Hell of the Marianas
This Race was on Fire! It’s Saturday, 6 a.m., and I am starting a 100-kilometer road race around the island of Saipan. Hard to believe just seven days earlier I was in bed with the infamous Swine Flu. The similarity between the two is the fact you must drink excessive amounts of fluids to survive.
The race’s name, Hell of the Marianas, conjures up images of fire and heat, and there was plenty of both on this day, plus some brutal hills thrown in to make a challenging cycle road race dubbed the “Toughest Race in Micronesia.”
It was my first road race in 10 years, so I was a bit apprehensive as the pack of 108 racers started the race. The field included a couple of Russian professionals in the middle of a pre-season training camp, a well-equipped team of Koreans and a bunch of weekend warriors, some coming from as far as Australia.
Within five kilometers, Russian Eugeniy Smarchkov attacked and went off alone. His move was a classic road move and, the Koreans, realizing they were the only team capable of doing anything about it, soon began to chase.
For the next 20 kilometers we cruised along nicely until we hit the hills. Suddenly, Alexandre Bagenov upped the pace and took off after his teammate. A couple of Koreans managed to go with him, and the rest of us were left for dead on the mountain. I managed to get myself into a nice group of six riders.
There are a few spots on this course were the race comes back at you so you can see how you are doing, and I could tell we were inching our way back near the top 10. Many riders, including myself, were having serious cramping problems; I skipped a couple of water stations trying to save time, but it was my downfall. Web: www.hom.picsaipan.com
- Paul Chetwynd