Aussie Ben Allen and Austrian Carina Wasle win the 13th running of the XTERRA Saipan Championship on a breezy and beautiful Saturday morning in the Northern Marianas.
It's Allen's 3rd-straight win in Saipan, his second victory on the World Tour in as many weeks (he won XTERRA in Australia last weekend) and the 14th of his career.
"Never gets any easier, that's for sure," said Allen. "Dan (Hugo) and I broke away from the main pack in the swim and then went back-and-forth on the bike almost the whole way."
Hugo had a noteworthy swim that put him just 15-seconds back of Allen at the swim-to-bike transition where often that difference has been upwards of a minute.
"There was quite a bit of current pushing around, and a bit of wind-chop, it made the swim about as fun as can be and I was able to stay with Ben most of the way," said Hugo, who entered the event having already won XTERRA World Tour race titles in South Africa, the Philippines, and Guam last weekend.
Out on the bike the duo drove an even larger wedge between themselves and the rest of the field. Allen's bike split was six seconds faster than Hugo then it was another 3:30 to the third-best bike time posted by Kiwi Olly Shaw.
"It was great racing, Dan was right on my wheel and really pushing the whole way," said Allen.
"He had me covered," said Hugo. "I was trying to be aggressive on the bike, and over the top I might have got 10-seconds on him and was hoping to build on that but he was superb on the technical stuff. I took a bad line at one point and that 10 seconds up turned into 10-seconds down. I'll tell you, I enjoyed the dual, it was a fair fight, a great tussle."
Allen took a 20-second lead into the signature Saipan run course and then put the hammer down.
"I went well beyond my limitations up the initial climbs trying to put time on Dan," said Allen. It was out-of-sight; out-of-mind and Allen posted the fastest run of the day by almost four minutes for a winning time of 2:34:29.
Brad Weiss was solid all-around to finish 3rd in Saipan for the second year in a row. It's Weiss' fourth top 4 finish of the season, and he'll head to Vegas for next week's West Championship as well.
Olly Shaw came in fourth while three-time Olympian Olivier Marceau rounded out the top five. There were a dozen elite men from nine countries in this year's race, all of whom enjoyed the training and racing opportunities in Saipan.
"It's been a great three weeks from the Philippines to Guam to here on Saipan," said Hugo. "Brad and I set-up training camp, enjoyed the simple living and island life. Saipan is an amazing sporting destination."
Allen agreed, adding that the 50-meter pool, ocean conditions, climbing, single track, and friendly laid back locals create an ideal atmosphere to train and race.
"I made a point to come from Australia to Saipan instead of going straight to New Zealand because of the people involved in the organization here," said Allen. "Wolf (Mojica) and his whole team put their heart and soul into this and it really comes across to the athletes. It makes me want to give back to Saipan, and ensure his legacy continues year-after-year. It's one of the most challenging courses on the tour, and I've done almost all of them. It really tests your abilities to see what you're capable of, and it was great to see so many guys come out this year. The field is getting bigger and bigger, it's testament to the word we athletes spread around about how special this place really is."
2014 XTERRA Saipan Championship Results:
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands - April 5, 2014
|Pro Men Results||Time||
|Pro Women Results||Time|
|Ben Allen (AUS)||2:34:29||
|Carina Wasle (AUT)||3:06:31|
|Dan Hugo (RSA)||2:39:01||
|Renata Bucher (SUI)||3:07:41|
|Brad Weiss (RSA)||2:44:11||
|Jacqui Slack (GBR)||3:12:21|
|Olly Shaw (NZL)||2:45:54||
|Mieko Carey (JPN)||3:16:32|
|Olivier Marceau (SUI)||2:49:48||
|Yasuko Miyazaki (JPN)||4:08:42|
Carina Wasle put together the "perfect day" to win her first XTERRA major since 2011 and her first in four-years of trying on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour.
Defending champ Jacqui Slack took the early lead out of the swim, with Mieko Carey close behind, Renata Bucher more than a minute back and Wasle over two minutes behind.
Bucher, a 7-time XTERRA Saipan Champ, took the lead on the bike with the fastest split of the day and headed out on to the run with a two-minute gap on Wasle but it wasn't enough.
"I pushed really hard on the bike and felt good but Carina was a lot stronger on the run today," said Bucher, who will stay on in Saipan and race in next week's Tagaman road tri. "I can tell you already a fantastic week, it's a wonderful life here."
Wasle posted the fastest run-split of the day, the only woman to run the grueling jungle course in less than an hour.
"It was a very good race for me," said Wasle, who picked up her 8th XTERRA World Tour race victory. "I'm so very happy. The last two races Renata out-sprinted me to the finish. I lost in the last 50-meters in the Philippines, then missed an arrow and got lost in Guam so it's very special to win."
Slack rolled in to third, overcoming some nagging injuries, with fan-favorite Mieko Carey in fourth and Yasuko Miyazaki in fifth.
• Hugo, Bucher Win 2014 XTERRA Philippines