3rd Pro Male
Sunday morning sitting at our local coffee shop here in Guam with a somewhat foggy memory of the events which transpired on Saturday 23rd March, currently with more questions than answers due to a great post race party but pretty sure it was one of the most epic days of 2013 thus far. It all started with a pretty mellow build up to the race, 5 weeks of high end racing has taken its toll and the motivation, inspiration and determination were found wanting at times. Our first attempt to pre-ride the bike course ended in tears with most of us having to carry our no longer functioning bikes due to the most savage mud/clay combination I have ever come across. We had gone out against better judgment and were now paying the price! Almost immediately after our arrival in Guam we were being warned by the locals of the infamous red dirt high up in the mountains. They told us that if it was raining there was no point in attempting to ride up there due to this red mud/clay combination which was able to completely immobilize a spotless bike in minutes. So after this initial false start, first of many I might add, we decided to get off our high horse and take note of the local knowledge. After a day of sunshine we went back to give it another crack and it just so happened that it was my birthday, to our great satisfaction the course was dry and both Dan and myself soaked up yet another awesome pre-riding experience spending nearly 3hours out on course completing 2 laps. Slept a lot easier that night due to the combination of a tired body but a mind at peace knowing that another podium position was on the cards!
So after a rocky start to the week race day finally arrived and I was ready to leave it all out on course with the knowledge that this would be the final race of the Asia Pacific Triple Crown. Slightly tired legs due to a little too much time spent out on course in the week trying to dial in every corner on the technical bike course was not ideal but with such amazing trails here in Guam it was hard calling an end to any pre-ride opportunity. For those who read my previous race report you will be well aware of my self-inflicted pre race time constraints on the morning of Xterra Saipan, I was determined not to make a similar mistake so 2hours before race start we pulled into the parking lot. Dan looking over at me in the pitch black dark with a puzzled look on his face as if to say... 'And now???' but I was happy to be there early, enough time to work through a solid warm up routine and at least have my goggles in place before the 10sec countdown began! Before we made our way down to the water's edge our homestay for the week Peter Lombard had a surprise for all the Xterra Warriors, we were all about to become participants in the first ever Xterra Harlem Shake. For those not aware of the Harlem Shake do yourselves a favour and take 5 minutes to youtube a few video's. This provided an extremely unique addition to my warm up routine but seemed to work great, everyone was relaxed and ready for a great day out at Xterra Guam!
Due to a rocky river bank we had the first deep water start of our trip, 2 x 750m loops were to follow without a portage section splitting them which suited me perfectly. Have really been struggling with the mid swim sprint and this format eliminated that dimension of the race. Managed to hang tough with the boys up front for the first 750m but after a couple of surges Dan, Rory, Ben and a Guam local got away and exiting the water I was around 40-50s off the pace. Not bad but still annoying starting every race on the back foot so to speak, improvement at the top level of any sport takes years I am aware of that but still human nature to do ones best to short track the progression.
The bike started with a steady 20minute tar road climb, I was feeling good but with no one in sight it was difficult to gauge how fast the other pro men were climbing. I continued grinding my way up and right at the top was surprised to see the Brit Sam Gardner had bridged the gap up to me and I was now in a fight for 5th place, not exactly how I was hoping for the race to start. In both previous races I was able to put nearly 4minutes into Sam on the swim, as it turned out he had a phenomenal swim leg and was only 1:30 back after T1. As Sam over took me I realised why he had managed to bridge the gap so quickly. He had opted for cyclo-cross tyres making him a lot faster on the tar sections but a big risk with a lot of technical riding still to come on this Xterra Guam bike course and once we hit the notorious red dirt he immediately began to struggle. I took back 4th position but made a few stupid mistakes, never hitting the dirt just having to un-cleat and losing valuable momentum. Because of this reckless riding on my behalf I was not getting away from Sam and we were locked in a pretty good battle with him being stronger on the flats and the climbs and myself slightly quicker through the technical sections. Xterra Guam provides one of the best racing bike courses I have ever competed on, multiple options on every corner when it comes to line decisions as well as many passing opportunities. We caught Rory early on and he managed to hang tough for awhile but a few technical mistakes by him caused a gap and he was not able to bridge back to us. Sam and I were now riding as a team in the hopes of maybe catching Dan or Ben who were up the road ahead of us, somewhat wishful thinking I guess but with a misleading time gap from an excited spectator we were under the false impression that we were only 2 minutes down with about 3km left on the bike. As it turns out that gap was closer to 5 minutes, Dan and Ben were locked in a serious battle up front, neither giving an inch. Hoping I can throw my hat into that ring sometime in the not too distant future! but for now back to my race...
Sam and I started the run together on this occasion and I was in no mood to play around, wanted to settle this battle early and went out hard with the intention of breaking him early and not finding myself in the position of having to fight in the later more technical stages of the run leg where I knew I would not be as quick as I am out on the open roads. My strategy worked and after just 3km he was out of sight, once I started making my way down the river and over a few waterfalls I might add I backed it down not wanting to take any unnecessary risks. The run being only 8km with not much climbing went by very quickly and soon I was into the final stretch of the run requiring each athlete to attempt to run in knee high water, not an easy undertaking after 2h30 of hard racing but not wanting to embarrass myself I gave it my best effort and even managed a smile or two for the camera men. Finishing on the podium again with Dan and Ben was awesome, have huge respect for both these guys so truly honored to share a podium with them once again!
So this brings an end to my Asia-Pacific Xterra Tour, finished up as 3rd Pro Male in the Xterra Triple Crown and I could not be happier with this result! A big thank you to Dan for putting up with me over the past month of traveling, really have learnt a lot and he has agreed on further travels this year so it couldn't have been too bad. Even though I am sure he just needs me for my mechanic and bike washing skills :)
To my incredible sponsors back home Giant Bicycles, Orca race suits and Puma Running, all of this would not be possible without your continued support and it really means the world to me to have your backing from both a business and personal stand point.
P.S. A final shout out must go out to this beautiful piece of equipment! Sadly I no longer own this baby as I will be renewing my contract with Giant Bicycles RSA and will be recieving the new 2013 model. I sold her on to my incredible homestay in Guam Peter Lombard who promised to take good care of her! This bike took me to my first ever world champion title when I won the U23 Cross Triathlon World Championships in Alabama, USA in 2012 as well as many more podium positions including my very first Xterra World Tour podium at Xterra Saipan this month. Was tough saying goodbye but I am extremely excited to be receiving my new bike this week, will be posting a full report after my first ride so keep an eye out for it!