Welcome to paradise - Kapalua, Maui - home to the 2011 XTERRA World Championship. Kapalua Resort has long been lauded as one of the world’s greatest travel destinations and this October the XTERRA Tribe will get to discover it - from the white sand beaches to the West Maui Mountains - in a way no others have before.
For the last several months the XTERRA crew explored much of Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s private 22,000-acre oasis to uncover an epic 18-mile mountain bike loop and six-mile trail run route worthy of the world’s best athletes.
What they found and then created by clearing stretches of previously un-passable mountain foliage was a wild, undulating terrain full of promise. From palm trees to pine trees and ridgeline to ravine, this course may best be described as a tropical roller-coaster ride through pineapple fields and forests.
Gone are the calm seas of Makena, the kiawe thorns and sharp lava rocks of Haleakala, and the unforgiving South Maui sun. It’s a whole new world at Kapalua, and the inaugural class of 2011 will usher in a fresh era of big surf, red dirt, and verdant green passages.
Kapalua is on Maui’s northwest coast and as such its greener, cooler, and more tropical than the south shore and because it faces north, it’s in a position to receive the big swells Hawaii is famous for.
“This course will give our competitors a new and exciting taste of Hawaii,” said XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.
The race starts with a 1.5-kilometer rough water swim at Flemings Beach fronting the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Both transitions and the finish line are a few hundred feet above the ocean at the resorts plush green lawn area just a few feet away from some amazing pools with stunning views of the neighbor islands – Lanai and Molokai. The bike is one big loop that goes up-and-down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains more than a dozen times.
“First blush of the bike course shows 18 miles with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain,” said Nicholas. “The terrain varies from hard-packed red dirt to new single track peeled out of an abandoned golf course that now rides like high speed grassland cross-country trails. There are major gulch crossings that drop into river beds and head-high vegetation to navigate through. One thing is for certain, to do well riders will need to bring their climbing legs and descending courage.”
Once on the run competitors will be faced with a whole lot of climbing while they weave along dirt trails, through Oleander forests, and into 60-foot high ironwood evergreens to an unexpected mountain lake at the 650-foot level.
“It descends like a slalom course through high green Bermuda grasses and opens up in spots to expose fantastic views of the Pacific,” explains Nicholas. “Obstacles are everywhere, including a technical, steep downhill into a gully where racers will have to jump over and duck under fallen trees, navigate a rocky dry creek, head through thick elephant grass, into a Cook pine nursery, up a short rope-assisted scramble and along a narrow single track trail with switchbacks that drop all the way down to the beach. The final test of skill and endurance is a calf-busting 250-meter white sand beach run and of course, one-last uphill back to the Ritz.”
To gather feedback and capture images to create a preview on the new course XTERRA invited a dozen Maui-based XTERRA athletes to a pre-ride. Take a look at the pictures, slideshow, and video links below to see and hear about the new XTERRA World Championship course at Kapalua: