Bradley Weiss from South Africa and Penny Slater from Australia captured the sixth annual XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship on a beautiful day at Kenting National Park in Taiwan on Saturday, March 30, 2019.
It’s the second year in a row Weiss has won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific crown, and it’s his second win in a week following his victory at Ironman 70.3 Taiwan on Sunday. For Slater, who turns 23-years-old on Wednesday, it’s the first and biggest XTERRA win of her young career.
The incredible day of racing started with Taiwan rolling out the red carpet, quite literally, for the XTERRA competitors as they headed down for the 7am swim start at Little Bay Beach. It was a site to behold, as some 2,000-feet of red carpet lined the pathway from the sand to the swim-to-bike transition area at the Kenting Youth Activities Center.
Just before the race started an aboriginal tribe blessed the occasion with cultural dance and games, and then more than two-dozen XTERRA elites from around the world bolted from the top of the beach into the warm, calm and clear turquoise waters of the South China Sea.
In the men’s race Aussie ocean lifesaver Ben Allen led the swim from start to finish, but the big group lurking right behind him included Sam Osborne, Maxim Chane, Brice Daubord, Weiss, and Lewis Ryan.
Osborne and Allen led the long run into transition, with Weiss and the others not far behind but by the 3K mark on the bike it was “firecrackers up front” just as Osborne had envisioned happening in his pre-race comments. He, Daubord, Chane, Allen, and Weiss rode at high-speed on the tarmac side-by-side and tire-to-tire before breaking into single file to the trails.
It wasn’t long after when Weiss got antsy and got going.
“The other guys got into the trail first and the pace wasn’t what I wanted, so I moved up to the front and on the first climb I lifted the pace,” explained Weiss. “Most of them fell off except Sam. He came with me for a few minutes, but I could feel he was losing the wheel, so I put my head down on the next climb and really pushed and got 10 or 15 seconds. I thought he would bridge it on the next descent but instead I think he was using the descents to recover where I was pushing it a little harder and that was when the gap opened, and I was on my own for the rest of the ride.”
The 2017 XTERRA World Champ posted the fastest bike split of the day, 1:14:14, which was two minutes better than Chane’s second-best time, and headed out on to the run with a two-minute lead on the Frenchman and 2:30 on the speedy Kiwi, Osborne.
“Starting the run, I knew it was a runner’s course, perfect for guys like Sam and Brice that have really good leg speed. So that’s why I wanted to open a gap on the bike because I knew I needed a lead. In the end, Sam outran me by a minute-30 or so I needed at least two minutes on him.”
And that’s exactly how it worked out. Osborne posted the fastest run of the day, a 50-minute, 55-second 12K but couldn’t bridge the gap. Weiss took the tape in 2:29:06, nearly two-minutes ahead of Osborne in second. Those two went 1-2 at last year’s XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, and were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, to Rom Akerson at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui last year.
“Brad is in incredibly form right now,” said Osborne. “When he upped the pace on the bike early on, I tried to go with him, and my bike tire was sliding out and jumping all over the place. He’s riding next level right now and setting the bar really high.”
Daubord, a world-class triathlete in his own right, had the second-best run of the day to pass Chane for the third spot. Allen came in fourth, and Chane, who incurred a 10-minute time penalty for riding on the road in a section designated for trail, still managed to come in fifth, just ahead of last year’s XTERRA Taiwan Champ Lewis Ryan.
“Super stoked to win,” said Weiss. “I think the combination of 70.3 training and my experience with XTERRA is really starting to pay off. I started working with a new bike coach, Mike Posthumus, and have a lot of credit to give to him and my run coach Ernie Gruhn. I feel like we’re heading in the right direction for a good showing both at the 70.3 World Champs as well as the XTERRA World Champs. That’s the goal, and if I could pull off that double that would be next level, although slightly ambitious. For now, I’m just really enjoying racing both formats of triathlon and I’m going to continue doing it for the next few months leading up to ITU Cross Tri Worlds in Spain.”
Weiss, in what seems to be a unanimous decision, had high praise for the Taiwan organizing team.
“The course was so well marked. The guys went above and beyond to make sure we were safe and knew where we were going. They’ve done an incredible job,” he said.
Osborne was quick to agree, adding “that’s a banger of a bike course, and big props to the local pro Svenson and his guys for carving out a real gem here in Kenting. It’s got its place among the best in the world, but humbly, I think the very best is in my backyard of Rotorua where next weekend’s XTERRA New Zealand showdown takes place.”
Daubord agreed, saying “the course is beautiful, and it’s one of the safest races in the world, because there are so many marshals everywhere.”
