The 5th annual XTERRA Philippines Championship race will take place this Sunday in Albay, a province located on the southeastern side of Luzon Island.
Reigning XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy from Bermuda highlights the women’s elite field that also features two-time XTERRA Philippines Champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland, British stand-outs Jacqui Slack and Daz Parker, Guamanian Mieko Carey, Aussie Dimity-Lee Duke, and Alena Stevens of Slovakia.
The men’s race boasts three elites that finished in the top 10 at XTERRA Worlds last year - Aussie Ben Allen (a two-time XTERRA Philippines Champ), Mexico’s Mauricio Mendez, and South Africa’s Bradley Weiss. Others in the mix include home grown hero Joe Miller, Charlie Epperson from Singapore, Fabrizio Bartoli and Simone Calamai from Italy, Brodie Gardner from Australia, and Michal Bucek from Slovakia.
XTERRA World Tour managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas is on-site in Luzon to take in the first major on the 2015 XTERRA World Tour calendar and brings us this report …
XTERRA Philippines has made some big moves for 2015. They moved its date to early February and changed the location from the island of Cebu to Albay on the far south of Luzon Island.
The feature of Albay - and it is huge - is the Mayon Volcano. Sure there are a lot of big volcano mountains around, but this one is active! Yes, one can see smoke coming from the top of its over 8,000' peak. Mayon is very active and had a major incident just last year. The locals’ figure she blows up about every three years and nobody lives within about five miles of the crater.
The swim is on a beach about six miles from the crater and is the most stunning black sand beach one can imagine. Soft, deep and very black, the beach is huge. Peppered along the sand are dozens of volcanic rocks that were either tossed this far from one of the eruptions of Mayon or brought down by the streams of fresh water that meet the ocean. Red, gray, white and the usual black of all sizes. The water is warm, the surf is small.
I can't say too much about the bike yet as it is not completely marked. At noon on Friday the first "recce" is organized for all competitors. The bike is point to point from the beach to T2 at the ruins of Cagsawa where an eruption in 1814 killed roughly 2,000 people. The bell tower of the church still stands and it is a major tourism area in the Albay area. The run starts out through rice paddies and peanut farms - again it won't be marked until Friday - and loops back to a very neat finish area at the church bell tower with the volcano in the background.
It was fun today taking young pro Mauricio Mendez around with me. The town of Legazpi has huge banners that cross the main roads with the names and photos of all our pros. Even one of an older gentleman! We pulled to the side of the street to take a shot of Mauricio's banner and immediately had a police vehicle stop to question us. When I told him the young man taking the photo was the guy on the banner he smiled and had to have his photo taken with Mo.
Later, a dozen school girls saw him and started giggling and pointing. Naturally I told them who he was and they all wanted their pictures taken with our own young star.
I have to say the new location is great. Cebu was also wonderful and I hoped Albay would measure up. From the first day on it has.
XTERRA PHILIPPINES ALL-TIME PRO WINNERS
Year - Men / Women
2011 - Sam Gardner / Shonny Vanlandingham
2012 - Ben Allen / Renata Bucher
2013 - Ben Allen / Lesley Paterson
2014 - Dan Hugo / Renata Bucher