Ben Allen of Australia and Renata Bucher of Switzerland won the inaugural XTERRA Guam Championship Saturday on this United States island territory, the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. The win was Allen’s second XTERRA Championship for Allen and the 22nd such title for Bucher.
Allen overcame Olivier Marceau’s 15 seconds lead after the bike with a race-best run through Guam’s jungles that was over 3 minutes faster than Marceau, the 2007 XTERRA Guam champion (and 2000 ITU Olympic distance World Champion). Allen, whose first XTERRA Championship victory was in Brazil last year, hit the line in 2:29:42 with a 3 minutes, 40 seconds margin of victory over runner-up Marceau and 4:26 over third place Cedric Lassonde of Great Britain.
“I’m a strong swimmer and had a bit of a lead, so I rode hard,” Allen told XTERRA’s Janet Clark. “I lost some air pressure out on the bike and had to stop a couple of times. Oli caught me on the big descent, where I was riding a flat tire and nursed it all the way to transition. But I’ve been working hard on running with my coach, and I knew if I was close enough to Oli, I could win. I caught him on the first big climb of the run.”
Marceau said he was not as fit as when he won the Guam America Tour event in 2007. “This time was much, much harder,” Marceau told Clark. “I started my training a little later (in 2007, he had been training in Australia for several months before coming to the Northern Pacific). I pushed hard, but it was tough. Ben had a good swim and it was very hard to catch him on the bike. I started running 10-15 seconds ahead of him and he caught me on the first uphill of the run. Once he passed me, I kept my own pace and did my own race.”
Lassonde had a tough day but still managed to take the final spot on the podium. “My swim was probably one of the worst ever in any triathlon,” he told XTERRA media. “I missed the last buoy and swam an extra 100 meters. I took a few tumbles on the bike. It was very slippery and very difficult compared to two days ago when I last rode it. But I caught Branden (Rakita) and thought maybe I’m not doing too bad.”
Even with his crashes on the hills laced with motocross-style bumps on the slick red clay surface, Lassonde had the fastest bike of the day and the second fastest run. “My run was very conservative, as I’m coming from a stress fracture and haven’t run in 4 weeks,” he told XTERRA media.
Bucher dominated the women with a 2:47:25 finish which topped runner-up Carina Wasle of Austria by 15 minutes and 1 second. Bucher’s time was good enough for 7th overall including the men and her second Guam XTERRA title. Bucher won the race in 2010 and took second in 2007 and 2009.
“I kept up in the swim and it is an advantage that I know the course,” Bucher told XTERRA’s Clark. “I’ve been training in Australia since the end of January, so I feel good.”
Wasle had a hard go in her first XTERRA Guam effort.
“It is a really challenging course,” she told XTERRA’s Clark. “I didn’t imagine that running through the river would be so hard. The bike course is incredible – going down you never see where you are going and there’s lots of bumps and holes – you have to be very careful. Everyone who finishes is a hero.”
Great Britain’s Jacqui Slack took third, 4:44 behind Wasle.
The most impressive performance of the day belonged to 2006 XTERRA Guam champion Jamie Whitmore, who just recently has resumed racing after recovering enough from her devastating, life threatening cancer that cost much of her propulsive muscles in her legs. Whitmore's 2006 win came at the peak of her legendary career, but her finish today might well be judged to be something greater.
Whitmore hit the line in 86th overall and 1st in the Physically Challenged division in 4:52:09. “It feels good to be back,” Whitmore told XTERRA’s Clark. “My pedal came off three times in the bike. I only walked three hills, but it is definitely different when it comes to the run, as there is no running. I need to practice more with the crutches and I will figure it out.”
XTERRA has held a race on Guam since 2006, initially as part of the XTERRA America Tour point series races - an opportunity for locals in the region to hone their skills and a lure to the pros because it was held one week before the XTERRA Saipan Championship. Thanks to the Guam Visitors Bureau and many other sponsors, race director Eric Tydingco finally achieved XTERRA Championship status for his race with slots to the XTERRA World Championship and $15,000 in prize money.
2012 XTERRA Guam Championship
Port Authority, Guam
March 10, 2012
S 1.5k / B 31k / R 8.2k
1. Ben Allen (AUS) 2;29:42
2. Olivier Marceau (SUI) 2:33:22
3. Cedric Lassonde (GBR) 2:34:08
4. Branden Rakita (USA) 2:38:35
5. Graham Wadsworth (GBR) 2:41:30
6. Takahiro Ogasawara (JPN) 2:46:11
7. Will Kelsay (USA) 2:48:02
8. Arland Macasieb (PHI) 3:23:50
1. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:47:25
2. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:02:26
3. Jacqui Slack (GBR) 3:07:10
4. Mieko Carey (JPN ) 3:14:22
Challenged Athletes Division
1. Jamie Whitmore (USA) 4:52:09