Ben Allen and Renata Bucher captured the inaugural XTERRA Guam Championship on Saturday, March 10 on a beautiful day in the United States island territory of Guam, the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. It is the second XTERRA Championship for Allen, who also won XTERRA Brazil last year, and the 22nd title spanning 12 countries in the illustrious career of Renata Bucher.
XTERRA President Janet Clark was on hand to take in all the action and brings us this colorful report on the days’ adventure…
The first of the XTERRA Asia Tour’s “Triple Crown” is in the history books with the inaugural XTERRA Guam Championship. XTERRA has held a race on Guam since 2006, initially as part of the XTERRA America Tour point series races – an opportunity for locals in the region to hone their skills and held in close proximity to the XTERRA Saipan Championship to lure a number of pros to the island over the years. But thanks in large part to the Guam Visitors Bureau, and a host of other sponsors, race director Eric Tydingco, has finally achieved his long term dream of “Championship racing for Guam” with much sought after slots to the XTERRA World Championship and $15,000 in prize money for professionals.
The stars were out in force – with a highly competitive pro field traveling from around the globe – Australia, Europe, and the U.S. – and a record turn-out of age groupers and twenty teams representing Canada, Japan, several U.S. states, Saipan and Guam.
As the sun rose over Port Authority Beach, the race began with a deep water start and two laps of 750-meters. First out of the water were local boys Soujyu Usui (team swimmer) followed by Josh Alba. Only a few seconds back was Australian pro Ben Allen in 19:45 with Colorado’s Branden Rakita (USA) 20:57 and Olivier Marceau (SUI) 22:40. The first woman out of the swim was U.K.’s Jacqui Slack 23:09 in 8th overall and 4th pro swimmer. Saipan’s Mieko Carey was second woman out of the water. Of note, 10th placed swimmer overall was local 7th grader, 13 year-old Justin Fell. Remember that name…he’s determined to make it big.
Out on the 31K bike course, 2,400 total feet of climbing awaited, starting with a grueling ascent on pavement up Nimitz Hill, but from there it was true mountain biking -red dirt, slippery mud with sections that resembled quick sand, “oompah loompah” oopdy doops, and fast descents- enough to test even the most accomplished biker.
But the day belonged to Aussie Ben Allen who won the race in 2:29:42 – just under 3 minutes over second placed Olivier Marceau (SUI). Allen appeared so quickly that it took the finish line by complete surprise.
“I’m stoked,” said Allen. “Conditions were beautiful this morning. I’m a strong swimmer and had a bit of a lead…so I rode hard. I lost some air pressure out on the bike and had to stop a couple of times. Oli caught me on the big descent, where I was riding a flat tire and nursed it all the way to transition. But I’ve been working hard on running with my coach, and I knew if I was close enough to Oli, I could win. I caught him on the first big climb of the run”.
His training showed – he had the fastest run of the day by over 3 minutes on the 8.2K jungle run course. “These hot, humid conditions suit me – just like Brazil. I’m looking forward to the Philippines and Saipan and hoping for a one, two, three hat trick in Asia.”
Marceau won XTERRA Guam in 2007 and he took second in this, his second appearance. “This time was much, much harder. I started my training a little later (in 2007, he had been training in Australia for several months before coming to the Northern Pacific). I pushed hard, but it was tough. Ben had a good swim and it was very hard to catch him on the bike. I started running 10-15 seconds ahead of him and he caught me on the first uphill of the run. Once he passed me, I kept my own pace and did my own race.”
Marceau finished second in 2:33:22. “Philippines and Saipan, will be better and better if I keep on training and get used to the heat and race pace,” said Marceau. “This is a beautiful race and beautiful organization and I had fun – and that’s what I’m looking for.”
In 3rd was Cedric Lassonde (FRA) – who had been lured to the Western Pacific with tales from fellow UK resident Sam Gardner, who won XTERRA Guam for the past three years. “My swim was probably one of the worst ever in any triathlon. I missed the last buoy and swam an extra 100 meters,” said Lassonde. “I took a few tumbles on the bike. It was very slippery and very difficult compared to two days ago when I last rode it. But I caught Branden (Rakita) and thought maybe I’m not doing too bad.” As it turned out, Lassonde had the fastest bike of the day. “My run was very conservative, as I’m coming from a stress fracture and haven’t run in 4 weeks, but the whole run was incredible.” His run was the second fastest of the day.
US pro Branden Rakita finished in 4th. “I wasn’t expecting this bike. It was hard – the mud did not dry out over the last few days and I slid all over the place and the bike got very heavy. But once I hit the run, if was everything I expected and more – I just smiled and had fun sliding down the waterfalls and running through the jungle. I’m really happy I came – it’s only going to get better from here.”
