The adventure of all adventures await athletes taking part in Saturday’s XTERRA Asian Tour Championship race in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Monkey’s, man o’ war, mosquitos, muddy water buffaloes, pythons, a long, technical run from the swim to the bike, a lung-busting opening climb on the ride and some screaming, scary down hills all in the stifling heat and humidity of Malaysia in May.
Seems a fitting final stop for the Asian Tour, which combined five of the most exotic destinations imaginable into a triathlon circuit like no other. For the intrepid triathletes who took part, the experiences shared in the Philippines, Saipan, Guam, Australia, and now Malaysia have left a permanent mark on their memories.
“It is very hard to describe this travel with words,” said Carina Wasle from Austria, who won XTERRA Guam and is ranked second in the Tour standings after four races. “I had six unforgettable and hard to top weeks. Every race was in a stunning location and on a challenging race course. It was like a big adventure with lots of new impressions. And of course I could escape the Austrian cold winter and enjoy the island life in a hot, humid climate. The training was quite good, but beside the hard work we also had lots of fun. I made many new friends who supported me during my stay and races. It was a great time thanks to all the people who helped me on the way.”
Women’s points’ leader Jacqui Slack from the UK, who took the top spot at XTERRA Saipan, is quick to agree.
“I love the Asian Tour. You get looked after so well by event organizers and home stays. These races are the whole package for me. I love the hot, humid conditions, the courses are natural, technical, and adventurous like nothing you will experience anywhere else in the world, there's a fantastic group of athletes, and some close racing especially in the ladies.”
Brad Weiss from South Africa notched his first XTERRA World Tour win in the Philippines this year, and sits in second place just two points behind Ben Allen in the point’s series.
“This is my 3rd year racing the Asian Tour and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every race. Both XTERRA Philippines and XTERRA Malaysia had new venues in 2015 making the trips even more rewarding because of the opportunity to experience a new area of each country,” said Weiss.
For Charlie Epperson from the U.S., a former collegiate runner for the Tennessee Vols, the opportunity to travel and race to such unique spots was too good to pass up.
“I think we are all very lucky to take part in the XTERRA Asian Tour. Many of the race venues are some of the most sought out destinations for adventure travelers and we get the opportunity to hit three or four over the course of a couple of months. From my experience, the race directors in this Series go out of their way to put on a first class experience- the courses, assistance with trip planning, and the posh accommodations- it is well done.”
Perhaps the most well-known XTERRA Warrior on the Asian Tour is the “Swiss Miss” Renata Bucher. She’s been traveling to the far stretches of beautiful white sand beaches for years, and won her first of seven XTERRA Saipan titles a decade ago.
“Yes, it is still my favorite time of the year to race the Asian Tour,” said Bucher. “Especially with the trip to Saipan and Guam. Every year as soon as I'm back home and back into the "normal" life, I always have something to dream about and the memories of these races & the people are forever putting a smile on my face.”
Warm fuzzies aside there is a serious race going down on Saturday.
The men’s elite field features the top six racers in the Asian Tour standings with Ben Allen (AUS) 282pts, Brad Weiss (RSA) 280pts, Joe Miller (PHI) 189pts, Takahiro Ogasawara (JPN) 164pts, Markus Benesch (AUT) 150pts, and Charlie Epperson (USA) 138pts, plus Theo Blignaut from South Africa – who finished in the top six at both XTERRA South Africa and XTERRA Reunion.
“My main goal this weekend is to win the XTERRA Asian Tour,” said Weiss, fresh off his second big win of the season at XTERRA Reunion on Sunday. “In order to do this I will need to finish ahead of Ben, who is currently leading the series by two points. It will certainly be a tight battle but I am excited for the challenge and looking forward to Saturday’s race. Although winning is the goal I will be sure to leave Langkawi a happy man regardless of the result.”
While Weiss is coming off a solid block of travel and racing, so too is Allen. In the last month Allen went from winning XTERRA Guam to finishing 5th at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Australia to placing fourth Saturday at the XTERRA West Championship in Nevada.
“I was going to opt not to go to Malaysia but that would’ve handed the Asian Tour title to Brad on a silver platter,” said Allen. “I’ll get their Friday afternoon, all the way from Vegas. I’ll be smashed but give it everything I got.”
The women’s field is also stacked with seven of the top 11 in the Series standings; Jacqui Slack (GBR) 280pts, Carina Wasle (AUT) 253pts, Mieko Carey (Guam) 239pts, Renata Bucher (SUI) 213pts, Daz Parker (GBR) 207pts, Belinda Hadden (AUS) 171pts, Dimity-Lee Duke (AUS) 82pts, and Lizzie Orchard (NZL) 69pts.
“I want to win the race and win the tour,” said Slack, point blank.
In addition to her well-known rivals on the Asian Tour, Slack will also have to contend with last weekend’s XTERRA Reunion Champion Carla Van Huyssteen from South Africa, French elite Myriam Guillot, and Iran’s one-and-only ITU registered triathlete Shirin Gerami.
For all involved the course offers uncharted terrain, true to the name behind the event. As a point of interest, the name “XTERRA” is loosely defined as “unknown territory.” As founder and CEO of XTERRA Tom Kiely explains “the X is a numerical term that means unknown and Terra is Latin for land/territory, thus ... unknown territory."