Five years into his career as a professional athlete, Braden Currie has consolidated his learnings to give himself the ultimate chance of becoming the XTERRA World Champion at the Hawaii-based event this Sunday (Monday, 8am NZ time).

A month ago, Red Bull endurance athlete Currie (30) moved to Lake Tahoe, California, with his family, for a four-week, dedicated XTERRA preparation block, because of the altitude and specific resources and training opportunities available in the area.

“The real beauty of coming to this place is that Tahoe is already at 1800m altitude and many of my bike sessions will see me do another 1000m of climbing on single track. The XTERRA Worlds is predominantly a steep climbing-dominated course, so it has been a good environment for me to be in,” Wanaka’s Currie says.

Braden Currie at the Pan America ChampsBraden Currie at the Pan America Champs
(Photo: Jesse Peters / XTERRA; click to enlarge)

Competing for the fourth time in the XTERRA World Championships, Currie has had a perfect build period for the biggest race of his career. His preparation has been focused on finding extra gains in areas such as biomechanics, nutrition, heat and altitude adaptation and recovery.

“I have been able to focus on the fine-tuning phase of my training, after spending several years racing back-to-back without enough time for progression in between. When you start racing the best in the world, both on and off road, you begin to realise how precious every second is and the difference it can make at the end,” Currie says.

Two factors that have made a positive impact on him this year have been taking on new Kiwi coach Bevan McKinnon and also taking a five-week break.

“I had my first long holiday from training and racing back in May and it gave me a refreshed platform to start building from for the rest of the year. It also allowed me some solid time to reflect on who I am as an athlete and where I want to go.”

“Bevan has definitely helped me find some more consistency with my performance. I spent some time with him at the AUT Millennium Sports and Performance Clinic lab, testing things like my biomechanics, metabolic rate and VO2. My training is designed around the learnings from these results.”

“This year has been confronting for me in many ways and I have taken on one main concept that I know is at the crux of my success. That is to give everything to my preparation and then to just enjoy myself when I am racing,” Currie says.

His progression was apparent last month, when he came within a photo finish of beating his fiercest rival, current XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh in the Pan America Championships in Utah. It strengthened Currie’s belief that he has what it takes to topple the reigning champion in Hawaii.

Braden Currie at the Pan America ChampsBraden Currie at the Pan America Champs
(Photo: Jesse Peters / XTERRA; click to enlarge)

While he rates Colorado’s Middaugh and three-time XTERRA World Champion Spaniard Ruben Ruzafa, who he beat at the Worlds last year, finishing second behind Middaugh, as obvious front-runners, there are some top athletes, like German long-distance triathlete Sebastian Kienle, who has the ability to mix things up at the event.

“The beauty of racing XTERRA is it’s such an honest race. It’s not so much about tactics but more about how hard you can push yourself,” Currie says.

After the 1.5km rough water swim, he expects there to be a pack of strong riders all pushing each other to the limit over the 32km mountain bike ride.

Currie’s running has returned to its trademark ferocious pace after his calf injury has healed and he is confident he can hunt down anyone ahead of him over the 10.5km trail run.

“Even though winning the XTERRA Worlds is one of my biggest career goals, I still just can’t wait to be racing. It’s going to be tough, but lucky I like it that way,” Currie says.