Smith, Dussault dominate this year’s Xterra winter triathlon

Brian Smith earns second Fire and Ice title as well

Gunnison residents Rebecca Dussault and Brian Smith stepped on the gas to win this year’s Xterra Winter World Triathlon World Championships in Ogden, Utah on Sunday, March 8.

 

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It was Smith’s second title in as many years and an improvement for Dussault who took second place at last year’s event.
Both won the USA Winter Triathlon titles back in January and then headed over to the 2009 ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships in Gaishorn, Austria, February 13-15, as part of the US Winter Triathlon team.
Dussault and Smith suffered with bad wax on their skis, leaving Smith with a 12th-place finish and Dussault with a bronze medal, the first medal for a U.S. athlete in the event’s history.
The two athletes wasted little time in the Xterra World Championships though, dominating the men’s and women’s pro fields for the win.
The race opened with a 10-kilometer snow biking section that started with a banzai downhill.
“That was one of the most exciting portions of the race,” says Smith. “There were 65 riders going downhill, with people falling everywhere.”
Smith came out of the downhill biking section in third place and then proceeded to pick off his competition through the remainder of the bike ride.
“I basically just shifted up and went with it,” says Smith. “I noticed I had a gap this time and tried to capitalize on it and it definitely worked.”
The bike section finished with a brutal uphill through choppy conditions that left several riders pushing their bikes uphill. Smith opted to ride the entire climb, making it into the transition to snowshoes nearly peaked.
“It really turned into hamburger on the second lap,” says Smith. “That was one of the biggest goals—to ride the whole hill up to the transition.”
Smith carried his lead through a five-kilometer snowshoe, pushing the pace along the undulating course and then dumped the snowshoes and threw on the Yak Traks for a five-kilometer out and back run.
The running course took competitors 2.5 kilometers down before turning around and heading 2.5 kilometers back up before switching to the final eight-kilometer section of randonnee skiing, opening with a wicked steep 1,300-foot ascent.
“You had to be good at going uphill, and I love going uphill,” says Smith. “Stay on the gas and keep pushing it. There were places where I felt I could just lick the hill.”
Three-quarters of the way up the first climb, Smith realized he had a sizable lead and was left to focus on making each gate on the downhill sections.
“That was definitely a confidence boost,” says Smith.
Smith made it through the required gates and crossed the finish line in two hours—21 seconds ahead of a field of racers that included two-time Winter Triathlon world champion Nicolas Lebrun from France.
“I was pretty excited to dominate a field of that caliber,” says Smith.
With his ninth-place finish at the Xterra World Championships in Hawai’i in October and a first-place finish in Ogden, Smith took home the Fire and Ice Award for the best-combined time from the two championships.
Eric Sullivan finished in fifth place overall and Travis Scheefer won the men’s elite ski mountaineering 12-kilometer race the day before in Ogden, and then took the men’s amateur Xterra winter title finishing in sixth overall.
Dussault spent the first half of the bike section trailing one woman before passing her and then setting a gap in place before switching to snowshoes.
“She was quite the rider,” says Dussault. “I ended up overtaking her and built a gap on the second uphill into the transition.”
The snowshoe section had Dussault concerned for two reasons. First, she made a mad scramble to find racing snowshoes prior to the race, ultimately grabbing a pair of junior snowshoes from the Redfeather snowshoe rep at the race.
“The rep was just laughing at me and said if I win on them, I can have them.”
Second, rumors circulated about a woman at the race who was a phenomenal runner. Those rumors were soon laid to rest as Dussault continued through the snowshoe and running sections without a problem.
“In the end I never saw her,” says Dussault.
Despite crashing four times and going the wrong way on the snowshoe course, Dussault flashed the running portion and maintained a five-minute lead heading into the final transition to skiing.
“The run went really well this year,” says Dussault. “I felt confident that I was going to win the race on the run, which is pretty early.”
The icing on the cake for Dussault came in the randonnee section. Last year she was forced to use a heavy telemark set-up that eventually led to her finishing in second place. This year, Dussault was fully outfitted with lightweight randonnee racing gear and stepped on the throttle the final section, building her five-minute lead into a 15-minute gap for the win in a time of two hours, 26 minutes and 54 seconds, ninth overall including the men.
“I was on Goode skis and it felt like I was going uphill on Nordic gear,” says Dussault. “It was a whole world of difference.”
Smith now has his sights set on the Grand Traverse, while Dussault is headed back to the Nordic racing world including a stop at the U.S. Distance Nationals to start her bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

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