Xterra triathlete heroes: 6 of the best

Off-roading triathletes are some of the toughest characters in multisport - here are 6 of the all-time best, and their ultimate tips for conquering all things trail tri

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Lesley Paterson

LESLEY PATERSON

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Nationality: Scottish

Year of birth: 1980

Xterra world titles: 2

Tough gal credentials

Scot-born, San Diego-based Paterson began 2015 in recovery from Lymes Disease. Starting the season with “the lowest fitness I’ve ever had,” Paterson soon broke her shoulder while racing. This led to her competing at (and winning) Xterra Costa Rica using just one arm. Paterson then broke her left wrist and right hand after a bike crash, resulting in surgery and learning “how to brush my teeth and wipe my own arse with no hands!” Just 11 days after surgery, Paterson won the June Lake Triathlon in Mammoth and a further week later, came third overall at an 100km MTB World Cup qualifier race in Tahoe. She finished the season winning the Xterra European Championships – not a bad season.

Paterson’s top Xterra tip

“Off-road triathlon is all about strength endurance. Add two functional ‘core’ routines to your weekly training and add lots of hills or stair running to your brick sessions. The terrain is your opponent. Never let it crack you. If you can’t run, jog. If you can’t jog, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But make sure you always finish.”

Image © Iain Macintosh

NED OVEREND

Nationality: American

Year of birth: 1955 

Xterra world titles: 2

Tough guy credentials

As an Xterra pro triathlete, Overend regularly beat the Lycra off guys 10 and 15 years his junior. The MTB legend was so devastating on the mountain bike that he earned the nicknames of ‘Deadly Nedly’ and ‘The Lung’, even though, in the words of Xterra founder Dave Nicholas, “he just could not swim and needed a four minute advantage out of T2 if he was to win.”

Overend’s top Xterra tip 

“Coming from a guy who was weak in the swim and strong on the bike, my tip would be to pre-ride the bike course carefully with an eye on where to pass. You want to be prepared for the technical sections but you also want to take advantage of the more open sections to get around slower riders. During the race, when you come up on a slower rider call out to let them know you’re going to pass and tell them what side you will be coming by on. It’s always a good idea to throw in a ‘please and thank you’ as well.”

Image © Xterra

CONRAD STOLTZ

Nationality: South African

Year of birth: 1973

Xterra world titles: 4

Tough guy credentials 

Where to start? Stoltz dug his swimming pool in the South African bush by hand. He once broke his back and returned the next year to Maui to become the world champion, and sliced his foot open on a rusty steel girder during Xterra Richmond’s swim but still went on to win the race… before having emergency surgery on the wound. Oh, and his nickname is ‘The Caveman’.

Stoltz’s top Xterra tip 

“Nowadays, it’s pretty hard to buy a bad bike from a reputable company. But one can easily buy the wrong bike: think carefully about what kind of riding you want to do and test ride various bikes (on real trails!). If you’re a rookie or new-ish, don’t be scared to buy a bike that’s more trail-orientated (more suspension travel, grippier tyres and dropper post like the Stumpjumper) than what you think you’ll need. This kind of bike will greatly make up for lack of experience and skill, and will give you confidence to ride stuff you wouldn’t be able to ride on a full blood cross racer.”

image © Xterra

FLORA DUFFY

Nationality: Bermudan

Year of birth: 1987

Xterra world titles: 3

Tough gal credentials 

On her way to winning her first Xterra worlds in 2014, Duffy had a nasty crash that sent her flying into the bushes and ripped holes in her racing kit. “I crashed so hard, I literally don’t know how I got back on my bike,” she says. “I hit a root and flew into the trees head first with the bike on top of me. Five minutes later I had a mechanical. It was a hard day out there!” She finished 2015 by winning the Xterra World Championships and started 2016 the same winning way, with a third Xterra South African Championships to her name.

Duffy’s top Xterra tip

“Treat every race like an adventure and it’s so different from traditional ‘road tri’. When racing, tyre selection is key! You want to make sure you have tyres that suit the conditions of the course. There’s nothing worse than racing on a muddy course with tyres suited for dry conditions.”

Image © Triathlon.org

JAMIE WHITMORE

Nationality: American

Age: 39

Xterra world titles: 1

Tough gal credentials

Whitmore garnered 37 career victories before cancer struck at the age of 31. Yet she overcame unrelenting pain and rehab to become cancer free, and gave birth to twins in 2010 despite doctors stating she’d never have children. She was also told she’d never ride or run again, but returned to Xterra racing in 2012 and is targeting the 2016 Paralympics.

Whitmore’s Xterra tip

“If you want to get better, you have to get dirty. So get out on the trails. There’s simply no substitute for off-road training. If you don’t live near trails, start riding down stairs and curbs. The more you learn how to navigate obstacles, the better bike handler you become. So get out and have fun!”

Image © Xterra

RUBEN RUZAFA

Nationality: Spanish

Year of birth: 1984

Xterra world titles: 3

Tough guy credentials 

Pure drive and determination. Ruzafa showed up in Maui as an unknown mountain biker in 2008, having barely learnt to swim, and emerged as the victor after a lengthy battle with Michael Weiss.

Ruzafa’s top Xterra tip 

“Off-road triathlon is like an adventure. You have to manage the incidentals that can appear in a mountain race, so your bike and tyres must be puncture-resistant. Improving your mountain bike skills can help you to go faster and save energy for running, jump obstacles with a bunny hop, keep the speed with pump skills, and learn to take all kind of turns. And, importantly, if you have good nutrition out of the water onwards, you’ll feel the benefits on the run.”

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Image © Triathlon.org