Aussie sets sights on third crown in XTERRA triathlon

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2015 - 12:00am

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines – After falling short of a three-peat last year, Ben Allen of Australia trains his sights on crown No. 3 today when XTERRA Albay erupts in a challenging race course that features a breathtaking view of majestic Mayon.

Allen, who settled for the bronze in the 2014 edition in Liloan, Cebu following back-to-back conquests, seeks to finish the job this time against a crack field led by last year’s runner-up Bradley Weiss of South Africa and fast-rising teener Mauricio Mendez of Mexico.

“I obviously love to get a hat-trick in the races, that’s definitely my goal,” said Allen on the eve of the maiden race in the Province of Albay and the kickoff event of the 2015 XTERRA Season.  

“I didn’t come here to come second, for sure. I came to win and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t prepare to the best of my abilities in order to give myself every chance to cross that line first and stand tall on top of the podium,” he added.

World champion Flora Duffy, who won seven of eight races she joined in 2014, raises the level of competition in the distaff side when she competes for the first time on Phl soil and vie for the female tiara that Renata Bucher of Switzerland seeks to retain.

SEI president Wilfred Steven Uytengsu and XTERRA Worldwide managing director Dave Nicholas said XTERRA Albay has “assembled an outstanding cast of professionals” and they “look forward to a great race,” during yesterday’s press launch also graced by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda at Albay Astrodome.

With Dan Hugo, the 2014 male pro winner, retired, Allen has been left in a dispute for the vacant crown with Weiss and Mendez, among others, in the event held as part of the Tourism Board of the Philippines’ “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” and “Visit the Philippines 2015” program.

“For sure, I’d love to take the win but with guys like Ben Allen and Mauricio Mendez here, it’s going to be difficult to forecast a win. It will take a lot for me if those two are on the top of their games,” said Weiss.

At 19, Mendez has already created an impact, placing fifth in the XTERRA worlds in his maiden stint as a pro.

“I’m ready. Like everyone else, my target is winning. But it’s gonna be hard since we have other good guys,” he said, referring to the field which includes Charlie Epperson of Guam, Michal Bucek of Slovakia, Simone Calamai of Italy, Brodie Gardner of Australia, and lone Filipino bet Joseph Miller.

Cebu-based Miller, a second-year pro, feels good about his chances. “Todo ang ensayo ko. Huwag lang ma-flat o masiraan andyan siguro (I trained hard for this. Barring flat tires or mechanical trouble, I think I can land in the Top 5).”

Bucher, a multi-titlist in XTERRA races all over the world, wants to make it two-in-a-row in the event backed by official courier and logistics partner 2Go and Columbia, Department of Tourism, Prudential, Finisher Pix, Garmin, Intercare, Davids, Shotz, Akari and Devant and hydration partner Coca-Cola Femsa.

“It’s always a big pleasure for me to make it back here in the Philippines and defending the title is always a bit of a pressure considering the field each year is definitely getting stronger and stronger. This year we’ll have the world champion (Duffy) so the competition is super high,” said Bucher.

“I usually don’t race this early in the year so we’ll see what my form is. I took a really long break after Maui XTERRA World last October so I feel I’m just getting back to training now and gaining fitness. But I expect to have a good, solid race tomorrow (today),” said Duffy.

Expected to crowd the two for the crown are Jacqui Slack and Daz Parker of Great Britain, Dimity-Lee Duke of Australia, Alena Stevens of Slovakia, and Mieko Carey of Guam.

XTERRA Albay brings competitors to the 6km perimeter exclusion zone of the majestic and active Mayon Volcano. It starts with a swim in the shores of Lidong in Mayon Rovera, where the open water is calm and deep with black sands. The bike course features wide and open trails with a breathtaking crew of Mayon passing through fire roads, grass lands, sands and rocky trails. The run course follows the course of the ATV route in Mayon with rocky and sandy terrains, river beds and grasslands.



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