Rom Akerson win's XTERRA World Championship

Monday 29 October 2018
Rom Akerson from Costa Rica captured the 23rd annual XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon elite title on a sunny but muddy day in Kapalua, Maui.

It’s the first XTERRA World title for Akerson earning $20,000 for his victory, and share of the $100,000 elite purse.

In the men’s elite race New Zealand’s Sam Osborne and Spain’s Roger Serrano were first out of the water, with last year’s winner Brad Weiss, 3x winner Ruben Ruzafa, and Akerson about one-minute behind.

Ruzafa posted the fastest bike split for the sixth straight year to take the lead early on the bike, but Akerson was just 40-seconds behind him by the time they got to the bike-to-run transition.  

At mile two of the run, Akerson passed Ruzafa and never looked back, taking the tape in 2:52:41, just 35-seconds ahead of Weiss, who posted the fastest run to finish second. 

I can’t even believe it,” said Akerson after the race, full of emotion with tears of joy in his eyes. “I opened it up today and just felt great. My Pura Vida spirit came out. During the run when I got the lead and I knew it was going to happen I wanted to cry but I had to tell myself to keep going, that I couldn’t cry if I hadn’t won it yet.”

To start the day, Roger Serrano led the M-style swim course through the big waves but was passed on the second lap of the swim by Osborne, who had the fastest swim split of the day in 20:48.

Mauricio Mendez also put in a solid performance in the water and made his way into second place by the time he rode his bike out of transition.  Maxim Chane, Lukas Kocar, Francisco “Paco” Serrano, Brad Weiss, Ruben Ruzafa, and Rom Akerson were almost a minute behind the leaders.

Weiss was clearly disappointed with his swim. “I’ve been swimming well all year and was disappointed today,” said Weiss. “That’s where I lost the race, ironically, because last year, I said that’s where I won it. This year I came out of the water 50 seconds down and last year, I was in the lead straight onto the bike. Losing a minute is just too much in this game.”

At mile two and a half on the bike, less than 30 seconds separated the top nine men. Mendez led Osborne, Chane, Kocar, Weiss and Ruzafa. Akerson was in eighth place. By mile six, Ruzafa had powered into a one-minute, ten-second lead ahead of Osborne and Weiss, who were riding together, with Akerson riding strong less than 90-seconds behind Ruzafa in fourth.

Mendez was happy with his swim but was disappointed with his performance on the bike.

While Mendez is known for being one of the fastest runners in the sport, he couldn’t run fast enough to make up for his performance on the bike. For the sixth year in a row, Ruzafa posted the fastest bike split on the day and headed out on to the run with the lead.  The first two years he did that, in 2013 and 2014, he won, but then Middaugh caught him in 2015, Mendez in 2016, Weiss last year, and Akerson this year. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how well Akerson rode. He had third-best bike split of the day behind only Ruzafa and Middaugh.  And the timing of his performance couldn’t have been better, as Akerson has overcome a fair bit of adversity recently.

At about mile 16 on the bike Osborne and Weiss stopped to clean mud from their gears, and Akerson rode around them and continued to climb.

By the time the riders were heading into transition, the order had changed. Ruben still maintained about a minute lead over Akerson, two and a half minutes on Osborne and over three minutes on Weiss, who was frustrated, but tried to stay positive. Josiah Middaugh was almost four minutes behind Ruzafa, and Mendez dropped back and was more than five and a half minutes behind the leader.

The run course came down to who could handle the slop. Akerson had a fantastic run, which vaulted him into the lead by mile two of the run, when he passed Ruzafa.

Weiss credited his girlfriend with convincing him to screw in mountain bike spikes into his racing flats, resulting in the fastest run split of the day by one-minute and 40 seconds. Middaugh had a strong run but he was still almost three minutes slower than Weiss in his hardcore footwear.

Top 15 Elite Men  
1 Rom Akerson Puntarenas, Costa Rica 2:52:41 $20,000
2 Bradley Weiss Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:53:16 $12,000
3 Sam Osborne Rotorua, New Zealand 2:54:37 $7,000
4 Ruben Ruzafa Malaga, Spain 2:55:34 $4,000
5 Josiah Middaugh Eagle-Vail, Colorado, USA 2:56:33 $2,500
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