The depth of the Puebla field will be noticeably lighter than in the previous North American Elite Series races, in San Luis Obispo and Big Bear. Among other notables, Lars Arneson, Josiah Middaugh, Hawk Call, and Ryan Kempson won't be in Mexico for the race.
Even without them, though, the third Elite Series race of the year promises to be thrilling. Here's what to watch for south of the border.
Who Has Podiumed in the United States AND Mexico?
Eight men and four women have podiumed in both the U.S. and Mexico, and a couple of them will be contenders in Puebla this weekend.
Top Contenders: Who Can Win the Puebla Beast?
As I mentioned in the women’s preview, this is the first time that many of the top athletes in this field will be racing outside of the United States. Athletes tend to do better on their home turf, and the converse is generally true when traveling internationally.
Don’t be surprised if a few athletes from Mexico sneak into the top 10 and upset some of the familiar names from the U.S. and Canada. Watch out for Eugenio Godinez Romero, who finished 20 seconds behind Veejay Jones in a race in Mexico in 2020. Also keep an eye on Ciro Perez Barragan, a 2:27 marathoner and member of the Mexican army who is coached by Angel Quintero. While I don’t think either of them will end up in the top 5, I could see them mixing it up with some of the top racers from the U.S. and Canada for several miles. Home-court advantage is a real thing in sports, and it’s no different in OCR.
Here are some of the other main contenders to wind up on the podium. There are 10-plus athletes who could end up in the top 5, some of whom are not listed below.
The greatest Mexican racer in OCR history, Angel has a huge advantage because he lives at 9,000 feet elevation and is racing on his home soil. He already has 2 National Series podiums in the U.S., but a podium in his home country would probably be more meaningful than any other in his career.
After a 2nd-place finish in San Luis Obispo, and his best-ever showing at Big Bear, Mark is on fire. He also beat Veejay Jones by nearly 40 seconds in a 5K road race a couple of weeks ago, and that speed will come in handy in Mexico. With several miles of open running at the start of the course, Mark could break away from the pack early and put himself in podium position again. As long as he doesn’t fail any obstacles, Mark’s chances of making the podium are as good as anyone’s.
Did you know that Nic has the second-fastest time on a Beast course in Spartan history? He set that mark in Seattle, which has rolling hills and muddy footing similar to what we can expect to see in Mexico. Nic’s 3rd-place showing in San Luis Obispo wasn’t a fluke, and you should expect him to be aggressive as he attempts to snag his second podium in three races.
No one has ever podiumed in all three major regions of North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico). Ryan Atkins — and his wife, Lindsay — will look to be the first athletes to accomplish that feat this weekend in Chignahuapan. After a win at Big Bear, the defending Spartan World Champion has reestablished himself as the favorite whenever he steps on a start line.
Some athletes struggle in humid conditions, but Ryan Woods is not one of them. Woods has excelled in West Virginia, Jacksonville, Chicago, Asheville, and basically anywhere else where the weather forecast showed high humidity (which we’re expecting on Saturday morning). His 18th-place showing in Big Bear may not look good on paper, but don’t be fooled: Ryan was in 5th when he failed the Twister, so he is certainly fit.
Starting his career with 2nd-, 6th-, and 5th-place finishes at National Series races tells you just how good Rylan Schadegg is. The problem is that all of those courses were on dry, West Coast trails, and we haven’t yet seen how he’ll perform on different terrain Also, Rylan is treating this trip to Mexico as more of a vacation than a race, considering he hiked a 17,000-foot-tall volcano only a couple of days before the race. Will that hard effort up, and long descent down, affect Rylan on race day?
Veejay Jones has never podiumed on a Beast course. I almost didn’t believe that when I typed it, but it’s true. However, that hole in Veejay’s resume should be remedied soon. All of those two and three-hour runs that Veejay has been doing for months will pay off soon as he looks to continue his multi-year podium streak after a 3rd-place finish in Big Bear.
Predicting the Top 5 Finishers
It’s time to make some predictions! Here’s who I think will finish in the top 5, in order.