Classen, Purcell win Xterra Hood River

Jody Purcell  Credit: Rich Cruse
Sundays Xterra Hood River, eighth in the 2000 Xterra America Tour off-road triathlon race series, packed a surprise ending for the top-ranked men in this year's overall Nissan Xterra Points Series — Mike Vine (27, of Victoria, B.C.), Kerry Classen (27, of San Clemente, Calif.), and Michael Tobin (36, of Boise, Idaho).

A dog fight was expected as Vine was carrying the momentum of his first series win at Xterra Canada last weekend, and was looking to take his second win in Hood River. Tobin, two-time defending Xterra Hood River champion, and Classen, with four first-place finishes this season, were also thought to be candidates for a win.

Conditions were near perfect for the 250 competitors, with temperatures in the mid-70's, bright sunshine, and cloudless skies. Classen set the pace for the field, leading by over a minute out of the one-mile Columbia River swim. Vine was 2:18 back in eighth, with Tobin in 20th, over 3 1/2 minutes down.

The 18-mile mountain bike that followed, with 2,000 total feet of climbing on a combination of pavement, singletrack, and gravel jeep trail, played to the strengths of all three men.

Classen had the lead by only 45 seconds at the top of the five-mile climb to the Tower of Power" over Vine, who had moved up to second place, and was followed by series newcomer Kelly Guest (23, of Victoria, B.C.). Tobin was hot on his heels in fourth with Dave Harrison (36, of Missoula, Mont.) in fifth.

A screaming descent, more gravel and seven miles of singletrack, including the infamous "Woop-di-doo" section, gave Vine and Tobin the chance to pass both Guest and Classen. Tobin took the fastest bike time of the day by 45 seconds over Vine.

Coming into the run transition it was still very close, with Vine 32 seconds ahead of Tobin, and Classen 49 seconds behind Tobin in third. A six-mile trail run, which ended with a leg-burning descent, did little to separate them, despite Classens clocking the fastest run time for the race. The three crossed the line within 39 seconds of each other. Vine hung onto a narrow lead, crossing the line first 21 seconds ahead of Tobin, with Classen just 18 seconds back in third.

Vines victory was short-lived as a protest ensued over course-cutting by Vine and Tobin on the steep run switchbacks just a mile from the finish. Both Vine and Tobin were assessed a two-minute time penalty for the offense, which could have resulted in disqualification.

As a result, Classen took first place in 2:23:02, with Vine in second in 2:24:15, and Tobin third in 2:24:44. Dave Harrison finished fourth with Kelly Guest fifth, his best finish of the season.

This surprise ending resulted in Vine losing the overall lead in the $60,000 Nissan Xterra Points Series to Classen, a position he would have retained had the offense not occurred. Vine is now in second, with Tobin in third.

In the womens race, Jody Purcell (28, of Sydney, Australia), took her fourth Xterra victory of the season, moving from third place to second in the Nissan Xterra Points Series.

Only seconds separated the women coming out of the swim. Purcell was first out, three seconds ahead of Kerstin Weule (32, of Evergreen, Colo.), and 20 seconds ahead of Cheri Touchette (Encinitas, Calif.). At the top of the Tower of Power, Purcell had almost two minutes over Touchette and Weule, who were only seconds apart in second and third. Lorraine Barrows (37, of Laramie, Wyoming) was in fourth about 45 seconds behind Weule.

Purcell was first into the run transition, a minute and a half ahead of Touchette, with Weule only 40 seconds behind in third, and Barrows more than two minutes behind Weule. Purcell maintained her lead on the run and took the win in 2:53:35. Both Weule and Barrows passed Touchette at the mid-point of the run.

Barrows, with the fastest run time of the day, almost caught Weule at the finish, but Weule hung onto second, finishing in 2:55:19, with Barrows in third only six seconds behind her. Touchette took fourth place in 2:57:14.

Weule, who also has four wins this year, maintained her lead in the Nissan Xterra Points Series, and Purcell moved up from third to second, only eight points back, with Barrows in third.

The top-placed amateurs were Bob Mueller (37, of Solana Beach, Calif.) in 16th place with a time of 2:39:58, and Sarah Kerlin (25, of Santa Cruz, Calif.) in 3:04:02, good for eighth place overall.

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