Ben Allen and Renata Bucher capped off two months of pure adventure in the Asia-Pacific Region with exclamation point victories at Xterra Malaysia in Putrajaya this morning.
Read the recaps from Xterra below:
For Allen, it’s his fifth Xterra World Tour win of the season and for Bucher, her third-straight Xterra championship win in the month of April and 32nd in her career.
In the men’s race it was Allen from wire-to-wire as he posted the fastest swim by a minute, the fastest bike by 37 seconds, and the quickest run by two seconds to break the tape in 2:28:31. It wasn’t nearly as lop-sided as the stats might make it sound, however, as Dan Hugo bridged the gap on the bike and made a strong push early on the run to make things interesting.
What makes the victory all the more impressive for Allen is his recent schedule that included eight races in eight countries in nine weeks (Easter off) starting with Xterra Philippines on March 2, then Saipan, Tagaman, Guam, Australia, New Zealand, and an iron-distance road tri in Thailand last weekend that combined a 4km swim, with a 122km bike and 30km run (where he finished second to Courtney Atkinson).
“Mental strength was a massive factor today,” said Allen. “I laid it all on the line, and had absolutely nothing left at the finish line. I’m so spent I can hardly lift my legs to get up the stairs, and am hurting more from this race than Samui.”
Part of that hurt was in response to the valiant effort put forth by Hugo, who remarkably has finished second now at 12 of his last 13 Xterra races since winning the South Africa title in 2011.
“Full respect to Ben, I got a visual on him during the run but he was able to dig out what he needed,” said Hugo, who wore a CamelBak for the first time and took in all two liters to get him through a hot, humid and taxing bike course. “I felt amazing coming off the bike, but then the second lap went from striding to shuffling, and into full survival mode. My body was hurting, my skin was tingling, and as much as I was hoping he might come undone – he didn’t.”
From a pure visual perspective Hugo did indeed look the stronger of the two on the first lap of the run, but when push came to shove it was Allen who carried it through.
“I thought Dan was going to get me too, and was running scared that last lap,” said Allen. “Just hung tough as long as I could, stayed positive and pushed on. I was thinking ‘out of sight out of mind’ so just pushed to the next corner to get out of sight, over and over. More than anything today was just a great mental challenge, getting through the hot, humid conditions when your body is saying no more. And I love racing against Dan, it’s awesome going head-to-head like that with him. He’s such an inspiring athlete and a good guy.”
It was truly a two-man race today, as proof Shahrom Abdullah finished 20 minutes back in third. It was a sight to behold nonetheless to watch Abdullah, who is from just up the road in Kuala Lumpur, come through the finish line to the adoration of the Malaysia crowd.
Sam Gardner, the former Xterra Saipan, Japan, and Philippines Champion, did all he could to make it a three-way struggle up front but his chain repeatedly got jammed forcing him to stop and fix. He still finished with the third best bike split, but then “limped round the run in pain” and finished fourth pro male. It’s his fourth straight top four finish this season, and still worthy of a celebration – something he plans to do starting at midnight here in Malaysia when he turns 38-years-old.
Despite the struggles Gardner and all involved praised the course and the organization.
“It was a fantastic event. The swim was superb, course was unreal, and there were loads of volunteers. First-class all the way,” said Allen.
“So much fine detail, I can’t say enough of the organization and tourism board. Massive amount of vollies, impeccable signage, they didn’t hold back on anything and went the extra yard wherever they could. It’s a phenomenal location, and a really, really fun course. When the race started the moon was visible and we hit the sunrise perfectly to see the city scape. The water was like a pool, glassy with lane rope, and the bike was almost Richmond-like, a fun mix of everything and never a straight line. It was super entertaining, and the culture shows through here, very courteous, warm people.” said Hugo.
She’s been called the “Swiss Miss” and the “Swiss Rocket” but today she’s just “Mrs. April”. Three races, three wins in April (Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia) and on track to have another stellar year of Xterra racing.
Jacqui Slack struck first with her trademark speedy swim, coming out of the water nearly two minutes ahead of Bucher, Peri Gray, and Mieko Carey. The Xterra Saipan and Guam champ held the lead until the end of the first lap when she got the first of two flats.
“I was going well, riding aggressive when I got the first one,” said Slack. “Got it fixed and was still racing hard and in second position when I got the next one. A fellow racer (Michal Bucek from Hong Kong) stopped and helped me with that one but everyone had passed by then.”
After Bucher took the lead there was no looking back as she blitzed the fastest bike and run splits to finish fourth overall in 2:52:17, more than 15 minutes ahead of Mieko Carey in second.
“I saw Jacqui with her flat on the first lap, and it’s a pity because I think it would have been a really close race,” said Bucher. “I felt good today though, and was happy with my swim, my run felt good, and I’m really excited because my training has gone well and everything is coming together. It’s very special for me to win a race like this.”
For Carey, it’s a birthday to remember. The Guam resident (who we affectionately report is from Japan but represents Saipan) turned 35 on Saturday but couldn’t celebrate as she’d normally do because of the race, got the present of 2nd place.
“I love Malaysia, and always happy to be around my Xterra family and celebrate with friends from all over the world,” said Carey.
Like the men, the women were quick to praise the course and organization.
“Lived it, loved it. Thank you to Xterra Malaysia today, amazingly organized and executed by Dave (Race Director Dave Spence) and his team of wonderful smiley volunteers,” posted Daz Parker to Facebook moments after she crossed the line.
“So warm and welcoming, great course and wonderful people,” said Renata Bucher.
1. Ben Allen (AUS) 2:28:31
2. Dan Huge (RSA) 2:30:09
3. Shahrom Abdullah (MAS) 2:50:30
4. Sam Gardner (GBR) 2:54:54
1. Renata Bucher (SUI) 2:52:17
2. Mieko Carey (JPN) 3:07:16
3. Daz Parker (GBR) 3:09:20
4. Jacqui Slack (GBR) 3:12:16
5. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:14:01
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