The “mountain bike capital of the Philippines” will host the first major XTERRA showdown of 2018 as the 5th annual XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship unfolds at the Coco Palm Beach Resort in the northern Cebu city of Danao on Sunday.
This is the second year of racing in Danao, but the first-time it has hosted the Asia-Pacific Championship race featuring $25,000 USD in elite prize money, 51 qualifying spots to XTERRA Worlds for amateur racers, and a 100-point scale scoring structure for both amateurs and elites vying for the APAC Tour title.
The marquee event has attracted a star-studded international elite field, highlighted by reigning XTERRA World Champion Bradley Weiss from South Africa, 2017 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Sam Osborne of New Zealand, reigning XTERRA Argentina Champ Kieran McPherson from New Zealand, reigning women’s XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Carina Wasle from Austria, current 2018 XTERRA APAC Tour leader Jacqui Allen from Great Britain, and 2016 XTERRA Costa Rica winner Myriam Guillot-Boisset.
In the men’s race it’ll be the first match-up of the year between Weiss and Osborne. Each protected their home turf to start the season – with Weiss winning XTERRA South Africa in February and Osborne taking the XTERRA New Zealand title in his hometown of Rotorua two weeks ago.
Last year in head-to-head meetings Osborne won XTERRA Saipan (Weiss was 2nd), Weiss won XTERRA Philippines (Osborne was 2nd), Osborne won XTERRA Germany (Weiss was 3rd), and Weiss won the XTERRA European Championship in Denmark (Osborne was 2nd). After that race the two met-up in Boulder, Colorado to train together in the build-up to XTERRA Worlds, where Weiss prevailed.
“Sam and I raced a lot against one another throughout the season, always getting the most out of each other,” said Weiss heading into Maui last year. “Frankly speaking, we definitely spotted strengths and weaknesses in each other, which in a training camp environment provides both of us the opportunity to develop as athletes.”
The two are also developing into XTERRA’s next great rivalry, albeit an incredibly friendly one. “He’s a good mate,” said Weiss. “He’s a good South African dude,” countered Osborne. “I guess you could say we know each other pretty well.”
Don’t be fooled by the niceties, however, because all that goes right out the window once the gun fires.
“We aren’t always the nicest of people on the course,” explained Osborne. “We are trying to continually break each other so that kinda comes with the game. I think we both do that reasonably well and have enough respect for each other that we’ve managed to stay good mates through a few seasons. Ultimately, what happens in the race stays in the race. You need to be able to turn the mindset you have on the course, off when the race is over.”
Last year on this course Weiss was definitely “on” and rode away with the win, his third straight in the Philippines.
“I’m very happy to be back in the Philippines to defend my XTERRA Danao title,” said Weiss. “It was an incredibly brutal race last year and set me up well for the remainder of the season, so I am really looking forward to another strong performance to get my 2018 XTERRA campaign off to a positive start. Being the XTERRA Asia Pacific Championships adds extra prestige to this event and after sharing the title in 2017, I look forward to putting my hand up and claiming this one for myself.”
As for Osborne, the goal for Sunday is completeness.
“To win here will take a very complete performance,” said Osborne, in-between taking selfies with the hotel staff in Danao. “If I can put all three together like I did in Rotorua I’d be very happy. The course here is harsh and natural so it’s difficult to find a good rhythm. Managing the heat here is crucial as well. You could be the strongest athlete out there but if you miss an aid station or get nutrition even just a little wrong, the wheels can fall off extremely quickly.”
Weiss seems to thrive in the heat and said he welcomes the extreme conditions.
“The Philippines has always been a location I seem to perform well in, another reason why I love coming back each year,” he said. “The hot and humid conditions suit me very well and my body seems to thrive in these tough racing conditions. Add to that some technical mountain biking terrain and it’s the perfect combination for me to excel.”
Beyond the race, Weiss says the organizing committee is among the best in the world, bar none.
