The 11th annual XTERRA Guam Championship on Saturday will serve as the third of five stops on the 2015 XTERRA Asian Tour, and most of the major players are on island to take part.
In the men’s race all eyes are on Brad Weiss from South Africa, who won the XTERRA Philippines Championship to open the season, and Ben Allen from Australia, who won the XTERRA Saipan Championship just two weeks ago.
“I've been out here for almost a month now and these races (Saipan/Guam) are tough, honest courses,” said Allen, the 2012 and 2013 XTERRA Guam Champ. “It gives you an idea as to where you are at, at the beginning of the season. Steep climbs, natural rugged terrain and the heat and humidity provide the perfect opportunity to race and train in similar conditions to Maui for the World Champs. It's also a great stepping stone towards the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs which is the main focus for the first half of the season.”
Nearly a dozen pros this year used the Tagaman Triathlon, XTERRA Saipan, and XTERRA Guam races as a great excuse to live and train in the Marianas for a month.
“Being in the warmth and getting your daily dose of vitamin D, always brings a smile to your face. You spend your days’ outdoors exploring and living life, the way we should...” is how Allen described it.
For Weiss, the trip came at a great time for a mix of solid training and healthy recovery from an early ITB issue.
“Training is finally back to some form of normality but the body is certainly feeling a little sluggish with the added running volume,” said Weiss. “Just incredibly grateful to be running pain free again and the injury seems to be well and truly a thing of the past. Guam provides a really challenging mountain bike course and truly tests the full array of skills. It has it all from steep climbs to fun flowing pump track style racing. It really is a favorite of mine and I look forward to racing here on the 11th. It has already been a great week of training and I look forward to continuing the momentum into next week. I may be a little fatigued going into the race but there is a long season ahead I must prepare for. Regardless, racing in Guam is always incredibly fun.”
The elites racing overseas have also been of great value to the local community, and have taken advantages of opportunities to meet with the island youth and inspire them with their stories.
“Kanae Quinn (long-time XTERRA racer and supporter from Saipan) gave me the opportunity to come and talk with her students about my job of being a professional XTERRA athlete as well as the country I come from,” said Weiss. “Many had never heard of South Africa or triathlon for that matter. A truly awesome experience all round. I am very grateful to Kanae and what she’s doing. It’s very cool to see how she’s helping the local students broaden their horizons.”
In the women’s race the reigning and three-time XTERRA Guam Champ Renata Bucher is back to defend her title, but will be up against familiar foes (friends, really) in recent Saipan winner Jacqui Slack, hometown favorite Mieko Carey, and Austrian Carina Wasle.
“This will be my 3rd time in Guam,” said Slack, who won the 2013 edition. “Similar to Saipan I love the natural courses as opposed to the man-made trails. There is heaps of climbing and riding in the red dirt is something special, it’s a great test of awareness and ability as you have to negotiate the terrain to pick the correct lines. We also have a great home stay, we love spending time with Cameron and Karly as they show us all the best spots on Island. Eric's band is pretty good too and makes for a pretty awesome after party.”
Indeed “Mojo” has been rocking XTERRA for a decade now.
As for her favorite part of the course, Slack says “it has to be the waterfall, you need to be pretty gutsy to allow yourself to jump from those heights into the rock pools it’s pretty slippery so a good level of skill and fearlessness is required.”
Like the others, Slack said she relishes the opportunity to race in train on the islands.
“It's pretty incredible to be able to train on mountainous terrain, natural bush land and crystal clear waters, being on a small island allows you to relax and recover much easier as there are less distractions. It’s been great to get into a routine and I’ve had plenty of time to prepare well for Guam and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs next weekend.”
Wasle, who travels as much as anyone around the world with XTERRA, is quick to agree...
“After XTERRA Saipan I stayed one-week longer on this beautiful island together with Austrian Markus Benesch, who will also compete at XTERRA Guam,” said Wasle. “The training was quite good and also quite fun biking and running through the jungle. Swimming in the ocean is just amazing. Warm water and lots of fish. I have never sweat so much, but now I think I’m better used to the heat and humidity. Beside training and getting ready for the next race, there was so much fun things to do, like archery, paddeling, snorkeling, basketball, surfing…..It never got boring. Perfect training and racing vacation.”