XTERRA European Tour News

2006 XTERRA UK Race Report - Wealing Wins Wales - Renata Romps

Tuesday, September 05, 2006
By Dave "Kahuna" Nicholas.

It’s not that rain is unusual in Wales, but the summer of ’06 in this country was wonderful and it simply was not expected this weekend.  But, as has been typical in this 10th year of our sport, we had plenty of rainy weather for the XTERRA UK National Championship held in Glynn Neath, Wales.

Part of the story must be the magnificent crew of Welshmen and women who simply would not be defeated by the weather.  Rains late Friday made the parking fields impassable so plans were made on how to get a thousand folks into the compound for Saturdays 35K and 75K mountain bike races, 5K and 10K and half marathon trail runs and kids events…  But Saturday came even worse than Friday complete with high winds blowing over the finish gantry, the portable toilets, pop up tents and any signs and spectator barricades that tried to stand against it.  Truly a mess that resulted in all but the two mountain bike races being cancelled.  But the weather Gods did give us a break on XTERRA Sunday with cloudy and breezy weather, but no rain.

The Wales course features a crystal clear double lake swim about 1K from the main compound.  There were split transitions setup with T1 at the lake and T2 in the main field.  The rain had totally soaked the area and it was soon apparent we could not get an ambulance or medical vehicles out to the swim area and the decision was made that the race would become a duathlon.  A 2.5K run was configured and the Sport race got underway only ½ hour late. 

At 11:30 a very healthy field of over 200 took the horn and headed out running into the bogs.  Seth Wealing took command early with Eneko Llanos and Mike Vine shadowing.  Vine soon went in front on the bike, but a sore back and fatigue set in and the Canadian settled back into 3rd place at the end of the first 14K bike loop.  Andrew Noble and Liewe Boonstra were tight on Vine’s wheel with newcomer Knut Hoehler, from Germany, not far back.  A similar battle was happening between Renata Bucher, Candy Angle and South Africa’s Michelle Lombardi.  Try as she might, Angle could not shake Renata and the Swiss Miss came into the Bike to Run area with a small lead she gained on the final descent.

Vine dropped farther back leaving Wealing and Llanos to battle for the lead.  Noble came through in 3rd with Hoehler 4th.  Noble pulled up close to Llanos on the run for a brief time, but the Spanish World Champ hit the very steep first climb hard and moved away.  Indeed, Andy’s energy was running close to empty and Knut passed him shortly before the end to take a stunning 3rd place in his first event.  Sasha Wingenfeld had a great race to 5th with Fraser Cartmell of Scotland 6th and first Empire finisher.

Just as her husband was being chased down by the German Hoehler, Candy lost a few minutes to Lombardi in the hills and they came home 2nd and 3rd.  Rikke Kelja ran a very quick 10K and passed Ingrid van Lubek for 4th.

Pumping his hands in the air and grinning through a face covered in mud, Wealing was a convincing winner here.  He took the lead early and held a solid 2 minute advantage going out onto the run and never let Eneko get close enough to challenge.  Seth has been threatening all year with 3 second places and this breakthrough win against a very good field could be the catalyst to catapult him into the top step at Tahoe.  Bucher has dominated Europe this year winning everything she’s entered.  Julie Dibens was expected to challenge Bucher here in her home country, but got sick in Chicago and had to withdraw.

All in all this had to be as good a first time event as we have had.  The area has something for everyone.  Swansea is close by with dozens of great restaurants and shops and a place called Wind Street (pronounced wind as in winding road) that I can’t say too much about here.  You’ll have to ask Mike Vine about it.

Ruins and castles and old Abbey’s are everywhere for those who love sightseeing.  Wales is quite a bit less expensive than the main of England and even I got along driving on the wrong side of the car and the road.  Although all us Yanks and Euro’s did have stories to tell about making mistakes while behind the wheel.  Some of the more expert mountain bikers commented the bike course wasn’t technical enough, but the climbs are tough, the downhills fast and in the end, the hill country of Wales gave everyone more than enough.  The run starts with a brutal climb, rocks and rolls along the hilltops and than has a super steep downhill near the end that startled everyone.  Nobody said IT was too easy.

Regardless of the weather a good 500 Welsh racing fans and families came out to enjoy a big expo, lots of products, sausages and bacon frying up in the food tents along with jacket potato’s with beans, cheese and corn on top – or as our winner Wealing delighted in finding – tuna.  Yes, what we would call a baked potato that was smothered with tuna fish.  I might add he ate the whole thing and loved it. 

Everyone who was there loved the event.  A combined entry in Sport and XTERRA of over 400, gobs of entertaining things to do, runs and rides and fantastic countryside not to mention those wonderful Welsh folks who welcomed everyone with open arms and big smiles… this is a must do race.