There was some very tight racing at Xterra UK in Cranleigh, Surrey last weekend, with South Africa’s four-time Xterra world champ Conrad ‘The Caveman’ Stoltz battling for the final Xterra title of his long career.
A solid, driving rain the night prior left the trails muddy and slick, leaving those without the proper grippy tires and skills flying off their bikes left and right. However, the Sunday (31 August) proved perfect for racing, with cool temps and not a drop of rain.
Britain’s Richard Stannard exited Vachery Pond first with the fastest 1.5km swim, followed by Ben Allen (AUS) and Stoltz more than a minute back in 18:54. Ruzafa was almost two minutes behind at 19:35.
Allen moved past Stannard early on the bike to take the lead, and eventually Stoltz managed to catch him. Ruzafa ultimately did what he does best and moved into the front on the second lap of the bike, but couldn’t shake Stoltz.
Conrad Stoltz going hard on the bike at Xterra UK 2015
“I couldn’t pull away,” said Ruzafa, a three-time Xterra world champ who has now won 15 straight Xterra majors since winning the Worlds in October of 2013. “I took speed and tried to pull away but he didn’t drop, he stayed on my wheel.” Ruzafa and Stoltz came into T2 practically together, and then it became a foot race.
“I thought back after my first Xterra in Richmond where it was all about the experience and not about the result and I just wanted to enjoy the race and I did,” said Stoltz. “The bike course was so much fun, it was slippery and challenging and it was pretty crazy.”
Stoltz started suffering leg cramps on the run though, and couldn’t keep up with the Frenchman, eventually crossing the line a little under 30secs behind for second place. “Of course I wanted to win my last Xterra,” he said afterwards. “Winning is important, but enjoying it all is important too, so I’m not going to be too hard on myself.”
Third place was taken by Ben Allen, who posted the fastest run split of the day, and Britain’s Henry Sleight rounded out the top-ten.
In the women’s race, Christine Jeffrey (CAN) was first female out of the water but Jacqui Slack (GBR) was close behind and had an incredible bike, putting more and more time on the rest of the field.
Women’s podium, left-right: Renata Bucher (SUI), Lesley Paterson (GBR), Jacqui Slack (GBR)
“I had an amazing swim, came out with Ruben,” said Slack. “I’ve been working so hard and I felt like it paid off today. I spent so much time training, working on corners, and was really confident, and I like the mud, and the longer the girls didn’t catch me the more I was motivated.
Switzerland’s Renata Bucher caught Slack with about 4km to go on the bike, and led into T2. Eventual winner Lesley Paterson (GBR) caught both early on in the run, and kept pushing to finish over 1min ahead of Bucher, with Slack taking bronze.
“I was pretty down on myself after the first lap because I couldn’t stay upright, but I talked myself into staying positive,” said Paterson afterwards. “I got to the run though and I’m comfortable with that. Ironically, I’m Scottish and it was like I’ve never been in the mud before. I live out in San Diego where it’s sandy and rocky and the mud out there, today was just something else.”
Among the age-groupers, Geert Lauryssen (BEL) and Louise Hanley (GBR) captured the overall amateur championship titles, with British names peppering this year’s list of age-group Xterra European Champions:
Ages 15-19: Molly Campbell, 04:00:01
Ages 15-19: Harry Leleu, 03:01:01
Ages 25-29: Sam Begg, 02:53:44
Ages 25-29: Samantha Aplin, 03:37:28
Ages 30-34: Ruth Owen-Evans, 03:44:50
Ages 45-49: Louise Hanley, 03:29:33
Ages 50-54: Rob Moore, 03:13:43
Ages 55-59: Simon Osborne, 03:19:18
Ages 65-69: Ray Haines, 04:34:46
Were you racing Xterra UK? Let us know in the comments below!