Renata in, Ben and Jacqui out

Swiss pro Renata Bucher waves to the crowd as she runs along the shore of Micro Beach during the 2014 XTERRA Saipan.
(Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The 2016 XTERRA Saipan Championship will be with a former winner, but without the defending champions.

Seven-time XTERRA Saipan champion Renata Bucher confirmed to Saipan Tribune yesterday that she will be back to participate in the March 12 competition, while Ben Allen along with his fiancée Jacqui Slack may not be able to make the trip to the island to defend the men’s and women’s titles.

“We’ re looking forward to seeing our friends on the island and will do our best racing,” said Bucher, who will return to Saipan with Australia’s Belinda Hadden.

The Swiss triathlete ruled the Crown Jewel of XTERRA Tour from 2005 to 2010 before her streak was snapped by Austria’s Carina Wasle in 2011. Bucher regained her crown in 2012 to win XTERRA Saipan for a record seventh time.

Though she is favored to win her eighth title next month with Slack out and organizers still waiting for confirmation from other off-island pros, including Wasle, Bucher does not want to be complacent.

“On this course, you never know what can happen. I am not racing against anyone, it’s all about challenging myself and getting through this very tough course safe and fast,” said Bucher.

The Lucerne native placed fourth in last year’s XTERRA behind Slack (3:02:01), Wasle (3:07:33), and former Saipan pro Mieko Carey (3:20:45) after timing in at 3:22:11 and racing through pain due to a nagging knee injury.

Bucher is now injury free and competed in a couple of races in the first two months of 2016 to prepare for XTERRA Tour. She joined the Ironman 70.3 in Geelong, Australia last week and also participated in MTB races in the Land Down last month.

Meanwhile, Ben Allen told Saipan Tribune that they may miss next month’s event due to monetary constraints.

Jacqui and I haven’t yet fully decided on the race on Saipan. It’s one of favorite races on the tour. But this year we may have to give it a miss unfortunately! Sorry to tell you of this sad news, but limited funds with travel expenses has been the main contributing factor. I hope everyone that races has an absolute ball and enjoys everything Saipan has to offer,” said Allen, who ruled XTERRA Saipan from 2012 to last year.

Allen clocked in at 2:40:25 in the 2015 XTERRA Saipan to beat South Africa’s Bradley Weiss (2:46:45) and six other pros. Allen and Weiss met anew at the start of the 2016 XTERRA Tour via XTERRA Albay (Philippines) and the South African pro finally defeated the Australian triathlon, who had a bad crash in the bike leg. Weiss finished the Albay race more than four minutes ahead of Allen, 2:29:56 to 2:33:59.

“I’m OK, just some sore muscles and took some skin off. I’ll live to fight another day,” Allen said in a message sent to Saipan Tribune yesterday.

In related news, Kelli Wedd of Pivot24, which is in charge of XTERRA Saipan and Tagaman (March 5) registrations, said Carey, the Philippines’ Joe Miller, and Japan’s Takahiro Ogasawara will join next month’s off-road race and they are will be waiting for confirmation from some Guam pros.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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