It was a great day and a tremendous showing for the Sierra Endurance Sports team out in Ogden, Utah for the inaugural Xterra Pan-American Championship event on Sept. 17th. The Reno, Nev.-based team was represented in both the women’s and men’s elite fields, with team members Suzie Snyder and Kara LaPoint competing in the women’s race, and fellow pro Xterra racer JP Donovan in the men’s race.
For Suzie, it was a golden performance to cap off an incredible season of victories across the Pan-American Pro Series tour. Suzie came into the race with four wins under her belt, carrying a perfect score into this championship event, which served as the final race in the Pro Series competition. She came to win and she did so in assertive fashion, racing from the front all day long.
After exiting the 1,500-meter swim in the lead women’s pack of three, Suzie stormed onto the bike in first place and never looked back. She proceeded to build a solid five-minute lead over her next competitors through the 18-mile mountain bike course thanks to a race-best bike split, and was able to maintain her lead through the 10-kilometer run to cross the finish line as 1st place overall female, and the inaugural Xterra Pan-America Champion. Her total time of 2:51:51 was three minutes ahead of runner-up Lizzie Orchard of New Zealand, who is the 2016 Xterra Asia Pacific Champion. With the win, Suzie also secured her 1st place overall finish in the Pan-Am Pro series, taking home the coveted “Pro Cup” to go along with her Championship trophy.
This was a big win for Suzie, and a very special one, particularly after coming into the 2016 season still recovering from a fractured pelvis that left her unable to contend for the US Pro title last year.
“Winning at Pan-Am Champs means more than any other race result I’ve had to date,” she says. “I’ve been wanting to win in Utah [formerly the U.S. National Championship] for many years now, and to have also won the Pan-Am Tour feels very surreal! I went into the race with a lot of gratitude to be there, considering the road to recovery I was on at the beginning of the year, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support of my team and sponsors for sticking by me.”
Suzie added that she was also very excited to be competing on behalf of David DeSantis, an Xterra racer who is currently battling melanoma and simultaneously hosting a fundraising campaign for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. “I think that took my motivation up a level!” she says. Suzie’s results out in Utah helped contribute valuable funds to DeSantis’ cause.
Joining Suzie on the Pan-Am Championship podium was her teammate, Kara LaPoint, who finished 5th in the elite women’s field. Kara’s finish finalized her standing as 3rd place overall in the Pan-Am tour.
“It was a good day out there!” says Kara. “I came into this race better prepared, stronger and fitter than ever before, so I had high expectations for myself. A lot of things really came together for me, and although it wasn’t quite a perfect day, I felt like I had the race I knew I was capable of, and I definitely left it all out there, which is always a satisfying feeling.”
Kara was the 8th woman out of the water, but used a 2nd-fastest bike split to move up into 4th place by the second transition. She maintained that position through the majority of the run, but was caught with just under two miles to go, putting her in the 5th place position across the line, with a time of 3:01:43.
“It was so great to share the podium with Suzie, both for the Championship and the overall Series title, and to share in our successes together as a team,” Kara adds. “I think we have really been able to thrive off of each other’s positive momentum and energy this year, which has been great, and helped lead to breakout seasons for both of us. Personally, this is the best result I’ve ever had out in Utah and the highest I have ever finished in the Pro Series, so I’m really thrilled to be continuing my upward trajectory. All that being said, I think I still have another level to be reached this year, and I’ll be looking to attain that out in Maui at the World Championship.”
Meanwhile, in the elite men’s race, team member JP Donovan finished 13th in one of the deepest fields ever assembled at this venue. Known for his speed and strength on the run, JP turned in the 5th-fastest run time of the day, and moved himself up several spots over the race’s final 10 kilometers to earn his 13th place finish, and a personal best result in Utah.
All three racers will now head to Maui for the Xterra World Championship on Oct. 23rd, and are working hard in their final preparations for the big event. With their strong results from the Pan-Am Champs event behind them, Suzie, Kara and JP are feeling great about their chances to perform well on the world stage, and will be looking to build on their momentum and achieve top results.
“I feel confident going into Maui that I am stronger than ever, and capable of competing for a very coveted podium position,” says Suzie.
The Xterra World Championship is the world’s premier off-road triathlon event, and the 2016 event will feature a sold-out field of more than 800 of the top professional and amateur off-road triathletes from 46 countries. The event includes a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim, 32-kilometer mountain bike and 10.5-kilometer trail run.