Osborne, Snyder win XTERRA Oak Mountain

Sunday 19 May 2019
Sam Osborne from Rotorua, New Zealand and Suzie Snyder from Reno, Nevada won the 14th annual XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon elite titles at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama on Saturday, May 18, 2019 with winning times of 2:28:21 and 2:50:47, respectively.

It’s the 10th XTERRA World Tour win for Osborne, third of the season for Osborne, and second in as many weeks.  Last Saturday he won the XTERRA Brazil Championship in Ilhabela, and last month he was victorious at his hometown race at XTERRA New Zealand.  For Snyder, the reigning XTERRA U.S. women’s elite champion, it’s her third win in four years at Oak Mountain.

The event, which was the fourth stop on the XTERRA Pan American Tour and the first major in the U.S. this season, combined a one-mile swim in Double Oak Lake with a 21-mile mountain bike and six-mile trail run.  Race conditions were just about perfect for the 8am start.  The water temperature was 76-degrees, the air-temp was 76-degrees, and the trails were in great shape.

In the men’s elite race Ian King led Osborne by a second after the first 750-meter lap of the swim, but Osborne got to the front by the end of it and never trailed thereafter.

Osborne posted the fastest swim of the day in 20:15, had second-best bike and second-best run to finish a little more than two-minutes ahead of 2015 XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh.

“We got out pretty quick on the swim, and in an ideal world I would have had more of a gap coming out of the water because with guys like Josiah sitting behind you, you don’t to hang around,” said Osborne. “So, I went as hard as I could on the bike, and it was made even harder because I think I had a bit of a reaction to the anti-fog I put in my goggles because I was suffering from clouded vision most of the bike. As a result, I was taking some real dodgy lines and hit some rocks. I was hoping I wouldn’t blow a tire out, but I managed to ride well enough and I think I heard something like ‘two minutes’ heading into T2 and I was confident I could hang on to that on the run.”

Middaugh, who had won three straight and five of the last six races at Oak Mountain, turned in the fastest bike (1:30:59, one-minute better than Osborne) and quickest run (35:44, 21-seconds faster than Osborne) but it wasn’t enough to overcome the three-minute, 30-second deficit he had after the swim.

“I didn’t know where I was out of the water, but I knew it was bad, so I just tried to work hard on the bike, but I was all by myself the entire time. I felt good out there, had no problems, and I rode strong,” said Middaugh, a Sunnto Multisport Team rider.  “Ultimately it was a good race, a good placing to get some points and get in the mix for the Series chase, and something to work on.  I’m coming off winter, he’s coming off summer, so I’m in a good spot.”

Last year’s XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ Kieran McPherson, also from New Zealand, finished third followed by Americans Elliott Bach and Brian Smith.

“I worked real hard early on the bike to catch Branden, who is a great climber, and worked with him to get up that climb.  Then he got a flat right after blood rock and I moved into second and found my rhythm. I was doing good until I had a big crash and took a nap,” laughed McPherson. “I got into T2 in second and went into survival mode.”

Middaugh caught McPherson early in the run, but the Kiwi was able to hold off the rest of the field to finish in third.

Elite Men's Results
1 Sam Osborne, NZL 2:28:21
2 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:30:28
3 Kieran McPherson, NZL 2:32:13
4 Elliot Bach, USA 2:34:46
5 Brian Smith, USA 2:37:21

In the women’s elite race Jessie Koltz and Amanda Felder were first out of the water, followed by Samantha Kingsford about 20-seconds back, then Brittany Oliver, Suzie Snyder, and Lesley Paterson about one-minute behind.

From there Snyder, who posted the fastest bike split (a 1:43:48, which was more than five-minutes better than Kingsford and Paterson) started picking off every rider in front of her until she passed Kingsford to take the lead towards the top of the climb, and it was all downhill from there.

“After I passed Samantha I knew I was in front, so I was just trying to stay smooth,” said Snyder.  “And I was trying to push it to stay in front of them going into Blood Rock. I didn’t want to have anyone around me because I wanted a clear shot at it. I was pretty nervous because until two days ago because I had never ridden it clean, after all these years.  I knew I could, if I didn’t freak out, but this is the first race I’d ever ridden Blood Rock clean.”

When Snyder rode past the media gathered just below the intimidating Blood Rock section, she let out a roaring “woohooo,” and went on to have a brilliant first big race of the year.

“I was having fun today because I was feeling it. These are my trails!”

Kingsford, who won last week at XTERRA Brazil, was riding strong and got to the bike-to-transition in second place, about three minutes behind Snyder.

“Oh, that was hard,” said Kingsford.  “I felt pretty good halfway through the bike and then I just hit a brick wall. Then when I came into the first lap of the run I felt pretty good, but by the second lap, I hit that brick wall again. Lesley is just an animal on the run, and Suzie is clearly very strong on the bike.”

Paterson, the reigning XTERRA World Champion, had the best run of the day, 41:02, to catch and pass Kingsford half-way through the second lap and move into second place.  It was a gutty run for Paterson, who hasn’t been feeling the best of late.

“Our thing is 100% in effort and attitude. You never give up. It doesn’t matter where you’re at or how you’re feeling. In every step, in every second, just focus on that effort. So, to have some fight at the end was really important for me.”

Kingsford held on for third with Americans Julie Baker in fourth and Maia Ignatz in fifth.  For Ignatz, just getting through the race, let alone landing on the podium, was a huge accomplishment.  In July of 2017, she suffered a tibial plateau impaction fracture at XTERRA Victoria and a full thickness tear of her medial meniscus.

Elite Women's Results
1 Suzie Snyder, USA 2:50:47
2 Lesley Paterson, USA 2:55:38
3 Samantha Kingsford, NZL 2:57:01
4 Julie Baker, USA 3:01:53
5 Maia Ignatz, USA 3:04:01
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