Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (March 24, 2012)
Ben Allen and Renata Bucher made it a clean sweep of the western Pacific by capturing their third XTERRA titles in as many weeks on a blue-sky, cool breeze day at the XTERRA Saipan Championship in the Northern Marianas.
Allen was pushed hard by Olivier Marceau, a three-time Olympian for Switzerland who has won in Saipan four times. Marceau steadily erased the minute-20 gap Allen had coming out of the water by the top of the climb on the bike, then forged into the lead at the notorious cave section just passed the halfway point on the run.
“On that technical downhill section in the ravine I’ve never seen anyone run so fast. Olivier was flying and I was just trying to stay with him, pushing myself beyond my ability just to try and keep up,” said Allen.
Allen never let the lead slip by more than 10-or-15 seconds and when the course hit the flat road section before the beach, he pulled away, ultimately finishing with a winning time of 2:31:05, just 41 seconds ahead of Marceau. It marked the fastest winning time since Marceau’s 2:27:16 back in 2007.
“In the jungle I tried to break away but Ben stayed close and on the road he was faster than me,” said Marceau, who finished runner-up to Allen for the third weekend in a row.
“I was right behind him, and I did my best to catch him but he was stronger than me today. In Guam I was four minutes back, in Cebu I was two minutes back, and today I was under a minute so I’m coming along in a good way. The season is very long, and my first big race is at XTERRA Italy in late May, so I still have time to build up my speed and race pace.”
Pl Name Country Time
1 Ben Allen AUS 2:31:05
2 Olivier Marceau SUI 2:31:44
3 Cedric Lassonde FRA 2:34:58
4 Takahiro Ogasawara JPN 2:45:00
5 Graham Wadsworth GBR 2:46:28
6 Jens Buder GER 2:49:12
7 Branden Rakita USA 2:52:36
8 Will Kelsay USA 2:58:40
9 Butch Sublemente USA 3:30:19
“This is the place where I really started my career as an XTERRA athlete,” explained Bucher, who has collected 24 XTERRA titles since her first one here in Saipan back in 2005. “I fell in love with the island the first time I came, and as long as I do XTERRA I will come here.”
Today Bucher was playing catch-up from the beginning, as British pro Jacqui Slack put more than two-minutes on her in the swim and then rolled with the lead for the next hour or so until the peak of the climb up Mt. Tapochao.
“Jacqui swam really well, and so did Mieko. I tried to push hard but I couldn’t catch Jacqui until the top of the climb,” said Bucher, who has now won seven of the last eight here in Saipan. “I never looked back the rest of the way, until I was on the beach just before the finish. That’s when I realized I could win again. It’s a wonderful feeling. Ever since last year when I finished third I looked forward to coming back and doing better.”
The local favorite Mieko Carey had a strong swim, just a minute behind Slack, and was fast on the bike on her home course until a pair of flats left her playing catch-up. The tough luck spread to Austrian Carina Wasle as well, who found herself in a pile-up on the bike. Despite the setback Wasle had a blistering run and caught Slack to move into second just before the finish, only to fall apart due to exhaustion just 50 yards from the tape.
Next Saturday here in Saipan all four female pros that raced today will compete in the Tagaman road triathlon, the longest-standing tri in the western Pacific.
Pl Name Country Time
1 Renata Bucher SUI 2:54:56
2 Jacqui Slack GBR 3:04:46
3 Carina Wasle AUT 3:05:53
4 Mieko Carey JPN 3:13:41
Photo Credit: XTERRA