Professional triathletes are bracing for a bigger and tougher field than Tagaman as they compete in tomorrow’s XTERRA Saipan Championship.
“I am excited to defend my title, but it will not be easy as I know everybody trained hard for this. We’re all equal and that will make the competition tougher,” said defending champion Carina Wasle of Austria during yesterday’s press conference at the Seaside Grill of Pacific Islands Club.
Wasle will be putting her women’s division tiara on the line against seven-time XTERRA Saipan champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland, 2013 winner Jacqui Slack of the United Kingdom, crowd favorite and newly crowned Tagaman champion Mieko Carey, returnee Daz Parker of the United Kingdom, and Ironman veteran Belinda Hadden of Australia.
The defending champion is hoping that the rest she got after withdrawing from last Sunday’s Tagaman will give her the advantage over Carey, Bucher, Parker, and Hadden, who were all put to the test during the scorching road race last weekend.
“I am coming to this Saturday’s race with fresh legs so I think I am lucky that I was not able to continue racing in Tagaman due to a flat tire,” Wasle added.
Slack will enter tomorrow’s event with lots of gas on her tank too as she missed the Tagaman and only did a 100-kilometer bike race in Australia last week. The British bet is also competing in this year’s XTERRA Saipan injury-free. Last year, Slack finished only third behind Wasle and Bucher as she competed in the off-road race with a fractured collar bone on her right shoulder.
“This year, I am in perfect shape and excited to go out there and beat the challenging XTERRA course,” Slack said.
Bucher and Parker, who placed second and third to Carey in last weekend’s Tagaman, said that although their recovery time for XTERRA is short, they believe they still have the energy to conquer the race.
“Although we have a short recovery time, it is still easy to recover from Tagaman and make the switch to the much tougher XTERRA race. In Tagaman, your heart rate is not that high unlike in XTERRA where you go up and down the course and your heart is beating so fast because of the movement and pace,” Parker said.
Recovery is a factor, but so does the race condition, according to Bucher.
“We’re on the same boat going into last Saturday’s race, but things could change depending on the weather on race day. This Saturday, I just have to focus, pace myself, and lessen my mistakes as I go along the course,” Bucher said.
For her part, Hadden said that although she had less time to recover for XTERRA because she raced in Tagaman, she is glad she came to the island early to familiarize herself with the tricky XTERRA course.
“It’s my first time to do XTERRA Saipan and I know I am up for a very challenging course. The different movements one will do in the bike and run leg make this race harder than Tagaman,” Hadden said.
Meanwhile, three-time champion Ben Allen considers his participation in Tagaman as an advantage going into this weekend’s XTERRA Saipan.
“I know what it’s like out there with the heat and humidity and my body can easily adjust to the condition after doing last weekend’s Tagaman. Also, it is much easier to do XTERRA because it is half of Tagaman’s course,” said Allen.
Allen, who beat Russia’s Alexander Dorovskikh, France’s Olivier Marceau, and New Caledonia’s David Esposito, will be defending his crown against a bigger field. Besides his three foes in Tagaman, Allen will also face XTERRA returnee and last year’s third placer Bradley Weiss of South Africa, XTERRA veteran Takahiro Ogasawara of Japan, fellow returnees Kaon Cho of South Korea and Austria’s Markus Benesch, and first-timer Joe Miller of the Philippines.
“It’s going to be an interesting race,” said Allen.
“I am looking forward to my second XTERRA Saipan. I just wish I had more time to get used to the weather, but still I am hoping having missed Tagaman will work to my advantage as I do XTERRA this weekend,” said Benesch, who joined Allen and the five other female pros in yesterday’s press conference.
Also in attendance at yesterday’s event were Marianas Visitors Authority deputy managing director Judy Torres, PIC’s Glenn Policare, and Docomo Pacific general manager James Nelson.