XTERRA Southeast comes early

The fourth annual XTERRA Southeast Cup returns to Oak Mountain State Park May 23 and 24, two weeks earlier than normal, but that’s OK for professional triathletes competing in the event.

“I think everybody is happier that it’s earlier because it won’t be as hot. Last year was really tough on all of us,” said last year’s female pro winner, Shonny Vanlandingham.

Vanlandingham has finished second and fourth in the two XTERRA events this season, and will look for a repeat of her first-ever XTERRA win this weekend.

“Alabama is a little more my style of a course,” said Vanlandingham, who arrived in Birmingham on Monday. “It’s a very difficult course … I think just coming into that race with a lot of energy and being well rested is important.”

Her toughest competition will be three-time World Champion Melanie McQuaid, who she edged last year on the mountain bike portion of the race to win at Oak Mountain.

McQuaid, a native of Canada, has won both XTERRA races this spring.

Last year’s men’s winner, Conrad Stoltz of South Africa, will look for his third-consecutive win in Pelham.

The pros will race on Saturday this year, starting at 7:30 a.m. with a 1-mile swim in Double Oak Lake, followed by an 18-mile mountain bike ride through the park’s Red Trail and concluding with a 10-mile trail run. Winners of the pro race are expected to cross the finish line around 9:30 a.m., with an awards ceremony to follow at noon.

In addition to the Southeastern Cup, there will be amateur races.

On Sunday, there will be a 21K off-road half-marathon to benefit the Children’s Hospital beginning at 7 a.m.

Cost for the two-day event is only the park’s admission, which is $3 for adults.