Australia's Ben Allen may be defending his men's title in the 2013 XTERRA Saipan Championships this March against two former winners of the XTERRA Tour's Crown Jewel.
The battle of the champions is anticipated in the March 9 competition after United Kingdom's Sam Gardner and France and Switzerland's Olivier Marceau have committed to return to the CNMI's biggest off-road triathlon event. Gardner won XTERRA Saipan for three straight years (2008 to 2011), but could not extend his reign in the annual tournament last year, as he decided to stay in UK and attend to his wife, who gave birth a few weeks before the island hosted the triathlon contest.
Marceau also ruled XTERRA Saipan for three consecutive seasons (2005 to 2007) and attempted to regain the men's crown last year after a four-year absence, but fell short. Marceau completed the 1.5-kilometer swim, 32k bike, and 12k race in 2:31:44, just .39 of a second behind Allen's course record of 2:31:05. Both Marceau and Allen's times are better than Gardner's personal best of 2:34:03 made in 2010 when the latter beat inaugural XTERRA Saipan winner Mike Vine of Canada.
Besides the three champions, three other pros and three newcomers have also expressed their commitment to XTERRA Saipan and their names and accomplishments will be reported in Saipan Tribune's Wednesday edition.
Meanwhile, as of last Friday, 35 have officially registered online for XTERRA Saipan, according to an email former Taga, Inc. president Bill Sakovich sent to members of the CNMI triathlon community last week.
“Another dozen commitments are coming in. Most participants register in February and March, so we are expecting up to 100 plus,” Sakovich said in the mass email.
Sakovich is encouraging both on-and off-island triathletes to take advantage of XTERRA Saipan, as slots for the 2013 World XTERRA Championship in Maui, Hawaii will be at stake in the March event. Thirty-nine XTERRA World tickets from 13 age groups are up for grabs in XTERRA Saipan.
Cash prizes will also be given away for the Top 7 finishers in both the men's and women's pro categories. The champion will get a lion share of $2,200, while $1,700, $1,200, $800, $500, $400, and $300 will go to the No. 2 to 7 finishers.
XTERRA Saipan will be the triathletes' second stop for the month, as they will also compete in XTERRA Philippines in Cebu City on March 3 and in XTERRA Guam on March 23.
Special hotel rates and homestays are available for off-island participants of XTERRA Saipan, which is supported by Marianas Visitors Authority, Coca Cola, Subway, IT &E, Docomo, DFS Galleria, Foremost, Delta Airlines, and the Pacific Islands Club Saipan.
For more information, contact Sakovich at email@example.com or Brad Ruzala at firstname.lastname@example.org or check the Saipan Sportfest website at www.saipansports.com.