Gardner touched the tape at the American Memorial Park with the clock reading at two hours, 34 minutes, and 32 seconds to finish first overall. The Surrey native surpassed the time of 2008 winner Andrew Noble (2:46:51) of Australia. Gardner also broke his own mark (2:37:04) when he first joined XTERRA Saipan in 2007. Gardner was seventh in the 1-kilometer swim leg with his time of 20:20, first in the 30-km bike portion (1:18:14) and second in the 10-km run part (54:17).

“It was very hot, but I had a fantastic race. The course was dry, so I had less difficulty doing the bike and run legs,” Garner said. The U.K. triathlete, who also won Guam XTERRA a few weeks ago, defeated eight other pros in the men's division, including inaugural XTERRA Saipan winner Mike Vine of Canada and Noble of Australia. Vine finished second with his total time of 2:37:18, while Noble, who arrived on Saipan a day before the race, settled for fourth after clocking in at 2:46:37. “I did not have time to practice and acclimatize, as I had to attend to my wife, who just gave birth to our first child, a few weeks ago,” Noble said.

XTERRA Saipan first-timer Sasha Wingerfeld of Germany was third, submitting 2:43:26, while regular competitor Takahiro Ogasawara placed fifth with his time of 2:48:15. The six other pros who joined Saturday's races were the U.K.'s Jim McConnel (2:52:34), Austria's Uli Katzer (2:59:01), Japan's Taro Shirato (3:14:28), and New Jersey-based Filipino triathlete Arland Macasieb (3:37:30).

Bucher was the seventh pro to break the under-three-minute mark after crossing the finish line in 2:56:55, which shattered her 2008 time of 3:12:46. It was a great come-from-behind win for Bucher, who was 11th in the swim leg (20:36) and was still behind Julie Dibens by over a minute after the bike portion. “As always, I did not do well in the swim leg, but I tried to return on track in the bike portion. I knew I could get close to Julie in the bike leg and then I 'flied' in the run part,” Bucher said. After falling behind Dibens by more than two minutes in the swim part, Bucher finished by about a minute ahead of the U.K. triathlete in the bike portion.  Bucher timed in at 1:35:58 against Diben's 1:37:35.

In the final six kilometers of the run leg, Bucher caught up with Dibens, giving the Swiss triathlete her fifth straight XTERRA Saipan women's title. “Except for minor scratches in the trail, it was a smoother race compared to last year when the course was damp and slippery. It was pretty hot, but I am used to the weather, as I have been here a couple of times. Overall, it was a good race,” Bucher said. Not for Dibens, who had a bike crash and had to finish half of the bike portion and the entire run leg in pain. After Dibens crossed the finish line at the 3:05:24 mark, medical volunteers checked on the scratches (right side of the ribs) she sustained from the fall. Doctors suspected she might have broken ribs. Saipan's Mieko Carey suffered the same fate on the left side of her ribs, but she still finished the race and placed fourth in the women's division with a time of 3:44:56. Carey said she crashed somewhere in Mt. Tapochao and she fell against sharp rocks, causing long scratches, but shallow cuts on her right ribs. Shonny Vanlandingham of Colorado bumped off Carey in the Top 3 after timing in at 3:06:46.

By Roselyn Monroyo, Saipan Tribune


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