Xterra off-road triathlon joins Victoria race calendar

Xterra Victoria is the latest addition to the Victoria triathlon scene. And it comes with an Olympic endorsement.

Xterra Victoria is the latest addition to the Victoria triathlon scene. And it comes with an Olympic endorsement.

London Games triathlete Brent McMahon will compete in the first ever Xterra Victoria race, Sunday morning (Sept. 16) at Durrance Lake.

It’s taken race director Monique Moore and company two years to bring the off-road version of triathlon to fruition in Greater Victoria.

“It will be about 60 racers this weekend and we’re very excited to start off small,” Moore said. “We want to get people comfortable with the idea, as this is the first off-road triathlon in the well-developed triathlon community of Victoria.”

Despite never hosting a race before, Greater Victoria is known throughout the Xterra and triathlon communities as the home of Melanie McQuaid, three time Xterra world champion. McQuaid will be unavailable to compete this weekend, however.

The race begins with a 500-metre lap swim in Durrance Lake, which transitions to a 14-kilometre cross-country mountain bike course through the Mount Work/Hartland trail system, and ends with a four-km run through the Partridge Hills.

Unlike the standard distances of road triathlons, there are no set distances for Xterra races, which vary depending on the geography of the off-road trails.

Moore, a Victoria resident originally from Calgary, is a 10-time Ironman veteran and has competed at world triathlon championships in the Olympic triathlon distance. But she’s never done an Xterra, yet.

“I will definitely be doing one soon, but I was even more excited to bring one to Victoria.”

She met with Xterra Canada president Cal Zaryski, of Calgary, and the conversation immediately turned to the need to put an Xterra race on the South Island, the heart of triathlon country.

“This is an area that has world-class mountain biking, top

Canadian triathletes and athletes otherwise, and we connected around that,” Moore said.

B.C. already hosts three other Xterra races in Whistler, Kelowna and Vernon. The series is popular across Canada. The Canadian Xterra championships were held last week in Canmore, Alta., and there are two more events in Saskatchewan.

Originally, Moore and the other organizers looked at Thetis Lake, using the lesser-known mountain biking trails of upper Thetis for the cycle portion.

“But we ran into quite a few environmental roadblocks,” Moore said. “There are some commonly used cycling trails at upper Thetis but there was also some sensitivity about using the area for a race.”

The Mount Work/Hartland mountain biking trails are the most used in the area and already host Island Cup mountain biking races. The question was where to swim, and despite its smaller size, Durrance is big enough.

“Xterra Canada races are usually under 200 competitors so the main beach of Durrance will work as the transition area (from swim to bike).”

The second Sunday of September is not set in stone as an annual race date for Xterra Victoria, but because approval for the race only came through in June, and because the triathlon calendar in Victoria and southern B.C. is also pretty full, there was little choice.

“The weather is holding out, hopefully, and the temperature is still great, so the race might stay in September for next year,” Moore said.

Visit xterravictoria.ca for more information.

sports@vicnews.com