Graham Wadsworth (UK) finished 5th with Japanese pro Takahiro Ogasawara in 6th. American Will Kelsay finished 7th for the pro men – sporting seven stitches on his knee from a pre-ride spill (that portion of the course was subsequently taken out), a broken chain, and a huge grin at the finish. “It was so fun Rambo-ing through the jungle,” he said. Philippines’ Arland Macasieb was 8th.
2012 XTERRA Guam Championship Pro Men Results
1 Ben Allen AUS 2:29:42
2 Olivier Marceau SUI 2:33:22
3 Cedric Lassonde GBR 2:34:08
4 Branden Rakita USA 2:38:35
5 Graham Wadsworth GBR 2:41:30
6 Takahiro Ogasawara JPN 2:46:11
7 Will Kelsay USA 2:48:02
8 Arland Macasieb PHI 3:23:50
The Women’s Race
Swiss Miss Renata Bucher blew the women’s field away, taking 1st place by 15 minutes in 2:46:11 over Austria’s Carina Wasle. Her win was good 7th place overall. It was also her 2nd win in Guam. She won the race in 2010 and finished 2nd in 2007 and 2009. “I definitely had a good race,” Bucher said. “I kept up in the swim and it is an advantage that I know the course. I’ve been training in Australia since the end of January, so I feel good.” Looking forward to the next few weeks, she is surely a favorite for multiple wins. “Philippines I know already and Saipan is my favorite race – I know it will be a really good time,” she said.
The diminutive Carina Wasle took second in 3:02:26. “It is a really challenging course,” she said. “I didn’t imagine that running through the river would be so hard. The bike course is incredible – going down you never see where you are going and there’s lots of bumps and holes – you have to be very careful. Everyone who finishes is a hero”.
“I look forward to the rest of the XTERRA Asian Tour. It is fantastic. All the islands are beautiful and you escape the winter. Everyone should come and race here.”
UK’s Jacqui Slack finished in 3rd – after a strong swim, she took a wrong turn on the bike course and added about 10 minutes to her time. Saipan’s Mieko Carey (2011 and 2008 XTERRA Guam women’s champ) took 4th.
The most inspiring performance of the day was that of former XTERRA World Champion and cancer survivor Jamie Whitmore. Whitmore won this race in 2006 at the peak of her XTERRA professional career. This time, she finished 86th, taking 1st place in the Challenged Athlete division in 4:52:09. “It feels good to be back,” she said. “My pedal came off three times in the bike and I only walked three hills, but it is definitely different when it comes to the run, as there is no running…I need to practice more with the crutches, and I will figure it out”. Whitmore’s husband Courtney Cardenas, also raced today and finished 4th in the 35-39 division.
Age group standouts included Guam’s Peter Lombard, taking first place for the amateurs and 9th overall in 02:58:47. His finish earned him 1st place 35-39 by almost 6 minutes and a slot to the Maui World Championship. First-place woman was Guam’s Camren Kane in 3:45:45.
All agree that the XTERRA Guam Championship is an experience not to be missed – offering a chance for early season racing and training in the warm weather of the Western Pacific, a time for new and old friends to gather, and a place where Mother Nature dishes out challenges like nowhere else on the XTERRA Planet.
2012 XTERRA Guam Championship Pro Women Results
1 Renata Bucher SUI 2:47:25
2 Carina Wasle AUT 3:02:26
3 Jacqui Slack GBR 3:07:10
4 Mieko Carey JPN 3:14:22
Complete XTERRA Guam 2012 Results
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA Guam Championship race was the second world tour event to qualify amateur athletes into the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Kapalua, Maui (Hawaii) on October 28, 2012. The XTERRA Asia Triple Crown continues with the XTERRA Philippine Championship next weekend (March 18) on the island of Cebu, and the “Crown Jewel” XTERRA Saipan (March 24) the weekend after. Saipan will also host the annual Tagaman road triathlon on March 31.
Mar 18 XTERRA Philippines Championship, Cebu
Mar 24 XTERRA Saipan Championship, Northern Marianas
Apr 14 XTERRA New Zealand Championship, Rotorua
May 27 XTERRA Italy Championship*, Orosei, Sardinia
July 8 XTERRA France Championship*, Xonrupt, Gerardmer
July 15 XTERRA Brazil Championship, Manaus, Amazon
Aug 4 XTERRA Czech Championship*, Prachatice, South Bohemia
Aug 4 XTERRA Mexico Championship, Tapalpa, Jalisco
Aug 11 XTERRA Germany Championship*, Zittau
Aug 25 XTERRA Japan Championship, Marunuma
Sept 2 XTERRA Canada Championship, Canmore, A.B.
Sept 8 XTERRA Switzerland*, Prangins
Sept 16 XTERRA Venezuela, Villa Caribe
Sept 22 XTERRA USA Championship, Ogden/Snowbasin, UT
Oct 28 XTERRA World Championship, Maui