When you think of the Southeastern United States in the spring and summer you might think about sweet tea, mint juleps, and lazy afternoons under the sweltering sun.
What might surprise you is that this part of the United States is also an XTERRA hotbed.
Beginning on April 22nd, the Southeast Region will host eight XTERRA races between April and August. And just like the South, each race is full of people, experiences, and stories as iconic as the region itself.
Last year, XTERRA Myrtle Beach brought us the story of father and son Jake and Jon Higgins, who will be racing together again this year.
This year, XTERRA Myrtle Beach will kick off the season on April 22nd with a one-of-a-kind swim start that begins with a boat ride taxi to the starting line. When the gun goes off, competitors will swim 1000 meters point to point in the Intercoastal Waterway and then run up a boat ramp for the first transition.
Nicknamed “The Hulk,” because of its similarity to the Universal Studios Hulk roller coaster, the 14-mile mountain bike course changes elevations, twists, turns, and then drops steeply. The scenery changes often, from waterway views, grassy meadows, and thick jungle-like sections.
XTERRA Fort Yargo the following weekend has some of the most well-maintained trails in the area. This is also the race that seems to bring out the friendly rivalry between Yaro Middaugh, Marcus Barton, and Caleb Baity, who trade wins the way some of us trade spots in the carpool line.
These racers have been training through the snow and ice this winter and are ready to put their wheels down this spring as they race for Maui qualifying spots as well as bragging rights. 2016 Mr. XTERRA Marcus Barton has been working as hard as ever.
“My training is going great,” he said. “I’m mixing it up a bit this year with my training and I’m trying some new things. I’m trying to build off of successes I’ve had, so I’m not trying to change too much, but I do believe that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you can’t expect new results. So I’ve been playing around with new workouts that are challenging both physically and mentally. Additionally, I’m trying out a couple of things nutritionally to see if I can boost this metabolism. In all, it sounds like a lot, but I’m keeping it’s simple enough and not too many changes that I will be able to tell where the positive/negative changes come from.”
Last year, Barton won his age group at XTERRA Oak Mountain, which is the first XTERRA American Tour Championship race of the season on May 19th in Pelham, Alabama. The race is a qualifier for the XTERRA World Championship, a gold level XTERRA Pan American Tour stop and a 100-point level XTERRA America Tour championship race.
Next, the XTERRA America Tour swings by Knoxville on June 3rd. Last year, this was one of the races XTERRA Southeast Regional Champ Amy Carver pocketed for the win, along with XTERRA Myrtle Beach, XTERRA Tsali, XTERRA Whitewater, XTERRA Panther Creek, and XTERRA Auburn.
“I train smart and don’t take it too seriously,” said Carver. “I just have fun, which is what it’s all about. If I take anything away from all of this, it’s the mentorship and camaraderie.”
“Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness presents a unique urban playground for mountain bikers, trail runners, rock climbers, and paddling enthusiasts alike,” said race director, Ryan Roma. “The stunningly beautiful Ijams Nature Center and Mead’s Quarry provide the perfect backdrop for XTERRA Knoxville with many miles of natural surface trails connecting five parks along with public and private lands.”
Next up is XTERRA Tsali on June 24th, which introduced us last year to Reed Legg, who won the whole thing at only 15 years of age. Then the tour continues on to XTERRA Whitewater on July 7th and XTERRA Panther Creek on July 29th.
XTERRA Whitewater takes place at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina and XTERRA Panther Creek is held in the mountain bike playground of eastern Tennessee.
On August 18th, during the dog days of summer, XTERRA heads to Auburn for the final race in the Southeast Region, which is sure to be a last-ditch effort for this fun-loving crew to pick up points towards a regional championship title.
The XTERRA Southeast Region is guaranteed to provide epic performances, hilarious escapades, and solid friendships both on and off the course. Or as Barton says, “We’re just a goofy bunch and we have a blast heckling each other during races.”
Learn more about the XTERRA Southeast Region at https://www.xterraplanet.com.
XTERRA America Tour Race Recaps:
Mattison, Baker win XTERRA Real
Lee, Etherton win XTERRA Bluebonnet