England’s Sam Gardner and Switzerland’s Renata Bucher defended their XTERRA Saipan Championship titles on a hot, steamy day in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
In the men’s race, Victoria’s Mike Vine (won this race in 2002) was passed by Gardner during the bike and was unable to close the gap, losing to the Englishman by only 43 seconds. Australia’s Jason Chalker (won Saipan in 2003) came in third despite wounding his arm in a bike crash.
For Bucher, it was her sixth straight victory in Saipan, and her 20th career XTERRA win. Her 8 minutes and 45 seconds margin of victory was attributed to her having the fastest bike and run splits. USA’s Shonny Vanlandingham was second, and reigning XTERRA Japan Champ Mieko Carey finished third.
The racers swam 1.5 km in the ocean, mountain biked 30 km – climbing1500 feet to the highest point on the island, and ran 12 km on trails that took participants through heavy jungle and into caves used during World War II. As an XTERRA World Championship qualifier, top age group athletes in each division earned qualifying spots to toe the start line in Maui.
Gardner, Vine, Bucher, Vanlandingham and others will stay in Saipan for another week to race in the Tagaman and attempt to win the PIC Double award, which goes to the man and woman with the fastest combined XTERRA and Tagaman time. Tagaman is a road triathlon (2 km swim, 60 km bike, 15 km run) held on Saturday, March 20th. After Tagaman, many of the pros will take an inter-island flight and race in XTERRA Guam on March 27.
XTERRA SAIPAN Top 5 Pro Results
1. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:58:19
2. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) 3:07:04
3. Mieko Carey (Saipan, CNMI) 3:11:07
4. Emma Smith (UK) 3:14:47
5. Daz Parker (ENG) 3:39:23
1. Sam Gardner (ENG) 2:34:03
2. Mike Vine (CAN) 2:34:46
3. Jason Chalker (AUS) 2:48:19
4. Takahiro Ogasawara (JPN) 2:57:46
5. Michael Hiscott (UK) 3:06:20