Race weekend is here and I am excited to be in Pelham, Alabama, for the 2012 ITU Cross World Championships located in Oak Mountain State Park. My journey to the ITU Cross World Championships began in February when I received the confirmation I would race with Team USA. The honor of looking down to see USA on my chest is a little surreal. I also have the privilege to race with a fellow teammate, Adam Xaysuda, from my racing team SweatBloodDirt.com. We have always had a friendly rivalry between us, and to carry that into a world championship race is a good feeling.
Thursday morning, age group athletes were allowed to pre ride the course from 9-11 a.m. I have ridden Oak Mountain State Park a few times in the past, and I would rate it as one of the best trail systems in the South. The pre ride was good minus the hard crash taken by Adam, leading to a few broken parts on his bike. I overheard a few riders talking about how fun the course will be to race, and the excitement of this event is palpable. Friday looks to be a full day, with swim practice and the bike/run course opening at 9 a.m.
I have been to a couple national championship races and XTERRA always puts on a top class championship series venue and at this race, in combination with ITU, it is no different. A huge highlight for Friday afternoon will be the Paul Mitchell sponsored “XTERRA University” with Conrad Stoltz and Lesley Paterson, plus the opening ceremony and the pre-race meal.
Saturday will be a different set up than most XTERRA races. The age group men will start at 8:05 a.m. and age group women at 8:35 a.m. Pro women start at 2:00 p.m. and pro men at 4:00 p.m. which is very different from most races. XTERRA races have a mass start for age group and pro racers combined.
It’s surreal to be able to walk up to a pro and have casual conversations with them. From walking by and Josiah Middaugh giving you a high five, to being steps away from Melanie Mcquaid talking about bike parts. Adam has had the high honor of assisting pro Craig Evans with rubber bands last year. This morning, he assisted a female pro from South Africa with a set of Allen wrenches. Very few sports allow you to be on the same grass of pros and XTERRA certainly grants that opportunity.
The age group bike course has it all — with some awesome single track, a leg burning 500 ft climb to a rock formation called “Blood Rock,” and gnarly downhills testing each racer’s full skill set. The pros are riding a different course this year than the age-groupers. They will be riding a 3-lap race course, which is fast, tight and twisty. This will allow for the pro race portion to be viewer friendly.
The run course will be the same for both age-groupers and pros. It will consist of two 5k loops around the lake. Cramps and other heat related problems start to plague the athletes during this section of the race every year, and with 88-90 degree temperature predictions, I don’t see this year being any different.
This is a huge weekend for both the sport of triathlon and XTERRA/ITU Cross. I am excited to see where the sport goes from here; maybe one day it will be an Olympic sport, and I will be able to say I raced with Team USA back in 2012.