Olympians Conrad Stoltz of South Africa and Barbara Riveros of Chile captured the 12th annual XTERRA New Zealand Championship race on a beautiful Saturday morning around the Blue Lake in Rotorua.
Stoltz, a four-time XTERRA World Champion and three-time ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion, set his sights on discovering the adventure and thrill of racing in some of the world's most amazing venues in 2014 and got off to a rollicking start for that today.
"The course was phenomenal, exactly what I expected," said Stoltz after the win. "I heard so many good things about it and saw footage of it on the internet. When I saw the course I thought wow, this is just phenomenal. I wish I could stay longer and ride some more and see the rest of the trails out here."
Australian Ben Allen, no stranger to the beauty of Rotorua as the reigning and two-time XTERRA New Zealand Champion, took the early lead out of the swim; however, Stoltz was not far behind and jumped into the front roughly 4km into the mountain bike.
"I had a really good race," said Stoltz. "I've had good form early this year but had a couple of bad luck races with flats and stuff earlier this summer in South Africa so it was great to come out here and make the most of it."
Stoltz said he was smiling on the downhills, and came into the bike-to-run transition with a gap big enough to hold-off the speedy Allen who crossed the finish line just 40-seconds back in 2nd place. It's Allen's third XTERRA major in as many weeks, and he won the other two - at Great Ocean Road in Australia and the XTERRA Saipan Championship last week.
Local young gun Olly Shaw, who won the 20-24 XTERRA World Title in 2012, was the top Kiwi and placed third overall. Shaw also raced the Asia-Pacific Tour the last two weeks, placing 3rd at XTERRA Guam and 4th at XTERRA Saipan. Kiwi Sam Osborne was 4th and Spaniard Roger Serrano placed 5th.
2014 XTERRA New Zealand Championship Results:
Rotorua, New Zealand - April 12, 2014
|Pro Men Results||Time||
|Pro Women Results||Time|
|Conrad Stoltz (RSA)||2:04:51||
|Barbara Riveros (CHI)||2:18:32|
|Ben Allen (AUS)||2:05:31||
|Jacqui Slack (GBR)||2:24:14|
|Olly Shaw (NZL)||2:07:28||
|Sarah Backler (NZL)||2:27:44|
|Sam Osborne (NZL)||2:08:55||
|Lizzie Orchard (NZL)||2:30:20|
|Roger Serrano (ESP)||2:11:27||
|Rachel Challis (NZL)||2:30:59|
In her fourth-ever XTERRA race Barbara Riveros captured her first-ever XTERRA Championship.
"Pretty happy with my performance today," said Riveros, who placed 8th last weekend at the ITU World Triathlon Series opener in Auckland, New Zealand. "It's hard to spend much time on my mountain bike because my focus is ITU and next month we start qualification for Rio."
Great Britain XTERRA star Jacqui Slack, the 2012 New Zealand Champ, pushed Riveros to the breaking point on the bike before succumbing to her phenomenal fitness level.
"Jacqui was pushing so hard on the bike, and came so very close to dropping me," said Riveros. "I had to put the hammer down just to stay with her. I'm really happy for her because she has brought her mountain bike skill to another level. She's another athlete compared to last year."
Thought the two went neck-and-neck on the bike, Riveros took off on the run and won comfortably.
"The run around the lake was awesome, the support was great, I felt comfortable and kept my tempo and I'm really happy it worked out," said Riveros.
Interestingly, it was Slack (and her mate Ben Allen) who talked Riveros into racing at XTERRA New Zealand.
"Yeah, Jacqui and I train in the same city in Australia and she told me you must come here, it is amazing and she was right. I am so grateful to Ben and Jacqui to suggest coming here. This place is unbelievable, like a dream. I just love nature, the trails are amazing, and it is a wonderful event," said Riveros.
Sarah Backler, a 2012 XTERRA World Champ (30-24 division), finished third, Lizzie Orchard, a 2011 XTERRA World Champ (25-29 division) was fourth, and Rachel Challis, a U.S. based XTERRA pro from New Zealand, placed fifth and two-time XTERRA NZ Champ Nicola Leary was sixth.