One of the sports most iconic races, the XTERRA Saipan Championship in the Northern Marianas, takes places on Saturday in the CNMI.
For seven-time winner Renata Bucher of Switzerland its more than just a race, it’s an annual retreat to paradise to recharge her batteries and get ready for a season of racing.
“Hafa adai!” she exclaims. “The island is still a very happy place, people are so good here, and time is going way too fast.”
Bucher and the other foreign elites have been spending the week soaking in the sun, going to the local schools to inspire the kids, and enjoying the atmosphere.
The elites aren’t the only ones having fun in Saipan. Dave Spence, the race director for the XTERRA Malaysia Championship which is set to be the Asia-Pacific Tour finale on May 7, has been immersing himself in the charm and grit as well.
While this will be his first time racing here, it didn’t take Spence long to discover the “Live More” spirit of XTERRA is strong on Saipan.
Here is his pre-race story…
“XTERRA Saipan is beauty & brutality bundled together. It could possibly beat you but it's guaranteed to make you better! I know already that racing XTERRA Saipan tomorrow is going to be an amazing adventure that will make the most arduous journey to get here worthwhile.
Having pre ridden & run the racecourse I can tell you that they are just like every other XTERRA course I've been on! This isn't because of any similarity but because, they are all completely unique, dramatically different & frighteningly challenging in their own ways! Saipan certainly fulfills all of these criteria and you can add to that the fact that just like the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, its got spectacular, with a capital S, views. What makes it stand out for me though more than anything else is how on such a small island the course designers have created such an incredibly diverse terrain. There's some furiously fast & technical descents, there are some brutal climbs that are a real "Bitch" as one is affectionately referred to.
There's also so many different types of surface to cope with. It is truly a brilliant bundle of beauty & brutality designed to beat you but make you better rider & runner and that's ultimately what I'm looking for things that make me better. It's no wonder it's gained a reputation over the last 15 years as being the 'jewel' of XTERRA's World Tour.
As well as the course that you'll participate on, the other draw for me of XTERRA is the people that are doing it with. These people really make the difference for me as they make this old man realize that it is possible, with the right mindset, to make you feel you are able to defy time at least momentarily. I experienced the best example of this feeling yet today at lunch which I was taking in a really cool little place called The Shack (www.facebook.com/theshacksaipan) run by Carl, his wife & his Mum.
While there I met three young Gentleman called G. L. Brown (73), Alan More (67) & Steve Cole (60). These experienced warriors from the US made me feel not only really welcome at their table but also like a young Freshman hanging out with a bunch of cool dude PhD's.
It was awesome feeling & the perfect reminder that if you want that little bit EXTRA from life and wish to LIVE MORE then XTERRA is the perfect way to do it.
This region of the Pacific and Saipan in particular has some amazing history behind it of course & XTERRA Saipan is continuing this tradition. It might be a small event in terms of the world stage but it's been here 15 years and with these young gentlemen gracing it with their presence I'm sure it can continue to represent everything that good about the XTERRA lifestyle.
I know that when I grow up if I can have the energy & passion that GL, Alan & Steve still have I'll be a better man just like I know I will be when & wherever I finish tomorrow's race.”
In the men’s elite race Australian Brodie Gardner looks for his first XTERRA World Tour win, but will be up against ringers from Japan (Takahiro Ogasawara), the Philippines (Joe Miller), and Korea (Kaon Cho).
The women’s race features Austrian regular Carina Wasle, Japan champ Mieko Carey, Aussie Belinda Hadden, and the “Swiss Miss” Bucher.
Look for results later today at http://jtltiming.com/multisport.htm.
|XTERRA SAIPAN ALL-TIME PRO WINNERS|
|2002||Mike Vine||Jamie Whitmore|
|2003||Jason Chalker||Jamie Whitmore|
|2004||Olivier Marceau||Jamie Whitmore|
|2005||Olivier Marceau||Renata Bucher|
|2006||Olivier Marceau||Renata Bucher|
|2007||Olivier Marceau||Renata Bucher|
|2008||Andrew Noble||Renata Bucher|
|2009||Sam Gardner||Renata Bucher|
|2010||Sam Gardner||Renata Bucher|
|2011||Sam Gardner||Shonny Vanlandingham|
|2012||Ben Allen||Renata Bucher|
|2013||Ben Allen||Jacqui Slack|
|2014||Ben Allen||Carina Wasle|
|2015||Ben Allen||Jacqui Slack|