By Merryn Sherwood on 15/05/12 at 5:12 am
Last year was a historic one for Cross Triathlon, after four years of continental championships ITU hosted its first world titles in Extremadura, Spain. Over 400 athletes competed across the elite, junior, age-group and paratriathlon categories in the swim, mountain bike and cross-country run discipline.
This year, the sport takes another step forward as ITU partners with XTERRA for the second edition for the 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and XTERRA Southeast Championships. Oak Mountain State Park, located in the southernmost part of the Appalachian Chain, boasts a trail praised by competitors as one of the most fun, fast, scenic and difficult with credit attributed to the work of Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP) along with Alabama’s DCNR State Park Division, Shelby County and the City of Pelham. BUMP has spent more than 100,000 hours in design and construction of new trails over the past 20 years. The event will feature $20,000 USD in prize money for elite athletes, who will compete over a 1.5km swim, 30km mountain bike and 10km trail run.
Elite Women’s Preview
Canada’s Melanie McQuaid took out the first ITU Cross Triathlon world title in Spain last year, and will return to defend it in Alabama as will the two other women who finished on the podium with her in Extremadura, the USA’s Shonny Vanlandingham and Emma Garrard.
However, it’s a tough field to pick a favourite, as McQuaid, Vanlandingham, Switzerland’s Renata Bucher and Great Britain’s Lesley Paterson all have good form on the course in Shelby County. Last year, McQuaid bettered Vanlandingham and Bucher in the podium 1-2-3, but in 2010 it was Vanlandingham who beat McQuaid to the title as Paterson claimed bronze. McQuaid won in 2009, with Paterson collecting silver, while Vanlandingham won in 2008, where Paterson finished third. Adding to the competition is that Bucher and Paterson, who took out last year’s XTERRA world title, had to have a photo to decide who won in Las Vegas just last week, showing that the battle for the podium is set to be a thrilling one here.
Vanlandingham, the 2010 XTERRA World Champion who is making her return from an ACL injury in this race, said earlier this year it was no surprise that a strong women’s field was competing. “I’ve raced all over the world, and I just love coming back to Oak Mountain every year. It is perhaps the best course in the nation,” she said.
Elite Men’s Preview
Inaugural ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion Conrad Stoltz is also back to defend his title, on a course he has plenty of positive history. Stoltz has had an emotional two weeks, winning XTERRA Las Vegas for his father, Gert, who passed away the week before and then returning to South Africa for his funeral. But he starts as favourite this weekend, Stoltz has won each edition of the race in Pelham since 2007, and said earlier this year that it’s one of his all time favourites.
“Oak Mountain State Park is amazing, and I know I speak for all of us when I say we love racing there,” said Stoltz. “It’s a true XTERRA course with a nice warm water swim in a beautiful lake, a real mountain biker’s course with climbing, technical sections, and fun corners, and a tough but scenic run.”
However, Stoltz might not have it all his way this weekend, with a tough field lined up including USA’s Josiah Middaugh, who has been pushing the two-time Olympian each year since 2007. Middaugh has finished second to Stoltz from 2009 to 2011. Others to watch include the USA’s Cody Waite, Branden Rakita and Craig Evans, Great Britain’s Richard Stannard and Australia’s Christopher Legh. The field includes athletes from ten different nations, including representatives from Egypt, Venezuela and Slovakia.
The unique format for the 2012 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships also provides a spectator-friendly competition for the men’s and women’s pro-only races featuring multiple loops on the bike and run courses that will pass through the main athlete village and around scenic Double Oak Lake. The 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and XTERRA Southeast Championships get underway when the women’s elite starts at 2pm (local time) on Saturday 19 May, followed by the men’s race at 4pm. You can find the full wrap at www.triathlon.org after the race. Under23, junior, age-group and paratriathlon races will also be contested in Shelby County.
Find more details about this event - 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and XTERRA Southeast Championship