Defending champion Brodie Gardner sees a lot more depth and strength in competition in the men’s pro division of this weekend’s 2017 XTERRA Saipan Championship.
The Australian is scheduled to arrive on island this Thursday to gun for his second straight title and will be racing against four-time XTERRA Saipan champion Ben Allen, XTERRA South Africa winner Bradley Weiss and 12 other pros, including a couple of returnees.
“Obviously this year there’s going to be a lot more depth and strength in competition with both Ben and Brad being there, and I’m looking forward to it. Brad just came from winning XTERRA South Africa, and I beat Ben at the Australia Cross-Tri champs so we’ll all be hungry to get the win,” said Gardner, who topped last year’s 1.5-kilometer swim, 30K bike trail, and 12K trail run after clocking in at 2:52:46. He defeated Japan’s Takahiro Ogasawara (2:54:14), the Philippines’ Joseph Miller (3:05:03) and South Korea’s Kaon Cho (3:21:08) for the men’s division crown.
“As for the showdown between Ben and I, no doubt he’ll be especially fired up after losing the national title,” the 30-year-old pro said.
Allen, who recently got married to fellow XTERRA Saipan veteran Jacqui Slack, missed last year’s race due to scheduling problems, but has confirmed his return to the island as early as last month. Gardner believes Allen is more pressured to regain his men’s division crown in this weekend’s off-road triathlon.
“Despite being the reigning champ over there though, I still think the majority of pressure will be on Ben to reclaim the title than for me to defend to it. Regardless of which way I look at it, I’m looking forward to going head-to-head with him again as we’ve done so many times in the past,” Gardner said.
Joining Gardner, Allen, and Weiss in XTERRA’s Crown Jewel returnees Takahiro, Markus Benesch, Aleksandr Dorovskikh, and Miller and newcomers Michal Bucek, Emil Durah, Dominik Wychera, Sam Osborne, Kieren McPherson, Akihiko Maeda, and Yuichi Hosoda.
In the women’s pro division, only former Saipan triathlete Mieko Carey and two-time winner Carina Wasle have signed up so far, according to the event’s online registration. Triathletes have until this Thursday to register and organizers are expecting about 100 participants in the weekend’s competition.
A race briefing will be held this Friday at 4pm at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, while race packets will be released from 2pm to 6pm at the same venue.