Photos: XTERRA

By Kent Gray/
If Lizzie Orchard had her way, the impossibly clear waters and man-made bike trails of XTERRA Australia would be replicated all around the off-road triathlon world. It’s little wonder the Aucklander is such a fan – she embraced the magical Dunsborough, Western Australia course better than anyone to open her season in style with victory at XTERRA Australia on Sunday.

The 37-year-old stopped the clock in 2:52:20 to win by 27 seconds from reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific champion Hannah Lee Young. The Aussie star’s coach, Brit Jacqui Allen, rounded out the podium in 2:55:12.

Orchard made her break on the 30.2km bike course and held on to win the 4th stop of the XTERRA APAC Tour with a 56:01 split for the 10.5km run.

Australian Ben Forbes, third at the recent XTERRA Rotorua Festival, won the men’s title in 2:27:08.

Allen led out of the crystal-clear waters of Geographe Bay with a time of 20:51, closely followed by Kristen Gardner (AUS) at 21:14 and Orchard at 21:21.

“The water was beautiful and clear; it was pretty flat as well. We were all prepared for waves so that was cool,” said Orchard.

The bike leg was contested over an array of berms, drops, and jumps on a singletrack through Meelup Regional Park that was nearly 90 percent hand-built. It was very much to Orchard’s liking as she hunted down Allen before slowly extending her gap off the front, heading into T2 with a time of 1:33:15.

“I wish every XTERRA race could have these bike trails. I had a lot of fun out there today. This really is my kind of race, I love the trails and just want to stay here to ride more!”

Fellow XTERRA Kiwi Samantha Kingsford, writing on social media from the Philippines where she had just finished 4th at Ironman 70.3 Lapu-Lapu Cebu, echoed Orchard’s sentiments on the beauty and challenge of courses such as Rotorua and Dunsborough.

“If only all the XTERRA courses were like this side of the world!! We just do it better down under 😉.”

After breaking the tape, Orchard modestly attributed her success to a mixture of fortune and adeptness with the conditions.  

“I might have been a little bit lucky today as well. This is my kind of course. I love the trails and also the hot weather.”

Young followed closely behind, finishing her 10.5km run in 53:52.

“I was cramping pretty hard once onto the run and out of T2 so had to settle into a pace, lucky for me it was slightly quicker than Jacqui and I managed to [stay] ahead of her.”

Forbes, meanwhile, has quickly marked himself as a rising star of XTERRA after only transitioning from mountain biking in 2021.

“Usually I absolutely hate the swim, but as soon as I started, I couldn’t believe how nice it was in the water – the fish, the coral.

“The bike leg was also super fun – the most singletrack in any XTERRA course I’ve ever done. It was so fun.”

XTERRA Australia – Top 5 Women

1- Lizzie Orchard (NZL) – 2:52:20
2 – Hannah-Lee Young (AUS) – 2:52:57
3 – Jacqui Allen (GBR) – 2:55:12
4 – Kate Bramley (AUS) – 3:00:31
5 – Kristen Gardner (AUS) – 3:08:42

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