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Sam Gardner and Shonny Vanlandingham win first-ever XTERRA Philippines Championship
Cebu City - Great Britain's Sam Gardner and American Shonny Vanlandingham won the inaugural XTERRA Philippines Championship race at the picturesque Amara Subdivision in Barangay Catarman, Liloan, Cebu.
The race started with a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Camotes Sea near the century old Liloan lighthouse, followed with a 32-kilometer mountain bike and finished with a 10-kilometer trail run through thousands of cheering spectators fronting the San Fernando Rey Parish Church and Papa Kits Marina.
"Part of the run goes through a whole slew of fighting cocks with goats and cats, and the wild part is this bamboo walkway above the water. The bamboo sticks are lashed together but still not easy to run on," explained XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.
According to the live updates posted on the XTERRAPhil.com website Gardner took the lead about three kilometers into the bike and never looked back. Gardner was fifth out of the water but found his legs quickly on the bike.
"I knew I had to get a big lead in the bike part of the race because I was concerned about the run," said Gardner, who has also won XTERRA championship races in Saipan and Japan. "Good thing I was able to get that big lead. In the run I was able to focus on just enjoying the race. I just soaked it in. I was high-fiving the locals and basically just enjoyed it all."
Gardner, who was unchallenged, came jogging down the hill of Amara into the finish line with a winning time of 2:25:59. Without any other competitor in sight Gardner could afford to joke around and exchange high fives with onlookers and the audience on his way to the finish. Gardner was even able to grab a miniature Union Jack, which he waved around on his jog to the finish.
The locals were particularly excited when National freestyle swimmer Lorendale Echavez, 18, a national swimmer in the 100 meter freestyle, showed up her male counterparts by leading the swim part of the race. The teenager, who was competing as part of a relay team, was shocked to discover that she was the first participant out of the water.
"I didn't know I was leading," said Echavez, a first year student of BS Biology at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, during her press interview at the Alaska Media Center after her swim. "I only realized it when my friends shouted to me: 'You're the first, you're the first.' I was shocked but happy. I knew there were professional athletes participating and there were elite men triathletes."
She described the water as "very, very cold but manageable."
Filipino Neil Catiil, the reigning Ironman 70.3 champion, was the top individual participant finishing the swim part of the race with a time of 23 minutes and 34 seconds. Trailing closely was top men's professional Sam Gardner, 23:57. Other leaders include: Lance Watson, 24:33; Renata Bucher, 24:34; Fred Uytengsu, 24:29 and Shonny Vanlandingham, 26:17.
Senator Pia Cayetano, the only member of the Philippine Senate in attendance and who is also sometimes called "The Running Senator," finished the swim part of the race with a respectable time of 35 minutes and 35 seconds.
In the women's race Renata Bucher was first off the bike, followed 11 seconds later by reigning XTERRA World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham.
Vanlandingham took the lead three kilometers into the run part of the race after riding and running side-by-side with Renata Bucher for a large portion of the run and biking part of the race. Vanlandingham said she got through the most difficult part of the race because of the support of locals who watched and supported the participants.
"You just got so much energy from the cheering of the community," said Vanlandingham. "The kids who watched the bike and run part of the race were chanting and cheering. It's great to come to a place like the Philippines."
Vanlandingham's winning time was 2:31:39, nearly two minutes ahead of Bucher who finished in 2:33:35.
Athletes from 11 countries - Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Scotland, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States - took part in today's event.
For more colorful details here is a report from XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas:
What a place, what a day, what a race. The province of Cebu put on one hell of a show this weekend. We just completed the first XTERRA in the Philippines and it was terrific.
Saturday night Cebu put on a State dinner for the competitors that was beyond spectacular. We were met by hundreds of local dancers in costumes representing their cities, music playing, fabulous colors in a festival for the eyes. The evening started with a solid race briefing by director Guy Conception complete with moving graphics showing how to negotiate transition run out, bike out and in and the finish.
At dinner, with gobs of local delicacies, each of the dance troupes performed skits about their cities. It was simply fabulous. Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia gave a rousing speech welcoming the athletes and wishing everyone the best of luck. A great woman and the first female Governor in history has served 3 terms and will leave Cebu province debt free with great employment and a very happy population of 4,000,000 people.
A happy 4 million, and everyone here could do nothing but talk about the people. Thousands lined the bike and run courses, kids running with the athletes, high school cheerleaders in uniform waving the athletes on. The roads were closed to traffic and a good thing as in places the people were 3 deep.
The day started early with a 7am start. It does get hot in the Philippines, but we've had just as hot in Texas or Alabama or Richmond. The swim was won by a teenage girl on relay team Reuban Cebu. Sam Gardner was first pro out of the water and he used his considerable cycling skills to quickly dispatch the faster swimmers. When he completed the first lap of the bike, he entered a gnarly, wonderful section called the Graveyard with a 4 minute lead on Renata Bucher who was followed a minute later by Shonny Vanlandingham. Yes - women in 2nd and 3rd overall. Sammy kept up his pace finishing the 35K bike in 1:15 and headed out onto the run with an 11 minute lead. At this point Shonny and Renata were side by side into T2 in an epic race.
Early in the run it was apparent that Renata was still suffering a bit in the heat having just come from Switzerland a few days before. The finishing order was Gardner, Vanlandingham, Bucher, Neil Catil, first Filipino finisher, and Austria's Carina Wasle last week's South African winner.
The after race food buffet was once again a tribute to the organization. Everything all week was absolute first class all the way. Fred Uytengsu has put together a superb operations and logistics team that made the event seamless. In two days a dusty, rocky beachfront field was transformed into a truly world class compound, transition, finish, hospitality and expo area. The race started on time, the course was marked to perfection and more than anything else, the people of Cebu were the best.
Getting to Cebu is easy either direct or through Manila. The hotels and resorts are great, prices are inexpensive and it is a shoppers paradise. The food is different and delicious, the beer is cold and tasty. The race course is not too difficult and not too easy - this event is just about perfect.
2011 XTERRA WORLD TOUR SCHEDULE
Today's XTERRA Philippines Championship race was the second event to qualify amateur athletes into the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Maui, Hawaii on October 23, 2011. A total of 34 slots were awarded to the top finishers in each age division. Next up, XTERRA Saipan Championship, and here's a look at the rest of the 2011 XTERRA World Tour Championships.
Date - Event (Location)
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