Sunday’s XTERRA Malaysia off-road tri in Putrajaya is sure to be a shootout with headliners Renata Bucher up against Jacqui Slack in the women’s elite race while Ben Allen takes on Dan Hugo in the men’s title bout.
It’ll be the sixth time this season Bucher and Slack will be racing against each other. In their first meeting two-time World Champ Lesley Paterson got the best of both of them to win XTERRA Philippines (Renata was 2nd, Jacqui 4th).
Slack won the next two XTERRA Championship races in Saipan and Guam (Renata was 3rd/2nd) before Bucher won the last two on back-to-back weekends in Australia and New Zealand earlier this month (Slack was 2nd at both).
For the men, it’s Ben vs. Dan part IV, with Allen winning all three previous meetings at XTERRA Philippines, Saipan, and Guam on his way to winning the Triple Crown in March. Hugo was second at all three.
Allen is at the tail end of whirlwind set of racing featuring 8 events in 7 countries in the last two months. After Easter weekend he finished 2nd in Australia to Courtney Atkinson on April 7, won the XTERRA New Zealand Championship on April 13, then placed 2nd at the long-distance Koh Samui Tri in Thailand.
Meanwhile, Hugo went home to South Africa for a solid block of training but ended up doing very little biking and running thanks to a bout of knee bursitis picked up on his way home from XTERRA Guam.
It begs the question, is Allen on his way to one of the most dominating World Tour seasons in XTERRA history and will his body recover in time for Sunday’s race? Is Hugo ready to breakthrough and win his first XTERRA title since capturing the South Africa crown in 2011?
For the women, will Bucher be able to win her third race in four weeks or can Slack get back to the top spot? All compelling questions, with many more unknowns to be pondered such as whom this new course might favor the most?
There are several other key players to consider as well. Sam Gardner, Takahiro Ogasawara, Carina Wasle and Mieko Carey are all champions in their own right having collectively won XTERRA titles in Japan and Europe in years gone by.
Other elites include professional stuntwoman Daz Parker, who could be masterminding her biggest trick yet, plus Aussie rookie Peri Gray and the lone local pro – Shahrom Abdullah, who grew up just a half-hour away in Kuala Lumpur.
At the pro press conference at the Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside resort on Friday all sounded confident and ready, and boasted of Malaysia having one of the most adventurous run courses on the World Tour.
One thing is for certain, another exciting race in yet another exotic location as the XTERRA World Tour discovers the trails and terrain of Putrajaya. Pictures and stories will be forthcoming.