The black sand beaches of the Albay Riviera – honest that is what it is called – welcomed about 300 racers and over 1,000 spectators last weekend with some neat shore chop. Not quite Maui, but it definitely had some local competitors concerned.
South Africa’s Bradley Weiss was coming off a win at Buffelspoort in South Africa, Ben Allen spent the winter in Australia and looked great and Mauricio Mendez is 19 and always ready. For the women, World Champion Flora Duffy had also started her training in South Africa and Jacqui Slack was with Ben down under.
The question mark was Renata Bucher, last year’s winner in the Philippines, who had suffered a bad ankle sprain and had considered not racing at all. Dimity-Lee Duke was looking quite slim and had been working on her biking skills, Mieko Carey lives in the tropics and was ready to race. Daz Parker was here after working hard with Johnny Depp (actually trying to kill him in the film ‘Out Of The Woods’).
And so things went in the big race. Ben and Mauricio were first out of the water with Flora right with them. Brad was not far behind and quickly took control out on the bike turning in the fastest time of the day a bit over 2mins faster than Allen.
Mendez is fast improving and came into T2 about 30secs behind Ben. His running is no longer a surprise after coming from 13th out of T2 to fifth at the finish on Maui and he dispatched the Aussie and set off after the Springbok. Mo put in a 40 minute 9K and gained almost two minutes, but was still a minute behind Weiss at the finish.
The run is reminiscent of Maui in that the first half is all uphill and the second half all downhill. The difference being Maui’s sand is on a beach and Albay’s is on the way up Mayon volcano.
Flora was first woman out of the water and kept the lead with the fastest bike and fastest run. Indeed our world champ was 5th overall of the individuals bringing to mind Lesley Paterson’s phenomenal 4th here a few years ago.
Jacqui was in great shape and similar to Flora had the second best swim, second fastest bike and third fastest run for the women and a very solid second step on the podium. Poor Mieko Carey was in third coming off the bike but was hurting on the run and Aussie Dimity-Lee Duke passed her for her first podium in an Xterra. She was simply bubbling with joy.
So the expected happened. A few nice surprises to start the year were Dimity looking very strong and young Aussie pro Brodie Gardner with an impressive fourth place. Aya Stevens was back after an injury kept her out in 2014 and while not super-fast, did finish and finish healthy.