Japanese pro rider Yasue Nakahara will be the biggest threat to Hong Kong’s Jamie Wong in the 11th Hell of the Marianas Century Cycling Race that will hit the road this Saturday.
Nakahara and Wong are expected to go head-to-head for the women’s title after five-time champion Mieko Carey and Manami Iijima decided to skip this year’s edition of the 115-kilometer race around Saipan.
Carey won’t be defending her title as she suffered an injury while training. Iijima, on the other hand, is still recovering after competing in last Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in Phuket, Thailand. Both are representing Guam with Carey used to don the CNMI colors.
Nakahara and Wong are both 31 years old, but the latter has the advantage, experience-wise, as she is a two-time Olympian—2008 Beijing and 2012 London—and competed in several international tournaments. Chau Yu Ng, also from Hong Kong, completes the women’s pro/elite field.
Nakahara, who usually races in Europe, is a member of the Maaslandster International Women’s Cycling Team in the Netherlands. The Japanese pro, according to her profile, has great climbing skills that would be useful in the hill stages of the HOM, especially going up the Bird Island Lookout and Suicide Cliff. She placed fifth in the Japan National Championships held last June 24 in Hasikami, Aomori Prefecture.
Nakahara’s foe, Wong, has an impressive credential after winning the gold medal in the 2007 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Copenhagen, Denmark and silver in the Asian Cycling Championships in Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand.
The Hong Kong rider is also a silver medalist in the 2010 Asian Games and settled for the bronze in the 2014 edition of the competition in Incheon, South Korea. Wong earned the No. 1 world ranking in the 2013 Track Points Race, placed 15th in the World Cup the same year, and won the gold medal in a race in Manchester in 2013. She is also a four-time bronze medalist (2011 to 2014) in the Sliver Asia Championship.