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Friday, April 25, 2014

Japanese pro tops Hell of Marianas

Japan’s Kasuhiro Yamamoto smiles as he is about to cross the finish line ahead of Russia’s Aleksandr Dorovskikh during last Saturday’s 7th Annual Hell of Marianas Century Cycle. (ROSELYN B. MONROYO) Japanese pro Kazuhiro Yamamoto beat Russia’s Aleksandr Dorovskikh in a down-to-the-wire finish in the 7th Annual Hell of Marianas Century Cycle.

Yamamoto went for a sprint (around the last 50 meters) and looked back at his gassed out foe before raising both his arms in triumph in last Saturday’s race. The Japanese biker completed the 100-kilometer race in 2:56:38, edging the 2:56:39 of Dorovskikh.

“It was a close battle since the start. He tried to gain distance from me and then I pushed, too and got ahead. It was like that, he pushed and I answered back. Then in the last one kilometer, I took the lead anew, but I knew he was staying close, so I went for the sprint. I was happy that when I looked back, he was no longer pushing,” the Hell first- timer said.

Joining Yamamoto and Dorovskikh in the Top 3 was Hell returnee Ka On Cho, who timed in at 3:05:50, less than three minutes behind overall third finisher and women’s champion Jodie Willet. The Aussie pro made it to Mariana Resort at the 3:03:44 mark to notch her third straight championship and finish way ahead of Mieko Carey (3:15:09) and Saipan’s Kimiko Hasegawa (4:09:11).

“It was another good finish for me and I love the modified course. It was nice to have a lot of company going to PIC and then take the climb and steep turns in the last 25 kilometers of the race. The weather was nice and I really love having the uphill road close to the finish line instead of thinking you have a long flat ride going to the finish (the old start/finish line at PIC),” said Willet, who broke her time (3:05:40) last year.

The three-time champion rode with the lead pack all the way to Coral Ocean Point. China’s Zhiyong Zhou was also on the lead group and for a while stole the thunder from the pros when he pulled away at the Airport Road section. However, Zhou faded away, as the group headed to San Vicente.

Then at the 25K point (at Kagman Mobil Station) Dorovskikh and Yamamoto were still together with several others. The two leaders then pulled away from the main peloton on their way out of Kingfisher Golf Link. Past the 50K mark and heading down Radar Station, Yamamoto managed to create some distance from Dorovskikh, but the Russian caught up with him on their way back to Marianas Resort.

By the time the two pro riders made it to the Mariana Resort heading to the final 25 kilometers of the race, only 20 seconds separated Dorovskikh and Yamamoto.

Willet headed back to Mariana Resort about eight minutes ahead of Carey and eventually cruised to victory.

“I knew that if I could keep a safe distance from Mieko heading up to the Bird Island Lookout, I know I will be in good position to win,” Willet said.

Though she had another runner-up finish to Willet, Carey said she was satisfied with her time, which was faster than the 3:17:29 she posted last year.

“The new course was great. I had a trouble-free race and love to see and ride with old friends,” said Carey, who competed in her last race of the season and will start the year with a 24-hour bike race.

“I hope to come back here for XTERRA Saipan and become a stronger biker,” the 35-year-old Guam pro said.

Willet also aims to return to Saipan for next year’s Hell of Marianas and defend her title.

“Saipan is a good place to race with its good weather and nice and challenging course,” Willet said.

Meanwhile, results in age group divisions of the road and MTB races will be reported in Saipan Tribune later this week.

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