“The crew here in the Philippines is amazing and continue to set the trend in XTERRA race organization,” explained Weiss. “Fred, Princess, Emma and the entire Sunrise team go above and beyond to make the racing experience one to truly cherish. I will certainly look back on these days as some of my fondest racing memories and I hope my fellow XTERRA athletes get the opportunity to travel out to the Philippines and embrace this warm and loving culture for themselves.”
Other notable elites in the men’s field include McPherson, who won his first XTERRA major in Thailand around this time last year, and Ben Allen, the veteran of the bunch who has racked up 18 XTERRA World Tour wins over the years. Joe Miller, the fastest Filipino on dirt, is the hometown favorite. Fabien Combaluzier and Jacky Boisset will represent France, former XTERRA Japan Champions Takahiro Ogasawara is a mainstay on the Asia-Pacific Tour, as is Kiwi Alex Roberts. Also of note, Brodie Gardner from Australia will jump back into the mix of things on Sunday, and Will Ross from the U.S. will be making his first international appearance as an elite.
In the women’s chase Wasle, Allen, and Guillot-Boisset grab the headlines, but Aussies Penny Slater, Kate Schultz, and Leela Hancox, Kiwi Kristy Jennings, and Brazil’s Laura Mira Dias all hope to make waves.
“I'm very excited to return to the Philippines,” said Wasle. “I had a good preparation in the winter with lots of cross country skiing and ski mountaineering at home in Austria. I started my season with a win in South Africa and last weekend I came 2nd at XTERRA Malta. I feel good and I hope that I can defend my title from last year. It's a very hard course and the heat and humidity make it even harder for me as I just came from winter. The bike course is very challenging with steep climbs, rocky downhills and some hike your bike parts, but my favorite part is the run. I have raced many times in the Philippines and every year I have to come back, because I just love it here. Can't wait to run through the finish and soak up the fantastic atmosphere.”
Jacqui Allen is also a regular in the Philippines and a huge fan of Sunrise Events.
“For me this year there are no expectations other than to make it all the way to the finish line,” said Allen. “I would be delighted to win the APAC title, however, when you come and race in Asia it’s about performing on the day against the conditions and not suffering any back luck such as mechanical issues which are out of your control. The ladies field is deep and strong, so anything can happen out there. You just need to focus on yourself and your own race.”
For Guillot-Boisset, it’s a whirlwind of a trip. She only arrives in Cebu on the eve of the event, just hours before the race will start.
“Don’t worry, we will be fine and healthy,” smiled Guillot-Boisset, who is traveling with her husband Jacky Boisset. “Our background is in adventure racing, so we are used to racing for seven days on seven hours of sleep. We’ll do a 1h30 race in Shanghai on Saturday, and then travel to Cebu for the three-hour XTERRA on Sunday. It doesn’t look so impossible to us! We love to travel so everything is easy when you enjoy what you’re doing, and we have got some tricks to sleep quickly everywhere!”
Reports from Cebu say the weather is “lovely” and the course is in great shape.
The race starts in the waters of Barangay Sabang and finishes nearby at the Cebu Technological University (CTU). It combines a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 28K mountain bike, and grueling 8K trail run.
In addition to the main event, Sunrise Events will host an XTERRA Lite race (750m swim-14km mountain bike-4km trail run) and a duathlon (2km trail run-14km mountain bike-4km trail run event).
All-time XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship Elite winners
Year – Man/Woman (Location)
2014 – Dan Hugo/Flora Duffy (Callala, NSW, Australia)
2015 – Braden Currie/Flora Duffy (Callala, NSW, Australia)
2016 – Braden Currie/Lizzie Orchard (Callala, NSW, Australia)
2017 – **/Carina Wasle (Langkawi, Malaysia)
**Men’s elite race was neutralized. Bradley Weiss, Ben Allen, Sam Osborne and Kieran McPherson crossed the finish line together and were declared co-champions