August 6, 2011 (Tapalpa, Jalisco, Mexico) – Americans Seth Wealing and Shonny Vanlandingham won the XTERRA Mexico Championship in Tapalpa on Saturday. It’s the third straight year Wealing has won the Mexican title, and it’s the second title in three years for Vanlandingham. XTERRA Managing Director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas was on site for the race and brings us this report.
Seth and Shonny in Mexico. Unbelievable. The awards ceremony and after party standards have hit a new high. The entire village square of Tapalpa was transformed into XTERRA Village. About 7:30 pm the announcer started awards and every category from kids to sport to champ racers took the podium with literally thousands of people cheering.
The final awards, given at dusk, were to the elites and the roars were unbelievable. Shonny Vanlandingham is the new rockstar of Mexico. After she stepped off the podium she was surrounded by hundreds of admirers taking photos, signing autographs, shaking hands. Seth Wealing was equally mobbed as were all the elites.
In the center of the square was this huge metal tower which turned out to be a 50-foot high fireworks display. After about an hour of signing autographs and drinking Jalisco’s much better version of a margarita (served in clay mugs), the locals fired up this monstrous display. Even more impressive was a 16-piece Mexican band that played wild music to the fireworks display.
The best part was the final and top display which had two cyclists that had fireworks rockets propelling them round and round the huge tower – except the rockets were in wrong and the cyclists went backwards! We all thought this was the end – but NO…immediately after, on the upper level of the plaza a huge XTERRA fireworks display burned and lit up the town.
Whew, we all thought, that was spectacular. No sooner did we think we should get something to eat but a 10-minute aerial display went off, and exploded right above our heads. The remains of the rockets simply fell down on the crowd and nobody cared. Shonny looked around and said “If this was in the States there would be ropes and barricades and police pushing everybody around.”
To say this was an event not to be missed does not do it justice. Anybody who loves XTERRA and the lifestyle simply has to be in Tapalpa for 2012. Forget the sensationalist press telling you about danger; read my lips – there is none in this area of the country. This is not a border town.
Oh, there was a race. I almost forgot all about it.
The day started early with three separate full swim/bike/run kids races. What a treat to see so many young boys and girls truly involved in the sport.
At 10:00am the elites took off from the swim start peninsula on their two, 750-meter lap swim. They were followed by all males 16-34 and shortly thereafter by everyone else. Local road pro Irving Perez burned everyone with a fantastic swim and easily led over the cable and wood plank bridge. Seth Wealing and Branden Rakita were tight on his heels and quickly passed him on a tight, steep technical climb just past the bridge. After that it was a case of Seth leading, then Branden leading, then switching back again.
Lots of fun missing corners and Seth getting to a locked gate and having to back track. Will Kelsey was having a great ride, maybe the strongest yet of his career, to make up a swim that put him four minutes behind the leader.
Rakita made it back into the town of Tapalpa to thousands of spectators and mariachi bands followed in seconds by Wealing. Kelsey used his strong bike to get ahead of Perez and was 3rd into T2. Wealing started at a strong pace but Rakita was running very well and it took everything Seth had to pass Branden and earn a very hard fought victory by just over a minute.
On the women’s side Olympian and 2010 XTERRA Mexico Champion Fabiola Corona put in her usual great swim and had nearly four minutes on her main rival, Shonny Vanlandingham, leaving transition.
Shonny had been nervous in the days prior because her bike was not in Mexico. Fortunately, it arrived on the morning of the race and she put it together and had that big Shonny smile by start time. She quickly reeled in the other women and took command of the race about mid way into the 30-kilometer bike.
The nice surprise was young Daniela Compuzano, a mountain bike pro, who took five minutes out of Fabiola and came into T2 with a small lead. Corona can run like the wind, however, and it was not long before the Mexican Olympian had reclaimed 2nd place and had enough of a lead to take her precious baby across the line. Campuzano was a solid 3rd and had a great race. We are hoping to see both Mexican women in Maui.
So for the big guns it was Wealing, Rakita and Kelsey – a USA sweep but with Irving Perez showing with some time on the mountain bike he can be a force for the future.
Vanlandingham got back her Mexican championship back after losing it to Corona in 2010. Corona continues to show she is the strongest Mexican woman and Campuzano simply needs to run a bit faster to start moving up the podium steps.
The end result? This is a fabulous event. The organizers are first rate all the way. The goody bag has loads of great things, the city of Tapalpa is unbelievably charming and classic Mexico. Jalisco is perhaps the most prosperous State in the country and Guadalajara is beautiful and very safe. This is a world class international event. XTERRA athletes must put this on their calendar for next year and come early and enjoy the fabulous culture and the unbelievable great deals on hotels rooms, cabanas (or little tourist houses) food and souvenirs. After the celebration in the plaza – 12 of us went to Paulina’s… a great little restaurant above the plaza and drank dos Equis beer and ate like kings. The tab? $70US. If that is not enough alone to bring you here I can’t imagine what would.
Top 5 Women
1 Shonny Vanlandingham USA 2:36:54
2 Fabiola Corona MEX 2:42:10
3 Daniela Campuzano MEX 2:48:33
4 Ana Paula Guerrero MEX 3:06:54
5 Laura Ramirez MEX 3:09:34
Top 5 Men
1 Seth Wealing USA 2:15:11
2 Branden Rakita USA 2:16:23
3 Will Kelsay USA 2:19:47
4 Irving Perez MEX 2:29:28
5 Octavio Vicente MEX 2:31:21