Bhutan: Mo Foustok cruises, Marcia Zhou battles to victory in The Last Secret
Race 7 in the 2015 Asia Trail Master series witnessed a thrilling battle for victory against the might backdrop of Bhutan's Himalaya mountains. Hong Kong-based American Marcia Zhou's dash on the sixth and final stage was just sufficient to claim the win at the expense of France's Isabelle Dufour, who had been leading the standings since day 3. Saudi Arabia's Mo Foustok, who also won Cambodia's Ancient Khmer Trail last year, was the best in the men's race.
Trail running in Bhutan remains very special as the natural surroundings are not only breathtaking but also still unspoilt. However, the high altitudes - some stages go well above 3000m - are to be reckoned with and some acclimatisation before the race begins is highly useful. It was the 3rd edition of the Last Secret stage race, 200 km in 6 stages, and with three different female leaders and stage winners, including a stunning finale, certainly had a lot of spice this year.
Marcia Zhou actually began the race well with a win on the opening day, but then dropped back behind Canada's Chloe Onofrychuk and Isabelle Dufour of France mid-week. Dufour then lost her advantage during the longest and toughest 53.5km stage 5, which set the scene for a showdown with lightweight Zhou in particular on the last day. The American ran for her life and finished the stage second overall, only marginally behind Australia's Scott Coey! Eventually, she preceeds Dufour in the final classification by 2'17" only. Onofrychuk completed the podium.
Scott Coey may have won the last stage in the men's race, but the race was almost a one-man-show by Mo Foustok, who claimed all other stages. The podium battle was quite intense here as well, though, and Great Britain's William McMillan and Canada's Chris Hum were the ones flanking Foustok at the end.