McPherson, Baker win XTERRA Victoria

Monday 09 July 2018
Kieran McPherson and Julie Baker captured the XTERRA Victoria off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful day at Durrance Lake in British Columbia, Canada on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

It’s the third win on the 2108 XTERRA Pan America Tour this season for McPherson, and for Baker, her second big win on the XTERRA World Tour since turning pro in 2016.

In the men’s race XTERRA veteran Brent McMahon was first out of the water, with Branden Rakita and Ian King right behind.  McPherson and Josiah Middaugh were a little more than two minutes behind the lead swimmers but posted the best bike splits of the day to move into the lead on the second leg.

“It was a tough course to ride without good course knowledge,” said Middaugh.  “I knew it was a risk arriving late, but I still put myself in a good position to go for the win. I swam with Kieran and biked the first lap with him. When we caught Branden I put a small gap on him, but he stayed close. Branden was also riding well and after blowing through a corner I found myself behind again and playing catch up. I came into T2 with a few seconds on Branden and a little more time to Kieran. I thought it was enough of a gap to hold off Kieran, but he was charging and I didn’t have enough of a response.”

McPherson, who crashed hard on the bike and didn’t finish this race last year, proved once again that his run split is top of class on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour.  He blitzed the run in 37:24, nearly two-minutes better than Middaugh to take the tape in 2:06:03, 37-seconds ahead of Josiah.

"I have been running fast all year said McPherson, who has had the fastest run split at every race except the season-opener in Chile when Mauricio Mendez was quicker.  "Today was redemption after last year when I crashed on this course.This is the form I have continued on all year I believe just my last two races (illness in Bama after weeks racing and mechanical in DR) have been a little off what I set as my performance standard."

As for how the race was won, McPherson said, "I had an average swim but come out the usual 90sec down on the lead pack, but with Josiah. I was hoping to be a lot further ahead of him. I attacked him on the first bike climb to get a lead going into the technical single track. I rode the downhills all really conservatively as I did not want a repeat of last year. Josiah opened up a gap just before starting lap two on the climb. I tried to go with him but he was far too strong. I held myself together and rode within myself to finish the bike about 75sec down on Josiah and Branden. I ran out with nothing to lose. I ran the first lap like it was my last. I was getting regular splits and closed the gap fast and we started lap 2 together. Josiah ran hard to lead the single track so I let him go. I soon found an opportunity to get by and took it. I planned to run hard on the technical flat and tire his legs before we started the hill again. Up the hill Josiah took back the lead and would not let me get it back, surging each time I tried to get on the front. I eventually attacked giving it my all and ran away. The rest is, as the say, history.  Confidence wise this shows I am a strong contender for the Tour and I am hoping to have everyone getting off the bike running scared that I am coming."

Rakita finished strong in third, with McMahon in fourth and Will Ross edged out Alex Roberts and Will Kelsay by less than 30-seconds to take the fifth spot.

In the women’s race Suzie Snyder celebrated her return to the dirt with the fastest swim split among elite women, but Fabiola Corona, Melanie McQuaid, and Baker all posted times within five seconds of the standard set by Snyder.

On to the bike it was three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid doing what she does best, throwing down the fastest ride of the day in 1:17:08.  The race, however, was decided on the run, with Baker posted the quickest split of day to pass McQuaid and take the tape in 2:32:52, nearly two-minutes ahead.

“Julie outclassed me on the downhill running,” said McQuaid, who wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to race today having nursed a cold the past week or so.  “Victoria has the gnarliest run and technical trail running is my weakness for sure right now.  Julie caught me on the downhill at the end of the first lap of the run and I almost caught her again by the top of the climb on the second lap but it was way too little too late as there was no chance of me keeping up with her downhill and I shut it right down to stay safe to the finish.  I am definitely rusty for my XTERRA-ing on this technical course but I was pleased to be somewhat in the mix regardless.”

McQuaid, who announced this race last year as she was focusing on road tri, said she was happy to see such a strong and deep elite field for XTERRA Victoria.

“It was so fun, and it was really great to have such a big field come to my hometown.  I was super proud of Kate Button having such a strong showing after a month of walk run on a sprained ankle too so it is great to get two Canadians up there on the podium in the women's race and to have fellow IM-focused pro Brent McMahon up there in the men's in fourth.  Good to be back. Although I am only doing IM training until Sept 9 in Wisconsin, I will try to sharpen my off-road skills to be somewhat a contender later this year.”

As for Baker, she said, "I rode most of the bike by myself and I had no idea where Melanie was until I saw her coming around from transition as I was going in. I caught her just starting down the hill on the first run lap. Felt pretty good today and even enjoyed the techy run course!"

Pan Am Tour leader Fabiola Corona finished in third, Suzie Snyder had a great season-opener to place fourth, and Katie Button rounded out the top five.

ELITE MALE:
1 Kieran McPherson, NZL 2:06:03
2 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:06:40
3 Branden Rakita, USA 2:12:19
4 Brent McMahon, CAN 2:14:34
5 Will Ross, USA 2:16:04

ELITE FEMALE:
1 Julie Baker, USA 2:32:52
2 Melanie McQuaid, CAN 2:34:48
3 Fabiola Corona, MEX 2:36:01
4 Suzie Snyder, USA 2:37:00
5 Katie Button, CAN 2:37:56
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