The 2018 XTERRA European Tour gets underway Sunday at the Majjistral Nature Reserve in Malta. It’s the first of 17 races on this year’s tour, and the first of three in a row in April followed by XTERRA Cyprus next weekend (April 22) then XTERRA Greece on April 29.

More than 30 elites will line up for the fourth annual event, including defending champs Roger Serrano from Spain and Brigitta Poor from Hungary.

Poor, who won six races including the European Championship last year, is looking to capture her fourth straight XTERRA Malta title.

“She wants to be the queen of Europe for the second year in a row and she will fight hard for it,” said XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun. “With 11 races on her schedule she will be among the favorites for the tour title this year as well. She made a big step in her performance last season and proved she can win big events. This year she is starting the season with a 4th place finish at XTERRA Worlds in Maui under her belt, which gives her great confidence.”

Poor will need every bit of that confidence as the five points scorers in the tour from last year are on the start line, including the reigning and 4x Euro Tour Champ Helena Karaskova from the Czech Republic, Carina Wasle (3rd) from Austria, Nicole Walters (4th) from the UK, Maud Golsteyn (5th) from the Netherlands, plus Morgane Riou – the XTERRA Dominican Republic Champ.

“I learned a lot about racing off-road last year and would really like to improve on that and win a race on the European circuit this time around,” said Walters, who was third behind Karaskova and Poor in Malta and finished second at the XTERRA European Championship last year. “I have spent more time in the gym this winter which has helped improve my strength across swimming, cycling and running. I hope to see the benefits of this on some tough courses this year.”

In the men’s race the top three guys from last year are back, with Serrano, Max Sasserath from Germany who was second and Francois Carloni who was third.

“I’ve been very busy organizing two regional XTERRA races in Spain starting with Rincon De La Victoria which is May 19 and then our gold race in Madrid at the end of the season,” said Serrano, who is also the organizer for XTERRA Spain. “Still, I am in pretty good shape already, and 5kg lighter in comparison with last year. I have no big goals for 2018, I just want to feel happy with my racing performance and will try to be on the podium in some races.”

Other top contenders include IM great Victor Del Corral, who has won XTERRA Switzerland and France in the past and was 5th in Maui five years ago, Xavier Dafflon – one of the tours premier mountain bikers who won XTERRA Italy last year, and Karl Shaw, who won XTERRA Costa Rica a couple years ago.

Find the full start list here, learn more about the course here, and follow the leaders live on www.facebook.com/xterraeurope.

All-Time XTERRA Malta Elite Champions

Year – M/W

2017 – Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor

2016 – Roger Serrano / Brigitta Poor

2015 – Nicolas Fernandez / Brigitta Poor

XTERRA America Tour heads to Spicewood

On Saturday, April 21st, the XTERRA South Central season continues with XTERRA ATX at Pace Bend Park in Spicewood, Texas. The race is smack dab in the middle of central Texas hill country on a peninsula that juts into Lake Travis.

“You get steep bluffs on one side of you and gentle grassy slopes on the other,” said race director, Joel Grimmett. “But what’s even better than the scenery are the trails. Limestone ledges, challenging rock gardens, some steep climbs, and technical drop offs with plenty of smooth trail in between to help you recover before reaching the next obstacle.”

The second of five XTERRA off-road triathlons in Texas, XTERRA ATX is a favorite of racers. Former South Central Regional Champ and water-safety expert Alissa Magrum will be at the race, having recently returned from a trip to Honduras where she taught children living in an orphanage near the ocean how to swim and be safe in the water.

“That trip was epic,” said Magrum, who also races on a women’s charity team called Team Do Awesome. “But it’s always good to be back and I’m excited to be racing at ATX, which is practically my backyard.”

At XTERRA Bluebonnet on March 24th, Magrum finished second in her 40-44 age group to Melanie Etherton, who is back competing after having to take time off for injuries.

“I am so excited to be back racing,” said Etherton. “My goals for this year are to have fun and be healthy.”

XTERRA ATX will also be a rematch for Kyle Grieser and Andy Lee. Lee finished about a minute ahead of Grieser at XTERRA Bluebonnet. Each are excellent long-time XTERRA racers and skilled at all three disciplines.

Shawn Bohrer, who finished second behind Grieser in the 35-39 age group will also be at XTERRA ATX and is looking to see what’s possible in 2018.

“XTERRA Bluebonnet was my best overall finish so far,” said Bohrer. “ I really like technical bike courses, and ATX is probably one of the more difficult in the Texas races. Really my number one goal for all of these races is to have fun and give the best effort that I feel I can give. Each year I’ve seen my overall performance improve, and I generally set some rough goals on where I’d like to be. Last year I was shooting for top 10 overall and generally met that goal. This year I set my target at the top 5 overall. I think it is a stretch goal, but I proved it is possible at Bluebonnet so we’ll see if I can keep it going at ATX.”

XTERRA ATX is also attracting some out of town athletes as well, like Michael Drackert whose goal is to get to Maui this year. He raced at XTERRA Fruita and XTERRA Fort Custer last September – those points counted toward the 2018 season – and is driving from Kansas City to Texas for his first race this year.

