what's going on?' "
Once Paterson got into her rhythm, it was over for the other women. By the end of the bike leg, she was ahead by more than a minute. Her winning time was 2:53:21, including 1:36:38 on the bike leg.
Riveros made up some ground on the run, but was never within striking distance of Paterson. Riveros finished with a time of 2:54:04, including the best run split at 43:26.
"I knew she would catch me on the bike leg," Riveros said of Paterson. "I tried to keep up, but altitude is another factor here so you have to manage yourself."
It was just the second XTERRA race for Riveros, and she placed second to Paterson both times (also at the 2012 XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii).
Chantell Widney from Canada placed third in her first appearance at the USA Championship with a time of 2:56:41. "This course really suited me with just tons of climbing," she said.
Widney finished the bike leg in fourth place, and said she could see Riveros ahead, but realized the gap was too significant. "I was just hoping to maintain third," Widney said.
MIDDAUGH, PATERSON WIN XTERRA U.S. PRO SERIES
Josiah Middaugh and Lesley Paterson capped off remarkable season's on XTERRA's pro circuit. Paterson went undefeated, while Middaugh's only blemish was his runner-up performance today. They each received a check for $10,000 for the series title.
Shonny Vanlandingham and Josiah Middaugh took home the honors of XTERRA USA National Champions for having the best seasons of American's on the tour.
Check out the 2013 XTERRA USA Championship photo gallery here.
• Middaugh, Paterson Win XTERRA West Championship