Perfect weather greet pros in XTERRA Saipan
By Jon Perez
Sam Gardner of Great Britain waves to the crowd after finishing behind championOlivier Marceau in last Saturday's 6th XTERRA Saipan Championship at American Memorial Park. (Jacqueline Hernandez) Professional triathletes enjoyed the perfect weather that greeted them in last Saturday's XTERRA Saipan Championship.
“For me it was a very good day. It was sunny, the weather was perfect, and I felt really good,” said Marceau after crossing the finish line with a combined time of two hours, 27 minutes, and 16 seconds.
“The last kilometer on the beach when you were running and you know the race is finished it's so beautiful. The sea is blue and it is just amazing.”
“To win a race is always good but to win it on Saipan is more than good. I think Saipan is a race that you have to do in your life at least once. I have done a lot of races but Saipan is one of the best races I have ever done.”
The two-time XTERRA European Tour champion also used XTERRA Saipan as part of his training to qualify for the Swiss Olympic Team that will compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China.
“It is a good warm up for 2008. I love the nature setting and the background and the spirit of XTERRA is wonderful.”
Runner-up Sam Gardner of Great Britain also marveled at Saipan's beauty. “I had my usual abysmal swim but the water is fantastic. I got distracted looking at the fish.”
“The bike is hard with a lot of climbing and that suits me well but the run course here is just brutal. It is a funny technique because to run on these rocks you have to concentrate all the time and the ground is moving underneath you.”
Gardner said the tree branches also made the run course difficult. “The rocks are loose and you've got to look at your feet where you are placing them but there are branches over your head so you don't know where to look. You need to have eyes in the back of your head”
“The caves are great and it just has a bit of everything so it is fantastic. It is a great course all around. The whole atmosphere is good with people cheering you on. You never go for more than a hundred meters without someone cheering you on.”
Australian Andrew Noble, who placed third, said the course was pretty tough. “[Saipan] is a beautiful place and the race was pretty tough. It was just survival for Olivier and me. He was strong.”
Thomas Richard of France also expressed gratitude that he competed on Saipan. “I'm happy to come here to Saipan. It is just a beautiful place. It's wonderful here. Nice and hot because in France it's winter and cold. The run is very difficult but very beautiful, and to finish the race on the beach was fantastic.”
Bucher was anxious before the start of the race since she knew how competitive the women's pro field is. “I was so nervous because I really wanted to win this race again.”
“To be a three-time winner here has been my dream and I raced very hard to do it. I knew this race was going to be hard because Julie (Dibens) is such a good swimmer,”
Bucher also did not downplay the other pros since they have their own strengths. She played catch-up for most part of the race after Dibens built a comfortable lead starting with the swim. Bucher caught Dibens in the bike and the two were running at the same time halfway in the run leg before two-time XTERRA Euro Tour champion pulled away en route to the victory.
“Julie is a good runner and I had to run faster but I was already suffering. The first part of the run is uphill and you can feel it in your legs but on the downhill you can just fly. I took the risk to go fast on the run even though it was slippery.”
Dibens, the 2006 XTERRA Denmark winner, said at first she matched up well with Bucher but she slowly faded when the run course entered the technical jungle section. “We were both running at the same time on the flat road but once we got into the ravine down she was just gone. She just danced through there.”
“[Still] it was a totally unique experience for me. The bike is so hard on the climbs and then the technical stuff is hard so you never get to rest and the run is the same-slippery technical ravines and climbing through the caves, it is incredible.”
“It was a totally different course but it is fun. I am sure to be back again and enjoy next year's race,” said Dibens.
First three-time XTERRA Saipan champion Jamie Whitmore was still jubilant despite finishing third. She shaved off almost five minutes of her time in last year's race.
“It went well today and I had one of my fastest times out here so I'm excited. I finished stronger that ever so that means that I'm ahead of where I was last year.”
Whitmore finished second last year with a 2:56:02 time. She completed the course in 2:51:24. “I still felt pretty well. I am still recovering from my crash in Maui last year and it is good to be back just to race.”
“I have a new coach a new kind of training regimen and hopefully to be back again on top like the way in 2002 where my career skyrocketed. I was praying for rain, to make the weather a little bit cooler. Maybe next year it rains.”
Sam Gardner of Great Britain waves to the crowd after finishing behind championOlivier Marceau in last Saturday's 6th XTERRA Saipan Championship at American Memorial Park.
Sibylle Matter, who finished in the Top 3 in the XTERRA World Championship, also put up a good fight but could not keep up with the field to finish fourth. “I enjoyed it even though it is not the place I expected.”
“The run down in the jungle is very steep and you have to hold on to the rocks and try not to slip. You have to calculate where you can jump or not because you never know if it will be slippery and there is also a lot of leaves and you don't know what you are going to step on.”
Matter said the jungle trail is XTERRA's trademark leg. “How able you are to concentrate during this last part is very important. This run is what XTERRA is all about, it's not about running straight.”
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