2017 XTERRA ARGENTINA 2017 Summary of the Traithlon by Dave Nicholas
Today was about as opposite as you could get. Last year, cool and rainy, this year hot with bright sun. XTERRA Argentina came off almost flawlessly today. The lessons learned and our new organizer have made this a very world class event.
The dique or dam was full of warm water and our athletes lined up for the swim start looking west towards the snowcapped Andes in Chile, where the show goes next week.
The gun went off at exactly 10am with the elites non wetstuit and a minute ahead of wetsuit optional age groupers. “The swim was a bit long” laughed Brazilian pro Sabrina Gobbo. “I felt like I was paddling forever” agreed Kara LaPoint.
French Canadian Jean-Philippe Thibodeau was first out of the water and onto the bike. He was followed by a group of Frenchman Julian Buffe, American Branden Rakita and Argentinian ITU racer Gonzalo Tellachea. Tallachea is from San Juan and is an Argentine star. He represented Argentina at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and has podiumed several times in world cup events.
It did not take the local speedster long to take the lead and Gonzalo was a comfortable first at the technical sections about half way around the first lap. Thibodeau held strong in second with Rakita looking good in 3rd. Mad Maximilliano Morales had given away over 3 minutes on the swim but was charging hard and was gaining ground, already up to 5th behind Julian Buffe.
For the women, Suzie Snyder controlled the day. She was first from the swim but about 500m out on the bike she came past me and I heard a pfssst and sure enough she had to stop to fix a flat. “I knew no woman had gone by but I started riding way too fast” she said after the race. “ I was a bit over my head and crashed pretty good before I told myself to calm down and ride my race”. In second was young French pro Morgane Riou. Morgane has been working hard on her biking skills and she was safely in 2nd place when her front wheel slipped out at a twisty bit and down she went. So the top two women had both come off their bikes. Kara LaPoint nearly did not start this morning. “I was so sick at 7:00 I said no way I can race today. I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. I got up about 8:30 and felt better and said I’d give it a try”. Try she did soldiering bravely in 3rd.
The plot thickened in the mens race with Gonzalo still holding the lead and Thibodeau second but Morales was getting close and was now up into 3rd, Branden 4th and Buffe 5th. That’s the way it stayed going into and out of T2.
The race has a bike/run crossover and organizers solved this by making a bridge the runners go over and bikes go under. The evil and fun thing is immediately after the bridge is a 3’ high hurdle before you head out to the desert for an agonizing 10.5K. “Morales passed me about the 4K mark” said Jean-Philippe “and I couldn’t stay with him”. Morales had put in the fastest bike time and was now flying on the run. “I was not too worried about staying in front” said Gonzalo. I know Morales and usually can run a bit faster than him. But not too far into the run my right leg starting hurting and I had to watch my pace”.
Indeed Morales caught and passed Tellechea, making time on the up and down sections through the desert. Going into the last 2K of the run the course follows a dry riverbed. When they got back on the flats Gonzalo sprinted past Max and the race was on. They shadowed each other for a long while before the younger man took charge to win by 25 seconds. Our French Canadian racer kept strong into 3rd and Yank Branden Rakita came 4th. Julian Buffe was suffering in the over 90 degree heat and dropped to 9th. Spains León Martin Drajer was 5th.
Suzie was way out front to take a very strong win and 13th overall. Morgane had her best XTERRA yet with a good 2nd place well ahead of the brave but struggling Kara LaPoint. Brazilians Sabrina Gobo was 4th and Laura Mira 5th.
Athletes were greeted with a nice, chilled box of fruit, ice cold water or Gatorade and shade. While there was a breeze that helped, this course has not 1 tree to ride or run under. Combine a cloudless, sunny day with temps over 90 and it was tough.
So we have a new face as a winner and a strong start to the PanAm season. Max Morales had the fastest bike and run splits and promises to work in the pool. I spoke with over a dozen athletes from Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina that will do at least 4 races in the series. It seems the South American athletes want more XTERRA and we will give it to them.
Full marks to Jose Arancibia, his wife Laura and his staff for a great weekend of racing. And it is not over. Tomorrow (Sunday) there will be trail runs and more mtb races. They call is XTERRA Fest and indeed it is. With Chile next week and Costa Rica following, this trifecta of races in wonderful places has a lot of appeal. Combine all this with inexpensive living and fabulous Argentinian Malbec and Chilean Cabernet and you have even more reason to put the PanAmerican Tour spring in your calendar.