‘Extra special’

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Friday, March 14, 2014


WHAT will challenge the participants of the 2014 Vaseline Men Xterra Challenge, which hits LIlo-an today? The course that gets harder and harder year by year? The relentless rain, which has been pounding Cebu for the past few days? The mud?

Those are major concerns but their No. 1 worry is the cows and the chickens.

“It has been raining the past few days and when we tried the bike course, it was very tricky. But today, the weather has been fine. The course may no longer be that slippery, but the cows will still be there,” said Meiko Carey of Guam, who is racing in the Xterra Philippines for the first time. She tried the course the other day and said she enjoyed riding behind a cow.

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“I am really looking forward to this race,” said Carey, who is the 2013 Xterra Japan champion and 2013 Guam National Triathlon champion. Carey said the other pros whom she met has been telling her to join the Xterra Philippines and she finally gave in.

The race course, which, according to Sunrise Events chairman Fred Uytengsu, is designed only for the strong warriors, will start at the Seafront Beach Resort in Liloan and is followed by the tricky bike course.

“It is a race only for the brave because of the fearlessness you need to conquer the course. We made the course extra difficult, otherwise it is not Xterra,” said Uytengsu.

The bike and run routes consist of a mix of single tracks, fire roads, farmlands,
grasslands and a bit of paved road and passes by houses.

“It is very unreal. You ride beside people’s homes and they tell will tell you if you lost your way,” said Dimity Duke of Australia, the recurring age group champion, who
is running her first Xterra as a pro.

More than 400 participants from 17 countries will be joining today’s race. Uytengsu said the full distance will be a 1.5-kilometer swim, 38K bike and 10K run. The Xterra Light, on the other hand, will be a 500m swim, 18K bike and 5K run. The Light is designed to have a feel of the Xterra race, without having to go the full distance.

There is also a relay, which hopes to ease the participant into the sport.

Aside from Duke, there are two others racing this year as first-time Pros—Charlie Epperson of Guam and Michal Bucek of Slovakia.

The three will have the same motivation—to challenge themselves more.

Challenge

“This is my first time as a pro and as an age-grouper, it was always my goal to try and beat the pros. This time, I have to tell myself to try and not get beaten by amateurs,” said Epperson.

Duke added that she was already in the position that winning the age group is already easy and took it upon herself to achieve higher. “I have always been one of those high achievers so I decided to get a pro license,” said Duke.

Bucek said the decision to race pro was a self-challenge. “I feel that you can win a race but it is not really a win if you are not racing pro,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ben Allen, a two-time Xterra Philippines champion, is looking to score a grand slam this year, feels he will be challenged by 10-time Xterra participant Dan Hugo and and up-and-coming athlete Bucek.

“I see great potential in him (Bucek). All I need to do is give it my 110 percent to go against these guys an the elements that we will be facing tomorrow,” Allen said.

Top female racer Renata Bucher said the toughest thing she expects this year will be the weather. “We all have strong contenders and anyone can attack and win. And with the weather and the slippery and tricky course, anything can happen,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sunrise Events is hoping to still bring the Xterra to Cebu next year. “The race has been special because it is held in Cebu. We have had a good hosting the past four years and we are hoping that we will still have it here next year,” said Uytengsu, who hopes to strike a deal with Liloan again.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 15, 2014.

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