Professional triathletes are up for an unforgiving course in the 2016 XTERRA Saipan Championship.
No thanks to Typhoon Soudelor, which altered some parts of the bike and run trails, making the already challenging course even more dangerous.
“I checked the run course with some Saipan friends and it was very slippery. One wrong move and you could get injured and you are done with your race,” said Mieko Carey in an interview with Saipan Tribune after yesterday’s press conference at Kanoa Resort.
“I’ve been racing XTERRA for more than 10 years and this year probably will be the most challenging after Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan in August. I really have to be very careful, especially when going to the run trail,” said Carey, who will be battling the women’s division crown of tomorrow’s off-road triathlon against Australia’s Belinda Hadden, Switzerland’s Renata Bucher, and Austria’s Carina Wasle.
Hadden and Bucher also visited the bike and run courses in preparation for this Saturday’s race and both agreed their hands and feet will be very busy as they negotiate the up and downhill trails.
“We have to be very careful and use our hands and feet to make sure of our movements along the trails,” said Hadden, who will be racing in XTERRA Saipan for the second time after a sixth place finish in her debut last year.
“This is a crazy course and is made even more challenging by the typhoon that hit Saipan. When you’re done with this race and survive the course, you know you are ready for the entire triathlon season and you’re hard as a rock,” said Bucher, who will be gunning for her eighth title in XTERRA’s Crown Jewel.
Bucher, Carey, and Hadden are coming into this weekend’s XTERRA Saipan with little recovery time after completing the Half Ironman course in last Saturday’s Tagaman Triatlon, while Wasle had about three weeks of rest, heading into tomorrow’s race. Wasle, who targets her second title after ruling the event in 2014, is hoping the breather will work to her advantage as she tackles the risky course.
“I hope I save enough energy to last this challenging course, especially the run part,” said Wasle, who was the fastest female in the 12K run course and the only one to time in under one hour last year after submitting 58:31.
“As for the bike course, I hope and pray for a crash free race, but you’ll never know, so I really have to be very careful,” added the Austrian, who has a history of bad crashes in the bike course in the past XTERRA Saipan race.
Both the bike and run courses will pose threats to pros and amateur triathletes’ bid to complete the race, as remnants of the damage caused by Typhoon Soudelor can still be seen along the trails at the northern parts of the island (Tapochao, Navy Hill, and Chinatown). However, majority of the trails have been cleared, thanks to Bobbi Grizzard and other volunteers. Markers are also everywhere with blue arrows for the 30K bike course and red for the run part. The 1.5-kilometer swim leg will not be a problem, as it will take place at the calm waters off Micro Beach.
Meanwhile, in the men’s division, only three pros will battle for the crown. Filipino pro Joe Miller leads the short list and will be joined by Japan’s Takahiro Ogasawara and South Korea’s Kaon Cho.
Miller placed sixth among eight pros in last year’s XTERRA Saipan and though this year there are lesser competitors, the task of completing and winning the event will neither be easier nor harder.
“You can’t tell if this year’s race will be easier or harder for us. The results are unpredictable and it will depend on the race condition that day. We all have equal chances to win the race,” Miller said.