2019 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Elite Men’s Results
|1||Bradley Weiss, RSA||2:29:06||100|
|2||Sam Osborne, NZL||2:30:56||90|
|3||Brice Daubord, FRA||2:33:44||82|
|4||Ben Allen, AUS||2:38:17||75|
|5||Maxim Chane, FRA||2:44:15||69|
|6||Lewis Ryan, NZL||2:44:20||63|
|7||Doug Hall, GBR||2:45:23||58|
|8||Brodie Gardner, AUS||2:50:37||53|
|9||Taylor Charlton, AUS||2:52:59||49|
|10||Luke McKenzie, AUS||3:00:59||45|
|11||Yen-Ching Chiang, TWN||3:08:21||41|
|12||Yuan Keng Hsu, TWN||3:13:26||37|
|13||Joe Miller, PHI||3:18:19||34|
|14||Chung-Yi Lin, TWN||3:23:21||31|
In the women’s elite race last year’s XTERRA Taiwan Champ Nicole Walters was first out of the water with a 22:01 split, but the lead didn’t last. A combination of a nagging Achilles injury coupled with flu like symptoms set the tone for a tough day for Walters, who found herself simply happy to cross the line in one piece, albeit in a disappointing eighth position.
In addition to Walters there were five other women in the lead swim group, including Jacqui Allen, Samantha Kingsford, Lydia Hale, Fabiola Corona, and Slater. For the eventual champ Slater, that was the start of something big.
“That’s the first time that’s happened,” said Slater, on getting out of the swim so close to the front. “I’ve been working hard on my swim, and to be able to stay on the heels of the top girls felt awesome. Then I had a smooth transition and the day kept getting better from there.”
Slater’s triathlon coach, Jacqui Allen of B&J Coaching, also recognized her apprentices speedy swim as a harbinger of things to come.
“I knew from the moment Penny was up with me in the swim that she was going to have a great day,” said Allen.
In the early parts of the bike it was Slater, Allen, Kingsford, and Corona riding together but as soon as the course started to climb up the washed-out rocky riverbeds Allen started pulling away and Slater tagged along for the ride.
“I knew if I stayed with Jacqui I’d be in a good position, because she goes hard on the hills,” said Slater. “Sure enough the other girls dropped off and it was just us two riding together, and Jacqui was in the front for much of it. In the last 4K or so I got into a good rhythm and got a tiny lead.”
Slater posted the fastest women’s bike split of the day, 1:34:22 which was four seconds better than Allen, and took a tiny lead into T2.
“I had smooth T2, and got one shoe on before Jacqui, and decided to take off on the run,” said Slater. “I’m a wild one on the downhills so I just went for it.”
The race is a point-to-point, and the 12K trail run course is mostly downhill (150-meters up, 320-meters down) making it ideal for a fearless downhill runner like Slater.
“I knew as soon as she took off on the run, I probably wasn’t going to catch her, but I stayed strong and tried to keep her in my sights,” said Allen. “She ran really well, and I’m absolutely thrilled for her. She has done everything we’ve asked of her as coaches, and she’s such a great person to be around.”
For Slater, the win was validation that her career is on the right track.
“Amazing feeling, knowing yes, I do actually belong sitting at that press table as one of the contenders, but I did not think this would happen at this race. I knew I had a good summer of training, but I didn’t know it was this good. Jacqui and Benny have taught me everything and I’m just really grateful. This is the first time ever I’ve had money legs and it was amazing.”
In the race for third Carina Wasle, who had 15 podium finishes in 2018, worked her way up to and past Corona and Kingsford into the third spot by the bike-to-run transition and ran it home to start 2019 with a podium too.
“I’m really happy with this to start the season,” said Wasle. “Plus, it’s a cool course, and the people are super friendly and helpful. Everything was great.”
Kingsford skipped past Corona on the first uphill on the run to move into the fourth spot, and Corona, the reigning XTERRA Pan American Tour Champion ran home in fifth.
“I love this place, and am happy with fifth,” said Corona. “The field was strong, I mean they’ve all won a race here or there. It was tough course, but the weather was good, and it was an amazing experience. I feel blessed for the opportunity.”
Of note, Morgane Riou, who broke her collar bone in January, had a gritty performance despite limited training to finish in sixth.
Just like the elite men, the women were full of praise for the event.
“It’s amazing here, what a location,” said Slater. “And it has to be one of the best organized XTERRA races I’ve ever been to. Everything ran smooth, and it’s so fun to be close to town, to be able to go out and grab some bubble tea at the street market at night. I actually think that was my secret, the bubble tea was magic.”
2019 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Elite Women’s Results
|1||Penny Slater, AUS||3:03:12||100|
|2||Jacqui Allen, AUS||3:05:22||90|
|3||Carina Wasle, AUT||3:08:12||82|
|4||Samantha Kingsford, NZL||3:11:21||75|
|5||Fabiola Corona, MEX||3:12:18||69|
|6||Morgane Riou, FRA||3:18:33||63|
|7||Lydia Hale, NZL||3:20:54||58|
|8||Nicole Walters, GBR||3:24:49||53|
|9||Leela Hancox, AUS||3:31:02||49|