THERE will be more elite athletes in this year’s Vaseline Men’s Xterra off-road triathlon series on March 2 and 3 in Liloan after 2011 champion Sam Gardner confirmed his participation, while two-time world champion Leslie Paterson will also join the event.

Gardner missed last year’s race and is expected to give defending champion Ben Allen a run for his money.

Allen was crowned the 2012 Xterra Pacific triple champion after sweeping the other two races—held in Saipan and Guam. Last year’s women’s pro champion Renata Bucher will also return.

In the Filipino elite category, Rochelle Tan, who took a rest from competitions after the Ironman 70.3 Philippines last August to concentrate on her studies, will be making a comeback this year. However, last year’s men’s champion Neil Catiil isn’t sure of joining the triathlon or the relay.

According to project director Princess Galura of Sunrise Events, the number of participants has doubled this year.

Last year, the event drew more than 200 participants and as of yesterday, they were some 400 participants registered. Organizers expect to hit 450 before they close the registration a week before the triathlon race.

“However, we can still accommodate participants in the trail running a day before the race,” Galura said during yesterdays’ press conference. Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco, assistant race director Jeremy Go and Seafront beach resort owner Rey Seno also attended the event.

It will be a weekend championship with the off-road triathlon on March 2, while the trail running will be on March 3. She added that the weekend race will be among their three big events for 2013.

“This year, we have a new and modified race course in Liloan,” said Galura.

Last year, the event started and finished at the Amara area where the famous light house is situated, but due to the rapid housing development there, organizers decided to change the route. This year will have more terrains and a completely off-road mountain bike segment to make it more challenging.

According to Frasco, a portion of the route will pass the mountainous barangay in Ubay and Cabanjangan.

Galura also said that they might hold the Xterra championship for more two more years in Liloan. ISL

“We’re on our third year now with Liloan. Traditionally, we do three years like in Camsur but five years is also being considered now,” Galura said.