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Sunday, June 1, 2008 -- Oak Hill, WV / ACE Adventure Center
8th Annual XTERRA ACE Big Canyon Triathlon (iPO Event Id#: 10870)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Coverage: [2001] [2002] [2003] [2004] [2005] [2006] [2007]

XTERRA ACE Photo by Julie Black
XTERRA ACE, West Virginia
WV Hills a Show Stealer

Article by Jennifer Marsh, XTERRA Points Series Assistant Manager

Photos by Julie Black, iPlayOutside

Weather-wise it was the best year ever for the 8th Annual XTERRA ACE Big Canyon - a little drizzle on Saturday, but sunshine was predominant. While the great weather could have been the biggest surprise of the weekend - it was the amazing XTERRA racing over the the tough - gritty - scenic - fun hills of West Virginia that stole the show.

Race morning was full of excitement as athletes new to ACE shared the pre-race rituals with those familiar with the schedule of the day.

For those new to the ACE race - it is a point-to-point-to-point Swim, Run, Bike adventure that requires a school trip style ride from the highest point on the course to the depths of the New River Gorge.

XTERRA ACE Photo by Julie Black
XTERRA ACE, West Virginia
The tour begins at Mountain Top where you set up your bike transition. After the pre-race briefing, everyone hops onto an ACE rafting buses and heads off on the 30 minute drive to the swim exit. There you get off, set up your Swim-Run transition, the hop back on the bus for the mile and a half ride to the swim start. That is a very quiet ride as everyone is watching the New River to see where the best currents are and noticing that it feels like the longest mile and a half ever! But it will be the fastest swim you ever did, that's for sure!

With the athletes in the river and knowing to follow the kayaks and duckies through the currents, the race is off. With a sizeable lead, Matus Kriska - a 15 year old prodigy from Mt Airy, NC is the first out in 22:26. Chris Pickerell (20, Harrisonburg, VA), another young XTERRA stud (and 2006 ACE Champion) is a minute and a half behind in 23:54. Right behind him in 23:55 is Stepen Zagorski (28, Virginia Beach, VA).

XTERRA ACE Photo by Julie Black
XTERRA ACE, West Virginia
The first lady out of the water was Cynthia Fowler (38, Lanorum, SC) in 24:35 - and she was also 4th overall to exit. XTERRA Pro Kristy Lanier (37, Marlinton, WV) was next in 24:54 with veteran XTERRA athlete Denelle Grant (32, Charlottesville, VA) following in 25:42. As I said - fast times for a mile and a half swim!

Next up, a 7-mile run out of the canyon and back to ACE. With a run split of 1:02:49 it was Matus Kriska entering T2 first again in a total of 1:25:15. Chris Pickerell was next into T2 in 1:29:44 with the 3rd fastest run of the day at 1:05:50. Matus 'father, Jan Kriska (41, Mt Airy, NC) showed us who taught his son how to run by posting a split of 1:04:01 to come into T2 3rd in 1:33:03

Here's the cool thing - of the top 10 athletes into T2, four of them were women. 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place - all ladies! Kristy Lanier was 1st in at 1:33:14 that gave her a run split of 1:08:20. Emily Chaney (27, Oak Hill, WV) showed her running skills with a 1:07:16 split to come in at 1:37:12. And Denelle Grant posted a 1:14:35 split to make a total time thus far of 1:40:17.

XTERRA ACE Photo by Julie Black
XTERRA ACE, West Virginia
The 10 mile bike is awesome, muddy, fun, hilly, East-Coast single-track - and it rocks! Everyone was waiting and wondering, could the 15 year old hold off the veteran racers and take the win? Could his dad catch him? Would Randy Gibbs (37, Sitka, OH) previous ACE Champion and right on the tail of the leaders, take the title again? Which one of the crazy fast women would take the win for the Ladies?

Well, the bike splits worked out like this. Chris Pickerell posted the fastest bike of the day in 53:24 - lightening fast! Shawn Tevendale (32, Charlottesville, VA) posted the second fastest in 56:51 and Matus Kriska completed the loop in 59:42 (just 2 seconds faster than dad!)

Denelle Grant had the fastest ladies split in 1:05:01. Kristy Lanier was close behind in 1:06:34 and Haley Beann (31, Spring Lake, NC) had the 3rd fastest split in 1:12:39.

XTERRA ACE Photo by Julie Black
Jeff Walls, Race Director
ACE Adventure Center
At the end of the day it was Chris Pickerell with his amazing bike split who was able to pull ahead of Matus and take the overall title (for the 2nd time) in 2:23:08. That was a course record (previously held by Robert Kunz in 2005 - 2:25:31). Matus was second in 2:24:57 and his father Jan rounded out the most impressive father/son podium with a 2:32:47.

For the ladies it was Kristy Lanier who was able to stay in the lead and finish in the top spot with a 2:39:48. Denelle Grant was next in at 2:45:18 to take the amateur title. And Emily Chaney rounded out the top three with an impressive 2:50:39. Amazing day for all!

Afterwards there was the famous burrito lunch and tons of prizes and awards! Then off to the Lost Paddle Bar for some complementary Appalachian Ale and tons of stories!

Thanks so much to Jeff, Andrea, Beth and the whole crew at ACE for putting together another terrific event. Many athletes hung around for an extra day to go rafting down the famous New River. We highly recommend checking out all that the ACE Adventure Center has to offer and making this a long family weekend next year!

More About The Tour --- The XTERRA America Tour is for anyone.

Moms, dads, CEOs, teachers, surfers, mountain bikers ... just about anyone with a passion for great sports in the outdoors. Competitors choose from two race formats. Athletes who wish to race in the XTERRA USA Championship Series for points toward an XTERRA regional title will race as an individual in these full-distance XTERRA races. The races are open to everyone, however, the USA Championship in Lake Tahoe and World Championship on Maui are open only to qualified competitors. (Age group athletes who are not US citizens can participate in US races, but are not eligible for Points or Points Series titles.)