After a 7th place in his final ITU race of 2014, athlete Dan McIntosh has been based in San Diego and working hard to improve his swim. Most recently he had the rare opportunity to travel to Tahiti and race an off-road triathlon. Dan’s first triathlon was an Xterra in 2000, an experience he was in no rush to repeat. However the lure of racing in Tahiti was too great to pass on so after a 14 year “break” from off road he borrowed a bike, packed a small bag and jumped on a last minute flight. Upon arrival he was greeted by the race director, Jean-Michel Monot, given a traditional lei, local Rotui juice and most importantly, an espresso.

The pre race activities included a lunch at Miami Beach at the famous Teahupoo surf spot, walk through ancient Tahitian ruins and a “food truck” dinner downtown. Dan managed to fit in a quick pre ride on the borrowed bike but an exciting encounter with some local pitbulls led to a flat tire and the bike spent more time in the back of a local’s truck than being ridden. Not all was lost though since Dan’s neighbors were the always friendly and helpful former Xterra World Champ Shonny van Landingham and Kirsten Mihalic who were quick to provide a tube and pump before bike check in.

Race day started with great weather and excitement. Everyone met at the town center at 6:30 to do a final bag drop and bike check then boarded buses for a trip to the other side of the island. Athletes had about an hour to set up transition and warm up which Dan took advantage of getting in 20 minutes of swim warm up, including several entrances and exits to prepare for the beach start and getting through waves. Since swimming is less important in off road racing than draft legal racing Dan imagined it might be possible to lead the swim and he went out hard but didn’t bother looking for feet. This strategy proved successful as he reached the first turn buoy with only 3 guys near him. He put in one more acceleration and held the effort until the last swimmer dropped from his feet. From that point on he kept up the intensity and by the start of the 2nd lap he had a 1 minute gap on the chase group and by the end of the swim he had 3 minutes.

Used to the fast paced sub 20 second T1 transitions Dan was caught off guard by the tedium of bucking into MTB shoes and even apologized to the fans at one point for taking so long since their cheers had faded while they waited for him to move on.

Within 2k bike course began to rise and each kilometer the pitch increased until 10k where the grade was ~20% and remained there for the next 5k. It rained the night before and the road was muddy and filled with puddles prohibiting any traction on the steep section and Dan was forced to hike-a-bike for at least 5k. All the work to reach the top was worth it as he was welcomed to the other side of the mountain by a beautiful overlook and a drum circle. Unfortunately Dan knew his inexperience on a mountain bike would mean losing time so he didn’t have much time to enjoy the summit and was soon dropping down and a long, steep descent. After a few more river crossings, and sneaky climbs Dan arrived at T2 in the lead.

Dan was excited to run without carrying a bike and took off quickly down the steep trail. The run consisted of paved road, single track, dirt road and recently cleared paths as well as several more river crossings. The constant undulations and uneven footing required keen focus, which wasn’t easy since the surroundings were full of postcard worth images. In the final 2k Dan was joined by Jean Michel and the cameraman and video from that moment as well as other race highlights can be seen here:

Although Dan won’t be trading in his road bike for a mountain bike any time soon we can expect him to return to the VSOP Transtahitienne TXT in 2015.

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