“It’s a very long drive,” he admitted, “But my brother lives along the way and I’m looking forward to visiting friends in Austin. My training has been going great, and more importantly, I’m injury free and excited to race.”

Learn more and register for XTERRA ATX.

XTERRA Couch to Trail Training Tips – Finding your Motivation

What motivates you to train on a day-to-day basis? What is it that drives you to lace up and head out, no matter what life throws at you?

We used to think of motivation as an inner strength, meaning that if you weren’t motivated, then you were experiencing weakness. Now that we know so much more about the psychology of success, and we are discovering that some of the best ways to stay motivated have less to do with what we want to get and more to do with how we want to feel.

What? What do feelings have to do with becoming a better athlete?

Motivation is a funny thing. If you are not emotionally connected to what motivates you, then you will lose motivation at some point. For example, if you only want to exercise to lose weight, then if you hit a plateau or don’t like what you are eating, your motivation isn’t going to last for long. However, if your motivation is to feel healthy and good about your choices, then your motivation will stick around longer, because each healthy choice you make becomes its own reward.

Understanding the drive behind your personal motivation to become a better athlete will not only strengthen your motivation, it will help you reach your goals even faster.

Continue reading

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by Sheri Anne Little and five-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of Next Level Endurance. Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA. Check out their upcoming training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona set for April 26-29 at https://nextlevelendurance.net/camps or email them at info@nextlevelendurance.net.

XTERRA Southeast Region racing kicks off next Sunday

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

Having fun at 50 with Jim Dandro

In 2013, 45-year old Jim Dandro volunteered at XTERRA Whitewater. He had never competed in an XTERRA race and was curious about what it entailed. What he found there humbled him.

“I thought, look at all these fit athletes. It totally bothered me that I was middle aged and not athletic.”

His experience at XTERRA Whitewater lit a fire in his belly. He started running and taking swim lessons. He bought a $500 bike and found some trails. In the process, he lost 50 pounds and gained enough confidence to sign up for XTERRA Key Biscayne in 2014.

“I didn’t want anyone to know I was racing,” he said about his first XTERRA experience. “So I just registered and went by myself.”

Before the race, he waded into the water with his fellow competitors and was surprised by what happened next.

“Standing in the water while they played the National Anthem, I had never felt so patriotic,” he remembers. “I was so nervous anticipating the race. But by the time I finished the swim and ran out of the water, I thought, ‘I don’t know what the rest of the race has in store for me, but I’m definitely doing this again.’”

Even though, in his mind, Dandro could “barely swim” that first year, he did five XTERRA races in the Southeast region and attracted the attention of former Mr. XTERRA and current Southeast Regional Champ Marcus Barton, who took Dandro under his wing.

“Marcus helped me so much,” said Dandro. “The XTERRA Southeast is just a great group of athletes. In 2014, I went to mountain bike races where we would all get together afterwards for a beer. I loved going to different states and seeing the same, familiar, friendly faces.”

Beer is a common thread between Dandro’s life and XTERRA. The former IT professional was laid off in 2015 and realized he didn’t want to go back. One of his hobbies was brewing beer, and he decided to create a bricks and mortar brewery in Belmont, North Carolina with some of his friends.

“We all share a love of paddling, outdoor adventures, and beer. So Riverman Brewery was formed.”

Because the brewery grew out of a love for water sports, it was natural for Dandro to host runs from the brewery as well. “People come up all the time and want to talk about this XTERRA thing,” said Dandro. And he is happy to share both his experiences and his encouragement. “Jen Bartell did XTERRA Myrtle Beach for the first time last year. I’m trying to get her to go to Hawaii now.”

2018 marks Dandro’s fifth season in XTERRA and a move to a new age group.

“This year I’m in the 50-54 age group,” said Dandro. “It’s my first season without Marcus Barton in my age group and I have every intention of winning the regional championship title so I can qualify for XTERRA Worlds. I know how hard it is to earn that spot, but I’m going to Maui. I’ll go out west to race if I have to. I might not ever get on the podium, but I’m going to do what it takes.”

Jim Dandro’s dedication is marked on both his heart and on his skin with a new tattoo that depicts a bicycle gear, all three XTERRA sports, and a few drops of blood.

“I had the artist put some blood on the tattoo because I’ve been to the ER so many times for stitches. Last year was the first year I didn’t get injured in an XTERRA race.”

This year, Dandro will compete in XTERRA Myrtle Beach, XTERRA Fort Yargo, XTERRA Charlottesville, XTERRA Knoxville, XTERRA Tsali, XTERRA Whitewater, XTERRA Panther Creek, and XTERRA Blackwater.

“Jim is a ball-o-fun,” said Barton. “And he loves everything XTERRA. It’s been a blast to see him get faster and faster over the years and he’s made huge strides in his fitness and racing skills. His age group better watch out. This guy loves racing a lot.”

Not only is Dandro putting it all out there on the course, but he’s doing the same thing in his life. He traded in his old $500 bike and bought a Gary Fisher with front suspension. He recently got his wife excited about fitness and bought XTERRA Southeast Regional Champ Amy Carver’s bike for her.

“It’s contagious,” he said. “Once my wife saw what XTERRA did for me, she got healthy too. Now 50 looks like the new 35.”

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