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Curran on his way to Xterra World Championships

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Local mountain biker Lucas Curran wants to go to Hawaii this month, but it?s not for a vacation.

On Sept. 23, the 25-year-old Whistler resident finished 14 th overall at the U.S. Finals of the Xterra off-road triathlon at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. That was good enough to earn him a spot in the Xterra World Championships in Wailea, Maui, on Oct. 14.

Not only was the Lake Tahoe event Curran?s first Xterra of the 2001 season, it was only his second Xterra ever. He competed in a Whistler Xterra in the summer of 2000, and was amazed to finish second in the amateur category.

"I signed up the day before, not really expecting much," says Curran. "I didn?t do any training leading up to the race or anything, and I finished second. I kind of caught the bug."

The Xterra series has evolved over the years as a kind of championship series from the dozens of regional events that are held over the year. In the U.S., there are Xterra races in the east, central and western states, featuring the cream of the crop from 15 other feeder races.

There is also an international Xterra circuit with nine races in Canada, Asia and Europe. Only the top-ranked racers from these two circuits get an invitation to the world championships.

As a sport, Xterra?s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds. Sponsors have noticed, and the prize money available has been increasing to the point where athletes from the mountain biking and triathlon worlds are starting to cross over.

The format of a race is similar to a triathlon, only the biking and running segments are raced off-road. In some races, the swimming component includes rivers and the ocean.

The U.S. finals, where Curran finished 14 th , included a 1.5 kilometre swim in Lake Tahoe, a 34 km bike ride that included sections of singletrack, and a 10 km trail run through what was the set location for the television series Bonanza.

"I trained pretty hard for that one," says Curran. "My mountain biking was pretty strong, so I worked on the other parts of the race. I took swimming lessons, and spend a lot of time in the pool at Meadow Park and in Alta Lake. I also put in a lot of time running."

Locally, Curran won the Westside Wheel Up and posted the best time for the 19-trail Samurai of Singletrack a few weeks ago. He also has experience racing in Canada Cup events and in NORBA competitions.

"The bike saved me ? I passed about 40 people on the bike section, which really helped a lot," he says. "The guys who are at the top are a little more balanced. Everybody has their strengths, whether they?re fast on the water or on their feet, but to be in the top group you have to be strong in everything."

He is putting in a lot of practice time for Hawaii, and hopes to finish in the top 10. Now that he knows what he is capable of, he plans to concentrate more time on training for, and competing in, Xterra events, and to enter the 2002 season to win.

The first step, however, is the world championships. To help him get there and back again, Garfinkel?s and Evolution are holding a pro photographer slideshow and fund-raiser for Curran at Garfinkel?s on the evening of Oct. 10.

The slide show will feature images from local photographers Bryn Hughes, Blake Jorgensen, and Bonnie Makarewicz. Tickets are $4, and there will be prizes and a 50-50 draw.

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