Ben Allen and Renata Bucher will try to make it three-in-a-row in the western Pacific on Saturday, thus turning an amazing vacation into a promising start to the 2012 XTERRA racing season.
With victories at the Guam and Philippines Championship races neatly tucked away, the pair needs only one more strong performance to make it a clean sweep.
“It’s been a great trip so far, I’m loving every minute of it,” said Allen, who joined a few dozen local and off-island athletes for a fabulous home cooked meal here in Saipan last night. “The locals are amazing, showing us all the secret spots, and inviting us into their homes. It’s a beautiful place to be, and to train.”
Bucher, who first visited Saipan in 2005 and subsequently won six straight, has been swimming in the lagoon, steps away from her plush accommodations at the Pacific Islands Club – dining in the award-winning Magellan Lounge, and strolling leisurely through the palm trees here at the host hotel.
“It’s one of my favorite places on Earth,” smiled Bucher, pictured above with Saipan's own Butch Sublemente - the fastest local on island.
Allen and Bucher will both have stiff competition on Saturday. Allen has to contend with Marceau, who won four in a row here from 2004-2007 and no doubt has his sights set on title number five, along with Frenchman Cedric Lassonde – who just posted the fastest bike and run splits in the Philippines. Branden Rakita and Graham Wadsworth have also been in striking distance the last few weeks.
Bucher has Carina Wasle and Jacqui Slack looking to grab the western Pacific’s Crown Jewel. Wasle finished second last year to former XTERRA World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham, but nearly two minutes in front of Bucher, who placed third. Meanwhile you can count on Slack to come out of the water first and looking to hold the lead as long as possible.
The weather in Saipan this week has been phenomenal, with cool breezes, and a bright blue sky creating perfect training and playing conditions. Saturday is expected to bring the same for the 6:30am start. Follow along on facebook.com/xterraplanet for the latest news and photos from XTERRA Saipan.