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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Allen expects tough title defense in XTERRA

Australian pro Ben Allen and United Kingdom’s Jacqui Slack pose for a photo in one of the XTERRA races they joined last year. The couple will be here next month to join the 2013 XTERRA Saipan Championship set for March 9. (Contributed Photo) Australian pro triathlete Ben Allen admits facing a tough battle when he defends his men’s title in next month’s XTERRA Saipan Championship.

“The competition at this year’s XTERRA Saipan will be fierce. Former Triathlon ITU World champion Olivier Marceau is returning, along with 2011 XTERRA Saipan champion Sam Gardner and not to forget a new addition at this year’s race, Dan Hugo, who has numerous podium finishes in the XTERRA World Tour,” Allen said in an email to Saipan Tribune.

The Australian and New Zealand XTERRA champion won last year’s XTERRA Saipan after setting a new course record of 2:31:05, just 39 seconds ahead of Marceau. Allen went on to sweep the XTERRA Asian Triple Crown, as he also topped XTERRA Philippines and XTERRA Guam.

To prepare for this title defense and hopefully deny Marceau and Gardner’s claim to their lost glory, and foil the newcomers’ bid for debut wins, Allen along with his girlfriend and fellow pro Jacqui Slack of United Kingdom has started training for the XTERRA Tour since late last year.

“I’m fitter and stronger than ever. The New Year always brings new opportunities, and hopefully 2013 is no different. My girlfriend Jacqui Slack and I are setting our sights high and have already made firm race plans for 2013. Once again we will be pushing our bodies to the limits and traveling to 14 different countries to race the XTERRA World Tour and keep the XTERRA Warriors spirit alive,” the North Wollongong, New South Wales resident said.

“I feel very confident with my swimming, riding, and running thanks to my coach Guy Hemmerlin, who is training me very hard, to prepare me for the grueling challenges that everyone faces during the XTERRA races,” he added.

Allen was first out of the water at Micro Beach in last year’s XTERRA Saipan with his 22:00 in the 1.5-kilometer swim , was third overall in the 33K bike with his 1:25:33, and also first in the 12K run with his 48:25. The Australian pro entered the XTERRA finish line loop at the American Memorial Park just a few steps ahead of Marceau to deny the latter a successful return to the Crown Jewel of XTERRA World Tour after missing the event for four straight years.

Allen and Slack will be arriving on Saipan on March 5 in time for the March 9 competition and three days after starting the XTERRA Asian Triple Crown in the Philippines.

“We are super excited with what 2013 holds. XTERRA is going to be bigger and better than ever before. With many new XTERRA races emerging including XTERRAs in our home countries of UK and Australia, we can’t help but be involved and help give athletes the ultimate XTERRA experience. Jacqui and I are thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to race in the 2013 XTERRA Saipan Championship and visit friends we have made throughout our journey so far,” said Allen, who thanked his girlfriend, family, and sponsors Giant Bikes, On Running, Rocket Science Sports, Craft, Ryders Eyewear, Schnell Carbon Wheels, Greepers, Ekoi, and Xosize for making his XTERRA trips possible.

Before seeing action in XTERRA Saipan, Allen and Slack have expressed their interest in making a presentation about triathlon to kids and an open forum for local triathletes.

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