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Lance Armstrong takes on the world's best this weekend at 2011 XTERRA World Championships

Posted Oct 21 2011 12:17pm

IMG_8781 Lance Armstrong, Mother Nature, and the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua are infusing new elements into off-road triathlon’s greatest day.

A capacity field of 675 racers from 28 countries and 42 states will gather at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. It is the first time that the event will be held in Kapalua (it was at Makena, Maui, for the previous 15 years).

The new location has attracted many new competitors, including some of the biggest names in endurance sports. Leading the way is Lance Armstrong, the legendary seven-time Tour de France cyclist. He is entering the XTERRA World Championship for the first time, less than one month after making his XTERRA debut with an impressive fifth-place overall finish at the XTERRA USA Championship at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah.

Other XTERRA World Championship “rookies” in this year’s field include 2008 Olympic triathlon gold medalist Jan Frodeno of Germany, two-time Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom of Colorado, and three-time Olympian Ivan Rana of Spain.

Among the XTERRA veterans waiting for them are former XTERRA world champions Conrad Stoltz of South Africa, Eneko Llanos of Spain, and Nicolas Lebrun of France. Stoltz won the event last year for a record fourth time, and Llanos is now in search of his fourth world title. Lebrun won the world championship in 2005, but showed what kind of shape he is in this year with a convincing win at the XTERRA USA Championship last month.

And there are numerous other contenders in search of their first world title, including 2011 XTERRA European Tour champion Olivier Marceau of France, and 2011 XTERRA National champion Josiah Middaugh of Colorado.

There is just as much intrigue in the women’s division, mostly because the last two world champions are not entered this year. Defending champion Shonny Vanlandingham and three-time world champ Julie Dibens (2007, 2008, 2009) are both out with injuries.

Vanlandingham had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL last week, and Dibens has a broken foot.

"Since Ironman Coeur d'Alene I've had issues, and X-rays show that my third metatarsal head has been worn away," explained Dibens, who led off the bike at the Ironman World Championship less than two weeks ago.  "Bone rubbing on bone is not a good thing, and more than likely needs surgery but I am pursuing all options before going down that route."

IMG_8748-1 That leaves the women’s race wide open, and there are several contenders. Canada’s Melanie McQuaid (pictured) is the only former world champion in the women’s field, having won it in 2003, 2005 and 2006. All the other female pros in the field are seeking a maiden world title. Among them: 2010 and 2011 XTERRA European Tour champion Marion Lorblanchet; former XTERRA Worlds runner-ups Lesley Paterson and Danelle Kabush; Austria’s Carina Wasle; Suzie Snyder of Virginia; and Emma Garrard of Utah.

As great as the athletes are, the real showstopper this year could be the new course. There is a time-tested XTERRA saying that “Mother Nature is your toughest opponent” and Kapalua will certainly prove it.

For starters, the World Championship course will start with a 1-mile swim at D.T. Fleming Beach, which fronts the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. Because Kapalua is located on the northwest side of Maui, it catches some of the famous winter ocean swells that hit the Hawaiian Islands every year.

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