Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack won the 2nd annual Xterra Guam Championship race on an absolutely gorgeous tropical blue sky day in the Marianas this morning.
Read the race recap from Xterra below:
For Allen it marks the second-straight season he’s swept Xterras Triple Crown of championship races in the Philippines, Saipan and Guam during the month of March.
Today’s race was likely his toughest test yet, however, as South Africa’s Dan Hugo came out of the water at the same time as Allen and they stayed neck-and-neck through the entire bike. Their combined swim and bike times were just two seconds different so it all came down to the run, which Allen crushed in a race-best 39:22. Hugo’s split was second-best at 43:07.
“Today was the last race of the tour and I just laid it all on the line. I was so determined to get this win today, and I think it showed,” said Allen. “Dan is such a high-class athlete, and I have full respect for him. I even look up to him as one of those inspiring Xterra athletes. It was guys like him and Conrad that were the driving force to inspire me to do races like this.”
For Hugo it’s the last of five big Xterra races to start the season, noteworthy as a rejuvenating comeback following nearly a year off the circuit due to injuries he suffered when a dog crossed his path while riding at high speed on his road bike last May.
“It’s great to be racing again, but the story today starts and ends with Ben,” said Hugo. “That was a pretty flawless effort. I can look in the mirror tonight and I’m OK with who I’ll see. There is disappointment because I wish the body had enough to win. It would’ve been great to end the trip that way, but Ben raced not just flawlessly, but confidently and positively. We rode together and he was happy to come to the front, happy to make the plays. I managed to gap him a few times on some of the technical stuff and I think the Specialized Epic is made for that top section of the course, but he had the strength to close back every time, and on the longer sustained climbs, without seemingly trying he had me on the ropes.”
It’s the first time in this set that the two have raced so closely on the bike, and Allen thinks that might have helped his energy reserves for the run.
“By working together on the bike I think I was able to conserve a bit for the run. In the other races I didn’t know where the guys behind me were so had to push really hard the whole way,” said Allen. “I felt good at the start of the run and just went for it, went as hard as I could from the get go.”
Before Hugo knew it Allen was out of sight, into the legendary jungles that have made this race into one of the true classics on the Xterra World Tour.
“Amazing as a run is ever going to finish,” explained Hugo. “If you haven’t seen it, it’s super hard to imagine how incredible this bamboo forest is so I made the conscious decision to sit up and start smiling and soak it in.”
Since winning the Xterra Warrior award, along with his girlfriend Jacqui, for exemplifying the “Live More” spirit of the sport last year, Allen seems to be on a mission to defend that crown as well. His positive attitude, friendly demeanor, and pure energy is truly what the healthy, active, outdoors lifestyle is all about.
“I’m fortunate to have had really good athletes to look up to when I was growing up, who taught me that it’s more about the race of life, than racing in sport,” said Allen. “I’ve learned over the years to focus on my mental ability and trust that the physical ability will take care of itself. For us, Jacqui and I, we have such a unique situation, we get to live and breathe Xterra every day and we love it. But, we couldn’t do it without my friends and family back home in Australia. The support I get from them is phenomenal, and my win today – and the one’s before it – goes out to them.”
Behind Allen and Hugo was a great race for third between 24-year-old South African Brad Weiss and three-time Xterra Guam Champ Sam Gardner from the UK. Those two, along with Rory Downie from Scotland, rode much of the bike together; and just as Allen took off on the run to peel away from Hugo; so did Weiss to Gardner and Downie.
“I went out really hard, really pushed it on the run because you want to be out of sight by the technical parts,” said Weiss, who also finished third in Saipan. “Ben and Dan are seasoned athletes, and you have to be realistic with your expectations, and I can’t really expect to beat them. So, I’m extremely happy with third and to be on the podium twice in two weeks, I’m over the moon.”
Gardner held on for fourth-place, with Downie in fifth, Xterra Japan Champ Takahiro Ogasawara in sixth and Filipino stand-out Arland Macasieb in seventh.
Up next, Allen heads home to race in Xterra Australia on April 7, followed by Xterra New Zealand on the 14th and Xterra Malaysia on April 28.
“Really looking forward to going home and racing Xterra Australia in Anglesea. There are some Olympians coming, with Courtney Atkinson and Erin Densham, it’s in my hometown, my family is coming down to watch, I’m just super excited for that. Then New Zealand, then Malaysia, then over to Europe to start that Tour. If I had it my way, I’d do ‘em all,” said Allen.
Many of the elites racing in Guam and the Triple Crown will also compete at Xterra Malaysia, with the likes of Allen, Hugo, Gardner, Ogasawara, Slack, Renata Bucher, Carina Wasle and Mieko Carey all on the start list.
Last year Jacqui Slack did the Triple Crown as a test-run to see where she was at and how far she could take the dream of a professional racing lifestyle. This year, it was about winning and proving she made the right decision to pursue a career in racing. Mission accomplished.
“I’m really happy with way things have come along,” said Slack, who also won Xterra Saipan earlier this month. “I think my mountain bike and running skills have improved heaps. Last year I came to gain the experience, this year I wanted to come back and see the difference.”
Bucher, last year’s Guam and Triple Crown champ, did have the fastest bike split by almost a minute but it wasn’t enough to reel in the fast swimming Slack who got more than a two-minute cushion on Bucher coming out of the water.
Bucher, who has won 29 Xterra Championship races in 12 countries in her career, finished second.
“It’s such great competition here with these women, and without them it wouldn’t be so satisfying,” said Slack, noting that Carina Wasle also has several European Tour wins under her belt.
Wasle finished third on the day, her second podium of the Triple Crown, with Daz Parker in fourth, local resident Mieko Carey in fifth, newbie pro Peri Gray in sixth, and Yasuko Miyazaki in seventh.
The difference was a wire-to-wire win at the Xterra Guam Championship that combined the fastest swim, the second-best bike time, and the quickest run split.
“Last year Renata caught me early on in the bike, so every minute that went by and she wasn’t there was major motivation to keep me going,” said Slack.