By Scott Schumaker
July 20, 2003 (Keystone, CO) – The Xterra Central Championship race held in Keystone, Colorado is a quintessential Centennial State event. Taking place between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, it’s got mountains and altitude; it’s got a chilly, 58-degree swim and a wild descent on the bike; it’s got rocks and creek crossings; and it’s got views and variety. Basically, it has many of the same ingredients that bring so many adventurous souls to the state. So it’s no surprise that when perusing the race’s start list it’s much easier to count the number of people who aren’t from Colorado, roughly 100 out of the 400, than those who are. It follows that it is also no surprise that Coloradoans do so well at the event.
In the women’s pro race, Louisville’s Chantal Knapp led the way, placing third with a time of 2:39:27. For Knapp, the race didn’t start until after the swim, her weakness. “I hammered myself on the bike to make up time and catch as many people as I could, but it caught up to me on the run,” Knapp said, who was in second until the run turnaround. “There’s just no forgiveness when you’re racing at altitude.” Although she was somewhat disappointed she didn’t finish second, it’s important to note that Keystone was only her second XTERRA and that 2003 is her first year back racing competitively after a five-year, two-babies hiatus. And while some might think the 37-year-old is past her racing prime, Knapp says she feels like she has yet to reach her endurance peak and looks forward to proving it in future races.
Also putting in an impressive performance was Boulder’s Melissa Thomas. Thomas placed fourth overall in 2:40:32. The kicker is she not only got a flat at the end of the bike, but she also raced with a chipped kneecap, the result of crashing in a mountain bike race four weeks earlier. Thomas said, “I was glad just to get through the run and only be passed by two people.”
When it came to the amateur race, it was Vail’s Lisa Isom who won the day with a 2:51:35. It was an eight-minute course PR for Isom, who was the fifth-place amateur here last year, and it was also the eleventh fastest women’s time overall. “I knew going in that I could have a shot at placing in the top three, but I’d have to have the best all-around race of my career so far,” said Isom. “Coming out of T2, I was exactly where I needed to be on my splits and sitting in fourth place. I passed three women within the first two miles and then fought off leg cramps the rest of the race to finish in first place.”
In the XY-chromosome race, the top Coloradoan depends on how you define state residency. If you define it as a South African who lives in Colorado Springs during the season but returns to his homeland during the winter, then two-time XTERRA World Champion Conrad Stoltz is your man. Stoltz finished third in 2:09:31 and is now tied for first place in the XTERRA Points Series with California’s Steve Larsen. However, if you define a Coloradoan as a full-time, all-year resident than Vail’s Josiah Middaugh is your guy. He finished ninth overall in 2:14:54, a six-minute improvement from last year when he was Keystone’s top amateur finisher. “It was a good race for me,” said Josiah. “It helps that I live and train above 8,000 feet. And as a rookie pro I am still learning what I’m capable of, but I’ve improved every XTERRA so far this season and I hope I can see some more progress in the remaining races.”
Denver’s Greg Krause, 26, who has aspirations of following Josiah’s path from amateur to pro, topped the men’s age-group field by turning in a 2:22:07, good enough for sixteenth overall. Krause, who started racing triathlons only one year ago at this very race, said he was happy with his day despite some problems, “I got chain suck right out of the transition area and I had to play catch-up throughout the race. I was third off the bike but I was able to catch the first-place guy right before the turnaround [on the run].” He said he is still learning about the sport and trying to find the niche and distance that best suits him. In quintessential Coloradoan fashion, for Krause that means attempting The Double – racing the Ironman World Championships and the XTERRA World Championships a mere eight days apart – with only a year of multisport experience under his belt.