2006 XTERRA Saipan Championship
RESULTS (click here for sortable results)
SAIPAN (April 1, 2006) - On yet another magical day in paradise Swiss triathletes Renata Bucher and Olivier Marceau conquered the coral and jungle covered course faster than anyone en route to winning the women and men's overall championships at XTERRA Saipan.
Azure colored water, a powder blue sky, light island breezes, and a sunny 85-degree day greeted an international field of 200 competitors representing 13 countries to the fifth annual XTERRA Saipan Championship.
A year after stunning the XTERRA world by coming out of virtually nowhere to upset Jamie Whitmore - winner of the first three races here in the Northern Mariana Islands - Bucher defended her crown and solidified her spot at the top shelf in Saipan.
"I was very nervous," said Bucher, the reigning XTERRA European Tour Champion. "I trained in Australia for two months with Olivier. I went hard, tried to improve my swim and did a lot of running. Sometimes it was not fun, but I had to remind myself that I'm doing this for Saipan."
The hard work certainly paid off as she improved her time in all three disciplines to post a women's record time of 2:49:00, good for second place overall behind only Marceau. On the mountain bike, she once again amazed spectators and fellow competitors alike by climbing out of the saddle nearly the entire ascent.
Bucher's climbing prowess happened at an idyllic spot for the media, who were parked at the top of a swift curving uphill on a coral road with an unobstructed view for 300-yards. First came Jamie, riding swiftly. Then came Renata, standing and blazing a trail in pursuit. When she passed Whitmore, it was like she was dancing - reminiscent of how the great Ned Overend would climb up Keystone Mountain.
"I expected nothing less of Renata, she caught me at the same spot as last year," said Whitmore, the four-time XTERRA U.S. Champion. "I caught back up to her on the next descent and she pulled away again on the next few climbs. I kept hoping for more descents."
It couldn't get downhill enough for Whitmore, who entered the bike-to-run transition about one minute-and-a-half back.
"Going into the last technical section I was really trying to fly through to make up time and just kinda nicked a tree and took some thorns along with me," said Whitmore. "Other than that I thought I was doing fine, but when I went into transition they told me how far back I was I thought 'geez, I lost that much time'. Fact is, I had a great race; she just had a better one. For crying out loud she out-split every guy on the bike except Marceau. I went 2:55 and finally broke three hours, so I'm stoked over that."
Newcomer Monique Sawicki came out of the water about the same time as Bucher - which was more than three minutes behind Whitmore, and couldn't keep the hard-driving pace on the bike to keep up with Bucher or catch Whitmore. A third place finish behind two of the sports most dominant riders isn't a bad start.
'It was a definite learning experience," said Sawicki. "Jamie and Renata are really fast and XTERRA is a lot different than an endurance mountain bike race. I'm still really happy to be here, meet everybody and to race in such a beautiful event."
The warm people, warm water, adventurous run and beautiful place comments were the most recurring on this day.
"Ever since last year I couldn't wait to come back to Saipan," said Bucher. "I have such a good time here, not just the race, the whole two weeks. Everyday with the sun and the fun."
Mexico's Fabiola Corona, who finished fifth, had one of the most arduous travel routes - Mexico City to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Narita to Nagoya to Saipan - but was not disappointed with the final destination.
"Jamie told me this course was one of the best in the world so that's why we came," said Corona. "It was very tough. The swimming part I really liked because of the color of the water and the warm temperature. And the bike was really tough - uphills, downhills, single track and the running I really liked because of the rocks and forest and cave and everything. It was like an adventure race, so beautiful and fun."
Japan's Mami Saito was the third competitor out of the water behind only Marceau and Taro Shirato, and had a steady bike and run to finish fourth for the second consecutive season.
Two-time Swiss Olympic triathlete Olivier Marceau (33, living in Cannes, France) made it three-in-a-row in Saipan. His biggest competitor was himself, and Mother Nature.
"Today I tried to go hard but not to hard, to keep a good pace on the bike and the run and not to push myself too hard but just enough to maintain a good lead," said Marceau, who had the fastest swim, bike, and run of the day. "The sea was a bit rough, the bike was very hot, and the run was very technical. You had to be very careful not to twist an ankle or to crash, and that's what I did on the downhill on both the bike and during the run. I was very careful."
