Ogasawara, Vanlandingham win XTERRA Japan Championship
(Kan Ko So Resort - Marunuma - Gunma Prefecture) - Takahiro Ogasawara (Tokyo, Japan) and Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, CO) captured the ninth running of the XTERRA Japan Championship on a blue sky day in the Nikko National Forest at Marunuma, Japan on Saturday.
It's the first championship win in six tries at XTERRA Japan for "Oga-san" - a rider and manager on Japan's national mountain bike team; and the second championship victory this year (she also won XTERRA Brazil) for the 2010 XTERRA World Champ - Shonny Vanlandingham.
XTERRA President Janet Clark was on-site to take in the beauty and action; and brings us this report...
“Get back to basics and break through into nature. Rejuvenate yourself in the green,” said XTERRA Japan organizer, Taro Shirato, in his opening comments to competitors who gathered today for the 9th annual XTERRA Japan Championship. The race venue at Marunuma, about three hours drive into the mountains outside of Tokyo, boasts thousands of acres of pristine natural beauty in the Nikko National Forest. It is Mother Nature at her finest and a mountain biker’s dream.
The race started with blue skies and bright sunshine. Competitors swam two 600-meter laps in the lake fronting Kan Ko So Resort, a traditional Japanese Inn with magnificent onsen (hot springs baths). The water temperature was 22.3 Celsius, wetsuit legal for age groupers, but no wetsuits allowed for elite athletes. About half-dozen age groupers led the way out of the water, followed by Will Kelsay, Cedric Lassonde, and Ogasawara seconds apart. Japanese mountain bike Olympian, Kenji Takeya, was a little more than three minutes behind.
Out on the 25-kilometer bike course, which is considered the most technical on the XTERRA World Tour, Ogasawara and Kelsay rode together at the front. Lassonde was chasing, but he crashed several times and lost his bottles in the process and had no hydration through the bike race.
Oga-san and Kelsay came into transition together with Lassonde two minutes behind them.
It all came down to the 10K run. Oga-san took the lead from Kelsay about 3K into the run on a big climb, and with the fastest run split, went on to win the race in 2:22:00. The victory was sweet and rejuvenating indeed, as he’d been runner-up at XTERRA Japan three times (2007-09) and third for the past two years.
“I am very happy” said Oga-san, “it was my hope to win this race after six years of XTERRA racing.”
Kelsay just couldn’t keep up and was passed by Lassonde - despite his lack of hydration and nutrition on the bike, and with a vicious tumble on the run course that left bystanders flabbergasted and his shoulder bruised and bleeding, Lassonde passed Kelsay to finish second.
"Eventful day filled with multiple crashes, including one massive superman on the run, nearly drowned on the swim, energy drinks lost after 1st tumble and brain not working very well after that...that's XTERRA Japan for you, and all the better for it! Big respect to Takahiro for such an impressive display - this race is yours," posted Lassonde to his Facebook page after the race.
Kelsay took third and Takeya finished fourth less than 30-seconds behind having closed the gap on the run with the third fastest run split.
“We were together the whole time, until half way through the first lap of the run,” said Kelsay. “Oga-san had a fantastic day. I dug too deep, too soon. It was fun until I cracked. But I’ll be back next year. I’m going to do this race until I win it,” said Kelsay.
Oga-san was named Hawaiian Airlines XTERRA Japan Championship Male Performer and won a roundtrip airline ticket to Maui to compete in the XTERRA World Championship on October 28, 2012.
The Women’s Race
The women battled the cold water without wetsuits, along with fast wetsuit clad age groupers swimming over them. Three-time XTERRA Japan champion, Mieko Carey, was first out of the water, with NORBA's most successful mountain biker ever, Shonny Vanlandingham, two-and-a-half minutes back.
“With no wetsuit, I got really cold and was numb when I came out," said Vanlandingham.
Carey’s lead was short-lived as Vanlandingham passed her early in the bike.
“This is real mountain biking…it brings me back to my roots”, said Vanlandingham. She came into the bike-to-run transition with a 10-minute lead and built it on the run, despite slippery conditions caused by the rain storm that held off for the lead men but impacted the rest of the field.
Vanlandingham ultimately finished 15 minutes ahead of Carey to take the win in 2:52:22.
Pro Men Results:
Pro Women Results:
Age Group Notes
The Year of the Bear
The XTERRA Japan Championship is a race for your bucket list. Mother Nature at her best, traditional Japanese hospitality, and an after party extravaganza with taiko drummers, belly dancers, African drummers, an emcee who speaks fluent English and sings like a pro in French, and to top it all off a feast second to none – curry and rice, fried noodles, fresh corn on the cob, barbequed beef and plenty of beer. Just do it.
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA Japan Championship is one of 16 major World Tour championship events. Next up, XTERRA Canada next Sunday, then the USA Championship to conclude the America Tour, the Switzerland Championship that culminates the Euro Tour ... and the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
Feb 26 XTERRA South Africa Championship, Grabouw, Western Cape
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