April 14, 2012 (Lake Las Vegas, Nevada) - Emotion and excitement ruled the day at the XTERRA West Championship in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada as XTERRA icon Conrad ‘the Caveman’ Stoltz rode a wave of adrenaline to victory in honor of his father Gert who passed away on Monday, while Renata Bucher somehow out-stretched the defending XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson at the tape in the closest women’s finish in the sports history.
"I thought about my Dad a lot, and Liezel, and our faith that has carried us through this,” said Stoltz, who pointed to the heavens as he crossed the finish line. “This one is for my Dad. Tomorrow, we’ll go home for his funeral.”
A cold, rainy, overcast day greeted athletes from around the U.S. for the 9am start in 57-degree Lake Las Vegas. Three-time Aquathon World Champ Richard Stannard from the United Kingdom led the charge as expected, posting the fastest 1.5K swim in 18:11, followed by Dan Hugo (-24), Branden Rakita (-35), Craig Evans (-44), and Stoltz (-58 seconds).
“I lost a bit of time on the swim but it wasn’t too cold and I felt good on the bike and made it up,” said Stoltz, who reeled in all four early and started to build his lead from there. “My bike was set-up really well thanks to Specialized being out here. Last night I made a last minute tire change and my set-up was perfect for this course. I was happy to make three minutes on Dan and more than four on Josiah (Middaugh). You need at least four because Josiah makes a minute up on each hill.”
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Points
1 Conrad Stoltz 38 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:08:22 100
2 Josiah Middaugh 33 Vail, Colorado 2:10:02 90
3 Dan Hugo 26 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:13:07 82
4 Chris Legh 39 Melbourne, Australia 2:13:35 75
5 Branden Rakita 31 Colorado Springs, Colorado 2:15:18 69
6 David Henestrosa 35 Clearfield, Utah 2:16:11 63
7 Craig Evans 34 Hendersonville, Tennessee 2:16:47 58
8 Doug Hall 24 Bath, Great Britain 2:18:03 53
9 Lewis Elliot 31 Scottsdale, Arizona 2:20:39 49
10 Will Ross 22 Anchorage, Alaska 2:21:41 45
In the women's race and after nearly three hours of racing the women’s pro race came down to a never-before seen photo finish with Bucher going stride-for-stride with Paterson all the way to the tape.
Bucher finished in 2:58:24.18 and Paterson came in at 2:58:24.50, just 3/10ths of a second later. It was the closest finish in XTERRA’s 17-year history. Watch the finish.
What makes it even more remarkable was the comeback of Paterson, who was two minutes and 43 seconds behind heading out on to the run.
“We ran the last 200 yards like that together. I tried to pass real quickly but she held on and sat on my tail,” explained an exhausted Paterson. “My thighs were burning and I was dying, then I went for the sprint and it was downhill - and I’m really good at that and thought I had it - but …”
As they sprinted dangerously fast down the last dirt hill and through the finish chute it’s a miracle neither went face first, and it wasn’t until just before the tape that Paterson stumbled and Bucher broke the tape. The two embraced immediately after in a truly memorable sports moment celebrating pure guts and character on both racers part.
“It was so hard, oh my goodness,” said Bucher. “I left everything I had on that course, and I ran my heart out. What a great race. Lesley made me work so hard. I wish we hadn’t sprinted like that, though, it really hurt.”
For Bucher (pictured courtesy Nils Nilsen) it was her fourth straight XTERRA championship win, having swept back-to-back-to-back races at XTERRA Guam, Philippines and Saipan in March.
“Renata is incredible, she’s going really well right now,” said Paterson. “I thought I might just get her at the end but she held on like a trooper. If anybody should’ve won it’s her.”
Emma Garrard had a great race as well, matching her career-best finish by coming in third. Danelle Kabush passed Melanie McQuaid, who came into the race sick, to finish fourth. McQuaid held on for fifth.
Pl Name Age Hometown Time Points
1 Renata Bucher 34 Lucerne, Switzerland 2:27:24.18 100
2 Lesley Paterson 31 San Diego, California 2:27:24.50 90
3 Emma Garrard 30 Park City, Utah 2:34:42 82
4 Danelle Kabush 36 Calgary, Canada 2:36:41 75
5 Melanie McQuaid 38 Victoria, B.C., Canada 2:37:10 69
6 Suzie Snyder 30 Fredericksburg, Virginia 2:37:19 63
7 Kate Major 34 San Rafael, California 2:40:47 58
8 Beth Walsh 32 Encinitas, California 2:41:26 53
9 Sara Tarkington 31 Boulder, Colorado 2:45:48 49
10 Kathryn Ross 21 Boulder, Colorado 2:50:54 45