Marceau came out of the water nearly three minutes ahead of Japan's Taro Shirato, and five minutes in front of his most formidable opponent - Ryan DeCook. DeCook, the Michigan-native racing in his first event as a pro, was having a great race and was in second place and climbing strong before taking a spill on the bike portion that left his bike a little twisted, which in turn caused a more severe wreck that all but ended his chances of victory.
"I got off the bike and my thigh was just too bruised. I couldn't run," said DeCook - his statement evident in his 2:09 run split.
With DeCook out of the running along came a new face at the front of the pack - amateur James Kennedy from Shanghai, China. Kennedy was in the back half of the pack out of the water - a full 10 minutes behind Marceau, but followed that with the fifth fastest bike and second best run to place 2nd in the men's race.
"I ride a lot but everything is on the indoor trainer," said Kennedy, who was a track star at Colorado School of the Mines before moving to China two years ago. "Because of the air and the traffic and everything else, I'm able to get outside maybe two days a week - but mostly I'm watching DVD's on the trainer."
Long-time Saipan competitor Yu Yumoto from Japan surged into third place, 2nd pro, for his third top five finish here (he was second in 2003 as well).
At 39-years-old, Japanese pro and XTERRA Japan organizer Taro Shirato placed fourth overall, third pro. Newcomer to XTERRA Margus Tamm from Estonia placed fifth (fourth pro), followed by Noiaki Ito from Japan, and eventually DeCook.
"Such a beautiful stay for me, 10 days at the Pacific Islands Club, two races, good atmosphere, friendly people from Guam, Saipan and everywhere," said Marceau. "It's like family coming here for me, and it's good training too. I never want to miss Saipan."
Saipan is located in the middle of the Western Pacific Ocean - 1,300 miles south of Tokyo, 1,400 miles east of Manila, 3,200 miles west of Honolulu, and 2,900 miles north of Sydney.
Athletes representing Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Estonia, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Singapore, France, Guam, Saipan, and the United States participated in the event, which consisted of a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim, a 30k mountain bike that climbed 1,500 feet to the highest point on the island, and an epic 12k trail run that took participants through heavy jungle and into caves used during World War II.
The race served as an important Nissan Xterra World Championship qualifier for athletes from Guam, Japan, and Saipan. A total of 27 athletes earned their place at the start line in Maui by virtue of their performance today.
The top overall amateur male was James Kennedy of Shanghai, China with a time of 2:53:52 and the top amateur female was Mieko Motoyoshi of Saipan in 3:55:39. The winning relay team was comprised of Hideo Hatano (swim), Norimasa Kondo (bike), and Kengo Kuroda (run) with a time of 3:23:22 - the best of 10 teams in the championship.
There was also an XTERRA Sport race comprised of a 750-meter swim, 20k-mountain bike, and 5k trail run. The overall male winner was Kevin Perez from Agana, Guam in 2:10:26. The female champion was Heather Morrison from Saipan in 2:42:17. The top relay team consisted of the Austin Family - Dominque (swim), Tom (bike) and Olivia (run) from Saipan in 2:28:46.
Olivier Marceau, Renata Bucher, Jamie Whitmore, Fabiola Corona, and dozens of others will try for the PIC Double award, which goes to the man and woman with the fastest combined XTERRA and Tagaman time. Winners receive $500 in cash, and 6-days/5-nights at the Pacific Islands Club. In between the two races are a whole slate of self-improvement clinics and fun activities for the family.
3rd Annual SAIPAN SPORTS FEST SCHEDULE of EVENTS (tentative)
3/29-30 - XTERRA University Camp
3/31 - Tank-to-Tank Swim, XTERRA Scramble Trail Runs, XTERRA Saipan Welcome Reception
4/1 - XTERRA Saipan, Awards Dinner Party, music by XTERRA's favorite band - MOJO
4/2 - Tour De Saipan, All American BBQ with Softball, volleyball and horseshoes
4/3 - Tank-to-Tank Swim, Forbidden Island Tour, Triathlon Clinic - Bike Preparations
4/4 - PIC Wall Climbing Contest, PIC Putter Golf Tournament, Paintball War Games
4/5 - Tank-to-Tank Swim, Evening Hash Run
4/6 - Go Kart Race, Triathlon Clinic - Goal setting and motivation
4/7 - Tank-to-Tank Swim, Tagaman Pre-race dinner at the PIC
4/8 - Tagaman Triathlon, Post-race Awards Dinner and Costume Party
4/9 - SOPHIA 7k/10k Walk, TagaKids Triathlon, Post Race Beachside BBQ
The XTERRA Saipan Championship is presented by the Marianas Visitors Authority, and sponsored by the Pacific Islands Club, Paul Mitchell, XTERRA Gear, and Coca-Cola Beverage Co. (Micronesia), Inc.
