XTERRA triathlons set for Sunday | VailDaily.com

XTERRA triathlons set for Sunday

RICHARD CHITTICK
Summit Daily file photo/Reid Williams The Nissan Xterra triathlon comes to Keystone again this weekend.
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KEYSTONE – The seventh annual Nissan XTERRA Central Championship Triathlon is taking over Keystone Resort this weekend, and it is not your average swim-bike-run event. In fact, it’s not even your run-of-the-mill XTERRA, a worldwide series of off-road triathlons that includes three regional championships, in Keystone, Richmond, Va., and Big Bear, Calif., as well as a national championship in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and a world championship in Maui, Hawaii. “Of all the races I’ve been in all over the country, and even Europe, this is one of the best,” said professional triathlete Matt Christiansen of Denver, who has been racing in triathlons regularly since 1986. “I would definitely say that aside from the national championship course in Lake Tahoe and the world championship course in Maui, Keystone is probably the toughest in the world.” What sets Keystone apart is the technical, high-altitude course, which begins at 9,400 feet above sea level in the Keystone Village.

It begins with a 1-kilometer swim in Keystone Lake, where the water temperatures for mid-July are typically in the 50s or 60s, prompting organizers to require every participant to wear a full wetsuit. According to many, it is this first leg that often proves most challenging.”I’ve seen people do all kinds of things during the swim,” said XTERRA spokesperson Sharon Cutler. “I’ve seen people do breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke – I’ve even seen people run through the water around the perimeter of the lake.” After the swim, competitors ride a 27K loop on their mountain bikes that climbs 2,000 vertical feet to the 11,640-foot summit of Dercum Mountain before descending some of Keystone’s most challenging trails. Among the more difficult parts of the descent is Wild Thing, a trail which features several 2- and 3-foot sheer dropoffs, some of which are found on switchbacks. Finally, everyone who makes it through the swim and the bike ride will head out for a 10K trail run that includes a nearly waist-deep crossing of the Snake River.

More than 40 professional athletes representing 13 different countries will be competing in the championship, said Trey Garman, director for Team Unlimited, the company which organizes the XTERRA series.The championship race is the marquee event, but the weekend also features a sport version of the course which cuts distances of all three legs in half. On Saturday, Team Unlimited is also sponsoring 5K and 10K trail runs, as well as the American Cycling Association (ACA) Colorado Mountain Bike Championship. Both days, an exposition area will be open for spectators and competitors to check out new equipment relating to triathlons.

The expo will also feature a session of triathlon skills clinics, known as XTERRA University, and the Kids Camp Challenge, devoted to giving competitive and education opportunities to young children.According to Garman, the championship race is sold out, though a number of slots may become available on Saturday as a handful of preregistered racers may not show up. Registration for the sport race will be accepted until Saturday at 5 p.m.People can register by calling (877) 751-8880. Those wishing to participate in the trail runs or mountain bike races on Saturday can register on site, though registration for any given event will close a half-hour before the event starts. Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.