The 2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour finale takes place this Sunday, June 17, in the shadows of the famous Mount Mayon Volcano of the Philippines, the iconic landmark of Legazpi in the province of Albay.
XTERRA Albay was originally scheduled for March 4, but the active volcano with the symmetrical cone was erupting and disrupting the island of Luzon, forcing organizers to postpone the race and allow Mother Nature to take its course and allow the local government to address the needs of those who were affected by the volcanic activities.
With the date change, XTERRA Albay became the fourth of four events in the Tour this year. There will be a $15,000 USD prize purse for the race, and a $10,000 tour bonus to the top five in the elite standings, plus 50 Maui spots for amateurs vying to compete at XTERRA Worlds.
The men’s elite race is highlighted by another showdown between XTERRA World Champ Bradley Weiss and his sparring partner Sam Osborne. Those two went toe-to-toe at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race in Danao this past April with Weiss coming out on top. Indeed, the South African has won three races in a row since his world title, and currently owns three of the sports four major crowns – the XTERRA European, Asia-Pacific, and World Championship titles (Mauricio Mendez won the XTERRA Pan American Championship last year).
And in the Philippines, Weiss seems unstoppable, having won the last two races in Albay and the last four majors held in the Pearl of the Orient Seas.
“I can’t wait to race amidst such dramatic scenery again,” said Weiss. “It’s really going to be fun and a memorable experience racing at Mt. Mayon.”
To keep the winning streak alive Weiss will have to overcome a lingering injury and a motivated Kiwi (Osborne) who has won six XTERRA majors of his own in the last year and is poised to wrap up the APAC Tour title on Sunday.
“100%, I’m off to Albay, not going to let the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour go from underneath me,” said Osborne, after finishing as the runner-up to Mendez at XTERRA Tahiti last month.
Other elites in the men’s chase include long-time Kiwi standout Olly Shaw, former XTERRA Japan Champion Takahiro Ogasawara, his countryman Akihiro Maeda, and local star Joe Miller.
The race combines 1.5km swim, 28km mountain bike and 8km trail run. In addition to the main event, a duathlon (2km run, 14km bike and 4km run) and lite XTERRA (750km swim, 14km bike and 4km run) will be held on the same day.
In the women’s elite race the title is up for grabs between a group of Aussies and Kiwis, with Penny Slater and Leela Hancox representing Australia, and Samantha Kingsford and Kristy Jennings coming from New Zealand.
Slater, who sits atop the tour standings, can walk away with a tour title should she put together a solid performance on Sunday.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” she exclaimed. “I had a nasty crash about three weeks ago but I’ve recovered pretty well and am keen to get out and race on Sunday. Also really excited to be leading the tour and hope I can build on my consistent performances from previous races.”
Slater credits her coach, Jacqui Allen, for putting her in the position to contend this year.
“If you asked me if I could achieve this last year, I probably would have said no. But over summer I put in some really hard work and I feel like a completely new athlete this year, not just physically but mentally. Working on my mental game, being confident in my abilities, and believing I can take on these top girls has really helped. Full credit to Jacqui, my coach, and Ben, who’s also had some really great insights into helping work on these things.”
Both Slater and Hancox also expressed that their biggest excitement is seeing the volcano in person for the first time.
“From the pictures I've seen it looks pretty impressive,” said Hancox, who sits in second place on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour standings. “I have enjoyed every race and the experiences that have come with them on the tour this year and feel blessed to have this opportunity to race and be part of the tour.”
As for the race itself, she added “As always, I'm nervous going into the race and feel like I'm batting way above my weight class; however, I have nothing to lose, so I'll give it everything I have on the day. The goal is to walk away a winner; but we will just have to see how it all plays out on the day. I plan to do the best I can and if I do that with all my heart, then I've achieved the race goal.”
More information on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour can be found at xterraplanet.com.