KAPALUA - Neither Javier Gomez nor Lesley Patterson slept well Saturday night.
A tsunami warning took care of that, but the duo, two of the world's best sprint triathletes, shook it off and left their respective fields in their wake Sunday morning in the Xterra World Championship Off-Road Triathlon.
Gomez put another stamp on one of the sport's best seasons ever by winning the Xterra world title in his first try, crossing the finish line in front of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 50 seconds.
Xterra World Championship winner Javier Gomez crosses the finish line Sunday at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, adding the title to his victory in the International Triathlon Union’s World Grand Final and silver medal from the London Olympics.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Last week in New Zealand, Gomez won the International Tri-athlon Union's World Grand Final, and he was the silver medalist in the London Olympics.
Sunday's victory came after a trying night for the Spaniard.
"We evacuated at 9 and then went to kind of a shopping mall, and I had to stay in the parking lot in the car until about 2, so I just slept three hours last night, which is not the best to get ready for such a tough race," he said as he cooled down in the refreshment area just past the finish line. "I was able to perform well anyway, but it was pretty scary. I mean, we are not used to this kind of tsunami, so you don't know what's going on. We went to the safe place and just waited there.
"When I got back to my quarters, it was about 2 and I went to sleep around 3 and got up at 6, so not much sleep."
Patterson, a Scot now living in San Diego, won her second straight Xterra world title in 2:44:11, bettering the course record she set last year by 1:48. She beat second-place Barbara Riveros by 4:07.
After winning this year's Xterra U.S. Pro Series, Patterson came to Maui as a favorite, but also had some anxious moments in the hours leading up to the race.
"It was a nightmare, last night we had to evacuate our hotel," Patterson said. "I called up a bunch of guys who were at the Ritz to see if we could find a bed, but we couldn't make it because all of the roads had been closed down. So, we had to sleep in the car until about 1 in the morning, just with a pillow and then we went back to the hotel. . . . None of that matters because I was super rested (coming in)."
Gomez beat Josiah Middaugh, an eight-time national champion from Colorado, by 50 seconds. Four-time world champion Conrad Stoltz of Germany was third in 2:30:03.
Stoltz is a strong mountain biker, but did not catch Gomez until late in the 30-kilometer cycling leg - Gomez took over for good early in the 10K run after a battle with Middaugh. Gomez was first out of the 1,500-meter swim.
"We knew that (Gomez) was the biggest talent in the field and we just didn't know if he would be able to hold his own in the mountain bike," Middaugh said. "He did, he did really well. He is super strong on all of the climbs, which was good enough to hold everybody off on the downhills. That's where the time is on the course, is going uphill and he was at no handicap there.
"When we got on the run, I was right with him and Conrad was right up the road. I knew I could run uphill well, but we are talking about one of the best runners in all parts of triathlon, so that's the best I could do."
Patterson said that the evacuation circumstances were the same for most everyone. She got help relaxing prior to the start of the event from her husband, a sports psychologist.
Patterson, who passed Ri-veros early in the run, wrote messages to herself on each arm during the race - "Be brave" on the right and "I am free" on the left.
"It is not really one of those things that is going to make a difference to your performance, it is just going to make a difference to your head," Patterson said of the overnight drama. "When it comes to the actual race, it is not that big a deal. Once I got in the swim, I wasn't nervous any more."
Lance Armstrong drew a large portion of the attention in last year's event, when he was running second before a bike wreck left him with a concussion and a 23rd-place finish. Armstrong, who had his seven Tour de France titles stripped and is now banned from sanctioned cycling and triathlon events due to a doping judgment, was not mentioned much during this year's race week, Patterson said.
"No, not at all," she said. "It was all about the athletes who are competing and how joyous this is and how great this race is."
Middaugh said, "Last year, (Armstrong) brought a lot of awareness to our sport, which is great for our sport, but there wasn't a whole lot of Lance talk other than on the Headline News."
There was some discussion early Sunday of skipping the water portion of the event due to tsunami concerns.
"It was more comic relief than anything else," said the 39-year-old Stoltz, whose four world titles are double that of any other man. "We were a little worried that it would be a duathlon instead of a triathlon, but once we heard that the swim was going on, it was good. We were on high ground, so we didn't have any worries. I will be back every year, I will never miss it."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com