Hugo, Carey win XTERRA Japan Championship
Kan Ko So Resort - Marunuma - Gunma Prefecture – Dan Hugo, 28, of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Mieko Carey, 35, from Tumon, Guam (via Japan) captured the 10th annual XTERRA Japan Championship titles in the mystic, fog-shrouded mountains of Nikko National Forest in Marunuma, Japan this afternoon.
The win is Hugo’s second major of the season (he captured the XTERRA East Championship in June) to go with six runner-up performances spanning seven countries and three U.S. States. For Carey the win marks her fourth XTERRA Japan title in five years.
On Friday here in Marunuma it rained all day making one of the XTERRA World Tour’s toughest courses ever the more challenging. Luckily, the rain stopped on Saturday morning and the 12 noon start time gave the course at least a little time to dry.
In the mens race it was Dan Hugo from start to finish. He out-swam the entire field by more than two minutes, took a four-plus minute lead into the run, and took the tape in 2:12:16; more than seven minutes ahead of last year’s champ Takahiro Ogasawara.
“Crazy day and crazy fun in the best sense. It’s the adventure mentality,” said Hugo. “We had a torrential downpour yesterday which made for an extreme course, just off the charts, riding with one foot clipped in and one foot clipped out, some places sliding next to the bike, it was mad fun. The people here seem to love it, everything flows. It’s been an incredible Japanese experience. Beautiful respectful culture, an incredible mountain lodge, it’s all been a bit eye-opening. It’s my first time here, and the first time I’ve ever had a breakfast like this before the race and it seemed to work so maybe I’ll have miso soup before all my races.”
Ogasawara was solid in second the entire way, and Australian adventure racer Jarad Kohlar placed third.
Hugo has traveled extensively this season, and has stellar results to show for it. He was second at XTERRA South Africa to start the season, followed by runner-up performances at XTERRA Philippines, Saipan, Guam, and the Southeast Championship in Alabama before winning the East Championship in Richmond in June. He was then 7th at the Mountain Champs and 2nd at XTERRA Mexico earlier this month.
“I’ve had an amazing time here and look forward to exploring Tokyo for a few days now. I can promise you this is not my last trip to Japan,” said Hugo.
In the women’s race Mieko Carey, like Hugo, dominated the day. She was first woman out of the water, and first across the line in 2:56:11, followed by Yasuko Miyazaki in second nearly 15 minutes back. Australian adventure racer Emma Francis finished third.
“I tried to think the moment today, just like Dan had instructed the students at XTERRA University yesterday,” said Carey. “The bike was totally technical. I’ve done this course seven or eight years and today’s course was the hardest ever but I made it under three hours for the first time and that was my goal.”
It’s the fourth time this year Carey has been on the podium having placed 4th at XTERRA Saipan, fifth at XTERRA Guam, and second at XTERRA Malaysia.
The age group race was won by Michal Bucek (pictured), who finished fourth overall. The field was stacked with the best Japanese amateurs in the country, including former age-group XTERRA World Champions Kimiko Matsuda and Keiji Matsuba. Former XTERRA Warrior award winner Tae Yoong Kim – who was attacked by a bear before this race last year – successfully conquered his demons by racing today.
Of note, a group of photographers did see a bear on the course on their way to a spot to take pictures, but it fled and was not seen for the rest of the day.
XTERRA Japan, led by a legend in Taro Shirato and supported by an army of hard-working staff, volunteers, and site managers, is truly an amazing destination race situated in a magical forest in the old country of Japan.
After the race participants are treated to a feast of noodles and curry, succulent beef and pork, and specialties like tomato soup prepared by the property manager “Mr. Kawata-san.” The nighttime awards ceremony is filled with joy and big prizes, and the slideshow at the end features brilliant photography showcasing the beauty of the host environment. A taiko-drum band and their dancers will keep everyone’s heart rate beating high through the night and get the crowd swinging their arms and legs to the beat (Hugo already did a celebration dance with the troop).
Tomorrow, Sunday, XTERRA Japan continues with several hundred runners taking on a grueling 50-kilometer and an adventurous 15K trail run, along with a kids’ triathlon.
Past XTERRA Japan Champions
XTERRA World Tour: Just two World Tour championship races remain - the finale of the XTERRA European Tour at XTERRA England on September 8 and the culmination of the XTERRA America Tour at the USA Championship in Utah on September 21 before the best-of-the-best gather for the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Kapalua, Maui on October 27, 2013. Here's a look at past races and the elite's who won them:
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