With two former champions out and two returning pros setting modest goals, it will be a wide-open race in the women’s pro division of this Sunday’s Tagaman Triathlon.
Last year’s champion Carina Wasle of Austria and 2013 winner Jacqui Slack of United Kingdom are missing this year’s road race, leaving Switzerland’s Renata Bucher and former Saipan resident Mieko Carey to contest the women’s pro crown against United Kingdom’s Daz Parker and Tagaman first-timer Belinda Hadden of Australia.
Wasle, who completed last year’s Half Ironman course (1.9K swim, 90K bike, and 21K run) in 4:45:24 to rule the women’s division, will not be able to defend her title this weekend due to time constraints.
“I would love to defend my Tagaman title, but this year I can’t make it as I only arrived on Saipan from Austria on Saturday morning. Tagaman is a very hard race and racing it with jetleg and with only five days recovery before the XTERRA race even makes it harder,” Wasle said.
Slack, on the other hand, had to stay in Australia this weekend to participate in a 100K MTB race for which she is an ambassador.
Bucher, Parker, and Hadden arrived on Saipan early this week, while Carey is scheduled to return here today. The two pros—Carey and Bucher—admitted winning the Half Ironman event will be tough despite the absence of two former champions, while Hadden is wary of her unfamiliarity with the course and its condition.
“I love to race Tagaman, but I do not go for the win. I will do my very best to get through and stay healthy and in shape for XTERRA Saipan and Guam the following weekends. I was never a road triathlete. I did a Half Ironman race before the start of the XTERRA season just to get through and be mentally tougher. Racing a Half Ironman is a totally a different game than XTERRA. The course here is hard because you can see each other, especially on the run. It’s flat, hot, and humid on the road,” said Bucher, who joined last month’s XTERRA Philippines before returning to Australia to continue her training.
“I raced in XTERRA Philippines in February and felt not good there. I was suffering from knee injury then so the older I get, the smarter I have to train and look after my knees and bones,” added Bucher, who would like to thank Pacific Islands Club for her accommodation in the duration of the Saipan Sportsfest.
Bucher and Hadden tried to have a practice swim in the waters off PIC yesterday morning, but intermittent rains prevented them from doing so. The duo also scheduled a ride along the bike route early afternoon to give Hadden the feel of the course.
“From what I heard, this is a challenging course because of the heat and humidity. I’ll see what I can do and try to adapt to the course condition,” said Hadden, who is returning to Half Ironman after almost two years of absence.
“I did Half Ironman races from 2006 to 2012 and then stopped to pursue my study. Last year, I joined XTERRA for a new challenge and this time I will try to do the 70.3 race again. Hopefully, I will finish between 4:30:00 to 4:45:00. Anything below 4:30:00 will be an awesome result given this tough course condition,” said Hadden, who pride herself for being a fast runner.
Meanwhile, Carey is used to the course condition here, having raced in Tagaman for several years. However, she has to pace herself well this year to avoid falling short again. Last year, she had a close race with Wasle, but cramped up at the halfway mark of the 21K run leg to slide to third place behind Filipino pro Monica Torres.
“I want to redeem myself. I have been doing long running workout for this race and I joined a half marathon event last month. I don’t know if I will win, but I would definitely love to win at my ‘hometown’ (Saipan). I would like to go sub 5 (hours),” the now Guam-based pro said.