March 8, 2009 (Snowbasin, UT) – Brian Smith, a 33-year-old elite endurance racer from Gunnison, Colorado, was as flawless as the weather at Snowbasin Resort today – putting together the best bike, snowshoe, run and randonnée ski times to capture the XTERRA Winter World Championship for the second straight year in two hours, 21 seconds, more than five minutes ahead of two-time Winter Triathlon World Champion Nicolas Lebrun from France.
“It feels good to defend the title,” smiled Smith, who also won the USA Winter Triathlon crown in January. “I wanted to be flawless today, and was able to put some gaps on the field in the first climbing section on the bike and from there I just stayed on the gas and pulled away.”
Indeed, the man who was wearing the No. 1 jersey was appropriately out in front all day. The race combined 10-kilometers of mountain biking, 5km of snowshoeing, 5km of running, and 8km of ski mountaineering – all on the “Greatest Snow on Earth” at Snowbasin which is boasting the deepest base in Utah and solid mid-winter conditions to go along with the most beautiful sunshine days imaginable.
Smith charged hard from the moment race director Dave Nicholas’ cannon blast sent a flurry of mountain bikers representing 15 states and four countries sliding down the hill to start the race. He had the fastest bike time in 25:04, and went out onto the snowshoe leg more than a minute ahead of Jay Henry, two minutes in front of Lebrun, and just about four minutes ahead of Josiah Middaugh.
Middaugh, an 8-time snowshoe national champ, made up a minute-30 on Smith during the deep powder snowshoe stomp through the forest and caught Henry and Lebrun by the time they hit the run. The trio of striders made for an intimidating chase pack but Smith stayed swift and kept his lead at 1:35 heading out onto the ski mountaineering course.
By the final stage Middaugh had overtaken Henry and Lebrun and moved into second place, giving himself the opportunity to turn the tide on what happened at last year’s race when Smith made up two minutes in the last leg to steal the victory from Middaugh by a mere second.
Alas, it wasn’t to be as Smith posted the fastest ski mountaineering split of the day – a 39:39 with a graceful giant slalom shuffle in front of a cowbell-ringing crazed-crowd at the finish line to seal the deal.
“I’m sorry it wasn’t as spectacular of a finish as last year but it was a great race,” said Smith at the awards ceremony where he picked up a $1,800 check for first place. “These guys here at Snowbasin did an excellent job putting this course together – this place is first class all the way.”
Those sentiments were echoed throughout. “The ski was awesome, just beautiful terrain and this was my first time skiing in Utah but I’ll definitely be back. I had a blast,” said Henry, who finished 3rd overall.
Lebrun, who came into the ski stage in fourth, skinned his way up the hill in a hurry and passed Henry and Middaugh to finish second. All told, the 18-mile course featured some 3,000 feet of human-powered climbing up, down, and around the snow covered mountain whose base sits at 6,400-feet elevation.
‘Goode’ Skis, Better Form Turn Dussault From Runner-up to Champion
Last year Rebecca Dussault had a two-minute lead heading into the final ski stage but was on a heavy telemark ski set-up while eventual champion Sari Anderson came screaming by her on a randonnée rig and took away the win.
It was an important equipment lesson learned for Dussault and the same situation would not be repeated…for two reasons a) Anderson stayed home nursing a cold, and b) Dussault was on a sweet pair of Goode Randonnée race skis made of pure carbon fiber that are half the weight and twice the physical properties as other comparable skis that have wood in them (Brian Smith was on the same skis).
Dussault was also in much better shape and focus this time around – having won the USA Winter Triathlon Nationals and a bronze at the Winter Triathlon World Championship in Austria where she became the first American to ever medal.
“I’m in much better shape than last year, and I’m a proud owner of Goode skis for four days now” exclaimed Dussault. “These skis are so lightweight and really fun on the downhills.”
The 8-time U.S. National XC Ski Champion and 2006 Winter Olympian dominated just about every phase of today’s race – posting the fastest bike, run, and ski splits. Only Myriam Guillot from France, the XTERRA Winter European Champ, had a better snowshoe time.
Amateur racer Brandyn Roark Gray had a brilliant bike and was just 30 seconds behind Dussault heading into the snowshoe, but by the run Brandyn dropped to third and Lisa Isom moved into second, but still nearly four minutes behind Dussault.
In the end Dussault finished nearly 15 minutes ahead of Isom, with long-time XTERRA pro Jenny Tobin in third, Guillot in fourth, and Jari Kirkland in fifth.
Scheefer, Colonna Win Amateur Titles
Caroline Colonna (40-49) from Taos, New Mexico won the overall amateur women’s division for the second year in a row while randonnée specialist Travis Scheefer (20-29) from Crested Butte, Colorado won the men’s overall amateur title.
Jan Eitel (30-39) from Moscow, Idaho was the only repeat winner among amateur men. Eric Black (40-49), Kevin Deighan (50-59), and John Campbell (60-69) also claimed XTERRA Winter World titles. Brandyn Roark Gray from Aztec, NM won the women’s 20-29 division, while Amber Mounday (30-39) became the first local Ogden female to win an XTERRA Winter World title.
Four-time XTERRA off-road triathlon national champ (3-time World Champ) Cindi Toepel won the women’s 50-59 division while her husband Circ was second in the 50-59 division. Those two were honored with the “Mr. and Mrs. XTERRA” award given annually to those who best exemplify the camaraderie, commitment, challenge, discovery and style that is the essence of XTERRA.
From Maui to Utah – The Fire and Ice Award
A special Fire and Ice award was presented to the men’s and women’s pro and amateur racers with the fastest combined times from the 2008 XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon in Maui and today’s XTERRA Winter World Championship here in Utah. Brian Smith won the men’s pro award for the second year running, as did Caroline Colonna with the women’s amateur award. New to the Fire and Ice club are women’s pro Jenny Tobin and men’s amateur Greg Abrahamson.