September 4, 2011 (Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler, B.C.) - The snow-capped peaks of Whistler’s famed Olympic ski slopes and mist over Alta Lake greeted athletes assembled at Rainbow Park for the start of XTERRA Canada’s 2nd annual SportChek National Championship in Whistler, B.C., presented by Nita Lake Lodge.
When the gun went off at 9am, the mist had cleared and there was no sign of the cougar that had been spotted on the beach in the early morning hours before the race. The water in Alta Lake was 66 degrees, and it was a typical, beautiful blue sky Whistler day. The swim was two 750-meter laps of a triangular course with a short beach run in between, and the first out and to transition was XTERRA newcomer, Aussie Ben Allen (Wollongong, NSW), followed closely by American Seth Wealing (Boulder, CO) and Canada’s Jean-Philippe Thibodeau (Baie-Saint Paul, QC).
Hot on their heels was Colorado’s Branden Rakita (Manitou Springs) and 4x XTERRA World Champ Conrad Stoltz (Stellenbosch, South Africa). Last year’s XTERRA Canada champ, Josiah Middaugh (Vail, Colorado) was two minutes off the lead pack along with Canadians Mike Vine and Melanie McQuaid.
Competitors faced two 12-kilometer laps on one of XTERRA’s most technical bike courses – complete with a variety of built stunts including numerous bridges, skinny’s (little rails about three feet off the ground), and tight, twisting trails through trees and rocks. A 10km trail run followed leading athletes directly uphill and gnarly downhill sections. The technical nature and difficulty of the course was certainly reflected in the finish times.
None of this proved to be an obstacle for defending XTERRA Canada champion, Josiah Middaugh, who racked up the fastest bike split and won the race today and his second consecutive XTERRA Canada title in 2:38:46 – almost two minutes ahead of second placed Mike Vine. “It was one of those days – magical. It feels awesome,” said Middaugh of his win. “It’s a hard course, and tricky – all new trails and much tougher than last year. I got here Wednesday so I had time to practice, and that definitely helped.”
In the women's race three-time XTERRA World Champion and defending XTERRA Canada champion Melanie McQuaid (Victoria, BC) led the women out of the swim and never looked back. “This course is made for me. I felt well prepared (for this race) as riding in Victoria is quite technical, but it is very different from here – I loved it, it was so much fun,” she said. “I got more comfortable with this stuff riding BC Bike Race last year, and that helped my technical confidence going in to this race”.
Top 5 Men
1 Josiah Middaugh USA 2:38:46
2 Mike Vine CAN 2:40:34
3 Seth Wealing USA 2:43:26
4 Branden Rakita USA 2:46:46
5 Kelly Guest CAN 2:47:44
Top 5 Women
1 Melanie McQuaid CAN 3:05:41
2 Brandi Heisterman CAN 3:15:37
3 Danelle Kabush CAN 3:17:34
4 Emma Garrard USA 3:24:01
5 Mical Dyck CAN 3:24:10