The inaugural XTERRA Taiwan off-road triathlon Sunday at Kenting National Park has attracted some of the best elite off-road triathletes from Asia and around the world.
The field boasts three of the top five ranked elite women from the final 2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour standings, including Jacqui Allen, who won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour in 2015 and championship titles at XTERRA New Zealand and XTERRA Tahiti this season.
Leela Hancox from Australia and Kristy Jennings from New Zealand, who finished 2nd and 4th in the APAC standings, are both enjoying their best XTERRA seasons yet and the pre-race favorite might be Nicole Walters from Great Britain.
Walters finished 2nd at the XTERRA European Championship race in Denmark last year and has five top three finishes on the Euro Tour this season highlighted by a win at XTERRA Greece.
The men’s race is shaping up to be equally exciting and highlighted by 18x XTERRA World Tour race winner and the 2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champ, Ben Allen from Australia.
“Jacqui and I are excited to be a part of the inaugural XTERRA Taiwan event,” said Allen. “It's amazing to have the opportunity, thanks to our sponsors and family, to continue to explore NEW places like this one. I know we’re headed into some uncharted territory this weekend. That is what’s so special about XTERRA, it takes you to places most people never explore. Plus, XTERRA in Asia is always an adventure, and tough with its rugged mountains, thick jungle and intense heat. Jacqui and I are ready for the challenge, happy, healthy and looking forward to toeing the line in Taiwan.”
Allen has been a pioneer for XTERRA in the Asian region, traveling to and winning majors in Malaysia, Saipan, Guam, New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines through the years. And, he’s proven his worth against the very best by finishing in the top three at XTERRA Worlds three of the last five years.
He’ll be up against a few up-and-comers from his home country – Taylor Charlton and Dean Cane – and XTERRA’s best racers from the Philippines (Joe Miller), Japan (Takahiro Ogasawara and Akihiko Maeda), and Hong Kong (Jason Hsieh).
Also of note is Lewis Ryan of New Zealand, now racing with the elites after winning the 2017 ITU Cross Tri amateur world title and 2016 XTERRA Pan America Tour overall amateur championship in previous seasons; as well as veteran XTERRA racer Doug Hall from Great Britain.
“In my opinion the guy to beat is Ben,” said Ryan. “He’s got a wealth of experience racing in Asia, a proven ability to go well in the heat and most importantly he knows how to win races. It’s no secret I’ve got a massive amount of respect for him and that’s a hugely motivating factor for me every time I know I’m going to be going toe to toe with him. In the last few weeks I’ve been having a fun time, managed to put together solid PB’s in the swim, bike and run which has been a great confidence booster. All in all, I’m really content with how I’m going at the moment, excited to give it everything I’ve got and see how that works out for me.”
The race location itself, Kenting, is on the southern tip of Taiwan and famous for its warm, turquoise water and white-sand beaches that give way to magnificent mountains and natural reserves. It’ll be hot, with similar heat-and-humidity conditions to Maui, perfect for those getting ready for the XTERRA World Championship race in late October.
“The race HQ at Kenting Youth Activity Center is very cool,” said XTERRA President Janet Clark. “It’s a re-creation of a traditional village architecture and will be home to the majority of activity - packet pickup, pre-race dinner, expo, race briefing, and the finish line. In addition, Kenting town, has all kinds of booths that line the main street starting at 4pm every afternoon that will be fun to experience. And get this, there were surfable waves this morning on the beach, just of a wonderful rugged point out front.”
Nico Lebrun, the 2005 XTERRA World Champion and current director of XTERRA in Europe, helped design the course and was out fine-tuning sections earlier this week. The race starts with a one-mile swim at Little Bay beach, continues with a 26-kilometer mountain bike that traverses coastal terrain to rocky riverbeds, and finishes with a 10-kilometer trail run through the tranquil and “enchanted forest” of Chihniuling, considered one of the eight wonders of Hengchun.
The XTERRA Taiwan Championship event offers an elite prize purse of $15,000 USD split among the top seven men and women and also 49 qualifying spots for amateurs vying to compete at the 2019 XTERRA World Championship race in Maui.
In addition to the main event, XTERRA Taiwan is offering an Xticer introductory off-road triathlon, plus 5km, 10km and 21km trail running races. And for competitive runners, a $20,000 NTD (about $700 USD) will be awarded to the top three men and women in the half-marathon.
XTERRA TAIWAN ELITE START LIST
BIB#/2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Rank - Name, NAT
21/5 - Jacqui Allen, GBR
22/2 - Leela Hancox, AUS
23/4 - Kristy Jennings, NZL
24/NR - Nicole Walters, GBR
BIB#/2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Rank - Name, NAT
1/2 - Ben Allen, AUS
2/NR - Dean Cane, AUS
3/NR - Taylor Charlton, AUS
4/NR - Doug Hall, GBR
5/NR - Jason Hsieh, HKG
6/NR - Akihiko Maeda, JPN
7/6 - Joe Miller, PHI
8/7 - Takahiro Ogasawara, JPN
9/17 - Lewis Ryan, NZL