With two weeks on the Northern Mariana Island of Guam between Xterra Philippines and Xterra Guam Dan and myself were motivated to set up a micro training camp and take full advantage of our mini oasis. Peter Lombard is a Doctor on the Island and has an amazing ocean view bachelors pad and after much convincing agreed to host the two Africans for a second year, much gratitude must be sent his way in aiding with our preparations for the next block of racing.
After what seemed like the calmest and most focused two weeks of 2014 thus far we were a little fatigued but excited to be racing soon with another opportunity to test ourselves against some of the World Tours best athletes.
As with almost every event we travel to, Xterra Guam has its own unique set of challenges. The majority of the bike course is smooth, fast and has the distinct feeling of an endless pump track! Lots of fun! However at the mere mention of precipitation the infamous 'red dirt' becomes a total nightmare for anyone on two wheels. So much so that locals are known to carry ice cream sticks with them in case it begins raining and they need the 'tool' to help remove the red clay/mud which brings any bike to an immediate stop within minutes. Needless to say we kept a very close eye on the weather forecast. Race morning arrived and we were blessed with the most beautiful day! Clear skies with no chance of rain, time to go racing!
Seeing that I had done all the hard work in the Philippines chasing Ben Allen with Hugo enjoying my bubbles in the swim it was his chance to lead out and he did a pretty awesome job at it I must admit. Within 100m we already had a decent lead and after the first of two 750m laps our nearest competitor was out of sight. Great start as there was still a long day ahead so building a lead early was crucial with many solid mtb riders in the field behind us.
Exiting T2 we had a little over 2 minutes to 3rd place but a long 15-20minute tar road climb ahead of us before we would see any dirt. My Faktory 650B hardtail was the ideal bike for the job. I really believe this is the perfect bike for me, proved once again as I crested the long climb in the lead along with Dan and felt remarkably comfortable. Constant reminders from Dan not to overcook myself and have confidence in our current pace. After some serious hard yards in the pool over the past year I am beginning to reap the rewards resulting in me often being at the front of the race early on in the bike. This is not what I am familiar with as in the past I have always been chasing once leaving T2. Changing my mind set has been tough so having Dan by my side to reinforce that fact has been very helpful.
Once we hit the real technical section of the course Dan's experience and skill came through and he slowly pulled away from me. Rather frustrating to be honest as this was not a physical restraint but rather a technique/skill issue causing me to lose time. Thankfully I was still opening the gap to 3rd place and still feeling great onboard my 650B. During the week building into the race we had been keeping a close eye on the ABSA Cape Epic, such an iconic race and definitely had the both of us feeling rather home sick yet proud of what our country had brought to the world of cycling. However the more noteworthy observation was that the last 4 stages of the race were all won on 650B/27.5" bikes. Not sure how significant this point is as the riders onboard the bikes were rather special to begin with but still a fun fact none the less and certainly gives even more credibility to the wheel size.
Back to the race. Transition is located at the back end of a long out and back straight so it was rather easy to note time splits and they were pretty decisive. Dan had a good 4 minutes on me and another 4-5 minutes back to 3rd. All in all the racing was over but still a rather wild 8-9km run ahead with 40-50% in a river surrounded by a bamboo jungle which provided for a very scenic and unique run to bring home another 1-2 for Dan and I. Let's hope the trend continues this weekend at Xterra Saipan.
Big thanks once again to our host Peter for providing the most ideal setup we could ever ask for, certainly has set us up very well for the next few weeks of tough racing!
Thanks for reading my brief reports! Very much appreciated, I hope they are entertaining or at least informative at best...
Photo Credit: Rich Cruse Photography