XTERRA Oak Mountain this Weekend for Kiwi's
XTERRA is Back! The first major in the U.S. since the 2019 World Championship in Maui is just two days away at the 15th XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon in Shelby County, Alabama on Saturday, May 8.
Operating under the best practices outlined in USA Triathlon’s Safe Return to Multisport and all current covid-related rules and restrictions set by local municipalities, XTERRA Oak Mountain will host roughly 700 triathletes and trail runners over the weekend.
For the first-time ever and in order to provide the safest event possible, XTERRA will operate a time trial start for age group triathletes at a championship event. Trail Run starts will also be social distanced.
Elite triathletes, however, will enjoy the traditional mass starts and head-to-head racing thanks to a new, highly accurate, rapid COVID-19 PCR test provided and administered by Dr. Van Der Pol of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine - Division of Infectious Diseases. The test, which generates results in 30 minutes, will be given less than 24 hours before the race start.
“UAB, working with our partners at Alabama Statewide Area Healthcare Education Centers (Alabama AHEC), is pleased to be able to offer support that allows a safe return to activities that we all missed in 2020,” said Dr. Van Der Pol.
Perhaps who racked up some serious frequent flyer miles on their way to winning nine XTERRA majors in five different countries in 2019.
“Excited, as I’m sure the entire field is in Alabama, to be back racing,” said the 2019 XTERRA Oak Mountain elite men’s winner. “Have missed the international racing dearly so it feels amazing to be back in Alabama to kick it all off. It has to be the best race on the US tour that I’ve done, with some sweet sweet single trail.”
To defend his title, Osborne, a master of “racecraft” and the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champion, will have to play the game just right.
“Looks like a banging field we’ve got for Saturday and even a couple of the big on-road stars here to play, which adds a really interesting dynamic to the racing. And I’ve heard this guy Bradley is turning up who apparently goes ok at the off-road stuff,” joked Osborne, in reference to reigning XTERRA World Champion Bradley Weiss.
“It’s been so long between drinks it’s hard to pick how the race dynamic will be. Who knows who went what way in all the restrictions last year, and who’s really come on in the absent year? What we do know is it will definitely be fast and furious and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
The on-road stars Osborne refers to are Eric Lagerstrom and Andrew Starykowicz, who are both jumping into their first XTERRA on Saturday. The challenge itself combines a one-mile swim in the warm water of Double Oak Lake with a grueling 20-mile mountain bike on the highly acclaimed Oak Mountain trails, and a twisting 10km trail run. Lagerstrom and Starykowics will surely be in the front pack coming out of the swim, but how it plays from there is what has everyone excited – because the big difference between off-road and road tri, is the mountain bike.
“It's great those guys are racing, and fun to see a pretty deep pro field with so many eager to race,” said 2015 XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh, who has 36 wins in his illustrious 20-year XTERRA career - including 5 of the last 7 at Oak Mountain. “Those two are definitely in good half ironman shape, having already raced and proven themselves. Starky is known as the strongest cyclist in Ironman so it will be interesting if he can lay down that power between the corners. I think they will both be in the mix with strong swims and great bike power.”
XTERRA veteran Branden Rakita, who finished sixth at Oak Mountain in 2019, is quick to agree.
“It is going to be a fast race and there will be a large group out front on the swim with the addition of Eric and Andrew,” he said. “My goal is to be in the mix out of the water and then work to hang on to Sam and Brad as they will lead the charge at the front for sure. I think Eric will probably surprise some people on the bike, and we will all want to move quick to keep as big of a gap on Josiah as possible.”
Kieran McPherson, Elliot Bach, and Brian Smith – who finished 3-4-5 respectively at Oak Mountain in 2019 – are all podium contenders this year as well.
Bach, a road-focused elite who made his XTERRA debut in Alabama two years ago, raced his way into the top 10 at Challenge Cancun last weekend.
“Coming off a very hot half distance down in Cancun, I’m looking forward to some fast racing across all three. I know there are some solid swimmers coming this year, so my plan is to swim like hell, ride faster and smarter than last time, and push the run. Much harder field this go around, but aiming for podium,” he said.
Elite Men’s Start List
Race # - Name, NAT
1 - Sam Osborne, NZL
2 – Josiah Middaugh, USA
3 – Kieran McPherson, NZL
4 – Elliot Bach, USA
5 – Brian Smith, USA
6 – Branden Rakita, USA
7 – Steve Croucher, USA
8 – Curtiss Feltner, USA
9 – Barret Fishner, USA
10 – Sean Kickbush, USA
11 – Ian King, USA
12 – Eric Lagerstrom, USA
14 – Garen Marter, USA
15 – Humberto Rivera, USA
16 – Will Ross, USA
17 – Hans Ryham, USA
18 – Benny Smith, USA
19 – Andrew Starykowicz, USA
20 – Brad Weiss, RSA
In the women’s race 2019 winner Suzie Snyder, who has won three of the last four at Oak Mountain, is back to defend the crown and will face off against Samantha Kingsford, who won three races on her way to winning the XTERRA Pan Am Tour title in 2019.
“I’m both excited and afraid to see what’s in store for this race,” said Snyder. “Having not raced for so long, I’m trying to temper my expectations and keep a relaxed attitude but that’s hard when you’re really excited, plus, I just love this venue! My goal is to execute a smooth race that results in a respectable finish...aka, don’t make a million mistakes or go out too fast and blow up spectacularly! Honesty, I’m just happy to be back at a race with my friends and will be racing with a lot of gratitude for everyone’s hard work in making this event possible!”
Kingsford, who has been racing in New Zealand and won XTERRA Rotorua for the first-time last month, said she’s excited to get back into international racing at epic venues like the one here in Shelby County, Alabama.
“It’s such a cool course, with a lot of fast single track trail to ride, a true mountain bike course,” she said. “As for the race itself, it’s hard to know what everyone’s form is like as we haven’t seen or raced each other in nearly two years. I’m sure Suzie is going to be one to mark and watch, but with a few new 70.3 women on the line who I don’t know, you can’t discount anyone of them either.”
Brandi Swicegood, who won XTERRA ATX two weeks ago, and Nickie Luse, are jumping into an XTERRA major for the first time on Saturday - alongside Snyder, Kingsford and veterans Kelli Montgomery and Amanda Felder.
“I’m looking forward to my first go with XTERRA,” exclaimed Luse. “My game plan…as long as no trees or rocks win, I'll be happy, and I’m thrilled to see a start and finish line ahead.”
Elite Women’s Start List
Race # - Name, NAT
61 – Suzie Snyder, USA
62 – Samantha Kingsford, NZL
63 – Amanda Felder, USA
64 – Kelli Montgomery, USA
65 – Nickie Luse, USA
66 – Brandi Swicegood, USA
In addition to the XTERRA Championship race, there is half-distance XTERRA Sprint race and a beginner and family-friendly “Xticer” race that combines a 200-meter swim with a 10K mountain bike, and 2K trail run. Then on Sunday XTERRA will host a full set of trail runs to include a 5km trail run/walk option, 5x5K relay team races, and competitive 10km, 20km, and the first U.S. race in the XTERRA Trail Marathon Series to award ITRA points.
To complement the races Oak Mountain State Park offers a wealth of family activities, a wildlife center, swimming beach, fishing, horseback riding, golfing, boat rental, camping, and more. For a complete guide to the area visit www.discovershelby.com.
How to Follow
- Elite race starts at 8:20am Central time on Saturday, May 8. You'll be able to see swim leaders on the live results at about 8:40am here: https://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-61193.