With an elite group of pro triathletes racing in the 2013 XTERRA Saipan Championship, organizers boast a top class competition this Saturday.
“With all the Top 5 men's finishers in XTERRA Philippines and three of the Top 4 female joining XTERRA Saipan, you can expect a quality competition this weekend. We will have a very strong field,” race director and former Taga, Inc. president Bill Sakovich said.
Sakovich is talking of XTERRA Philippines back-to-back champion Ben Allen of Australia, runner-up Dan Hugo of South Africa, Sam Gardner of the United Kingdom, Bradley Weiss of South Africa, and Olivier Marceau of Switzerland/France and women's division's Renata Bucher, Daz Parker, and Jacqui Slack. Also on the list are Rory Downie of Scotland and Carina Wasle of Austria.
Acting Taga, Inc. president Brad Ruszala echoed Sakovich's statement, saying this year's race will be one of the most exciting ones in the XTERRA Saipan history.
“You have former champions hungry to regain their title, a defending champion on a mission, and a bunch of newcomers who want to make a good impression in the Crown Jewel of XTERRA World Tour,” Ruszala said.
Gardner and Marceau are former XTERRA Saipan champions with the UK bet winning from 2009 to 2011 before missing last year's race. Marceau holds the most men's division crowns in XTERRA Saipan, prevailing from 2004 to 2007. After missing the race for four straight seasons, the two-time Olympian came back last year, but fell short, losing to Allen by less than a minute. Marceau completed the 1.5-kilometer swim, 32K bike, and 12K in 2:31:44 against Allen's 2:31:05.
With Allen having a slim winning time, the Australian pro is out to prove that his debut win in XTERRA Saipan was no fluke. A victory in XTERRA Saipan will also move Allen one win away from completing another XTERRA Triple Crown.
Gardner and Marceau are not the only threats to Allen, but also Hugo, who is making a comeback in the XTERRA World Tour this year after missing the XTERRA World last season. The South African placed runner-up in 2011 XTERRA World, is among the favorites in this year's XTERRA World in Maui. In the Philippines, Hugo timed in at 2:38:31, just less than a minute behind Allen's 2:37:40 despite having two flat tires and gettiing involved in a crash.
Hugo's compatriot Weiss came in at fifth at 2:48:46, just 25 seconds behind Gardner, and about eight minutes ahead of Marceau (2:56:54). Downie placed seventh with a time of 3:12:06.
In the women's field, Wasle and Slack are out to redeem themselves in XTERRA Saipan after catching bad breaks in XTERRA Philippines. Slack had problems with her bike and dropped to fourth behind winner Lesley Patterson (2:45:41), Bucher (3:00:03), and Parker (3:17:03), while Wasle failed to finish the race also due to bike troubles. The Austrian nearly pulled out in last year's XTERRA Saipan after a bad crash and exhaustion in the run leg.
Meanwhile, the 10 visiting pros and former Saipan resident Mieko Carey are among the more than 70 athletes competing in this weekend's event. Several others are still expected to register before the week ends.
With triathletes biking and running on Saipan this week, organizers are advising motorists and pedestrians to take extra caution. Organizers also request residents to put their dogs on a leash.
XTERRA Scramble, Kids
Meanwhile, the XTERRA Scramble 5K/10K will be held this Saturday at 5pm.
Registration is at 4pm on the race site and the course will be around the American Memorial Park. Proceeds from the event will go to Northern Marianas Athletics.
Then this Saturday, XTERRA Kids will be held at 7:30am, also at AMP. The event is free for kids in the U10 age group.
For more information, contact Ruszala at 287-2723 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.