The XTERRA Saipan Championship was produced by TEAM Unlimited, a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company. TEAM Unlimited owns XTERRA, the world's leading multisport, and this year there are 90+ races in 17 countries around the globe. Over the past 17 years TEAM has also produced more than 235 television shows resulting in two national Emmy nominations, three regional Emmy's and 30 Telly Awards for production excellence.
XTERRA Saipan, the Saipan Sports Fest and the Tagaman triathlon are being filmed by TEAM Unlimited and all the action will be put together for a half-hour feature show to be broadcast in Japan, across the United States through national syndication, and locally in Saipan and Guam starting in June. The images portray Saipan as a supreme adventure destination, which it certainly is. For more information visit www.xterraplanet.com, www.mymarianas.com, or www.pacificislandsclub.com.
2006 XTERRA Saipan Championship Race Results
2 Yu Yumoto 28 Chiba, Japan 2:55:28 $1,700
3 Taro Shirato 39 Tokyo, Japan 3:01:34 $1,200
4 Margus Tamm 38 Tallin, Estonia 3:02:58 $800
5 Noriaki Ito 47 Nakaharaku, Japan 3:38:03 $600
6 Ryan DeCook 26 Rochester, MI 4:03:04 $400
2 Jamie Whitmore 29 Somerset, California 2:56:02 $1,700
3 Monique Sawicki 26 Calimesa, CA 3:11:11 $1,200
4 Mami Saito 28 Kawasaki, Japan 3:16:36 $800
5 Fabiola Corona 26 Guadalajara, Mexico 3:20:36 $600
6 Yuko Sasaki 26 Tsukuba, Japan 3:49:00 $400
Fastest swim: Olivier Marceau (21:58), Mami Saito (24:40)
Fastest bike: Olivier Marceau (1:19:42), Renata Bucher (1:24:33)
Fastest run: Olivier Marceau (53:26), Renata Bucher (54:36)
XTERRA SAIPAN AMATEUR CHAMPIONS (FEMALE BY DIVISION)
30 - 34 Tara Tydingco 4:35:25 Hagatna, Guam
35 - 39 Yoshimi Yasue 5:36:29 Tokyo, Japan
40 - 44 Dawn Hammermeister 4:02:58 Saipan, CNMI
45 - 49 Susan Seay 4:10:00 Tamuning, Guam
XTERRA SAIPAN AMATEUR CHAMPIONS (MALE BY DIVISION)
20 - 24 Ryoichi Higashino 3:41:56 Shiga, Japan
25 - 29 James Kennedy 2:53:52 Shanghai, China
30 - 34 Courtney Cardenas 3:06:21 Somerset, California
35 - 39 Daniel Speight 3:13:45 Aichi, Japan
40 - 44 Sang Young Lee 3:26:57 Seoul, South Korea
45 - 49 Stuart Smith 3:14:00 Saipan, CNMI
50 - 54 Keiji Matsuba 3:31:38 Gifu, Japan
55 - 59 Florian Braig 4:09:05 Saipan, CNMI
60 - 64 Ryuhei Yamada 4:14:47 Gifu, Japan
Military John O'Malley 4:36:21 Kaneohe, Hawaii
*Also qualifying for the Nissan Xterra World Championship (Oct. 29 in Makena, Maui):
Division Name Time Hometown
25 - 29 Gabriel Brown 4:02:49 Santa Barbara, California
30 - 34 Arnoud Garderen 3:21:14 Leusden, Netherlands
30 - 34 Aaron Fitzpatrick 3:29:40 Saipan, CNMI
35 - 39 Sue Knecht 5:59:46 Saipan, CNMI
35 - 39 Tae Yoong Kim 3:19:11 Kita, Japan
35 - 39 Hideto Sato 3:19:30 Kawaguchi, Japan
40 - 44 Rumi Takahashi 4:33:54 Tokyo, Japan
40 - 44 Arthur Guerrero 3:33:37 Hagatna, Guam
40 - 44 Kenji Kawai 3:43:29 Gifu, Japan
45 - 49 Paul Chetwynd 3:26:57 Chino, Japan
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