CM 50 - Hattrick for new Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina!
Manolito Divina is the new 2016 Asia Trail Master champion. The 36-year-old Filipino running star made it a hattrick of wins in the 50 miles race of theClark-Miyamit Falls Ultra event and as such overtook Jan Nilsen in the points standings. Although there are two more races on the ATM calendar in December, nobody can still match the 1650 points total by Divina. It was a classic battle in Clark last weekend between many of this year's protagonists in the Asia Trail Master series, also including the 2015 champion from Indonesia Arief Wismoyono, who proved his title was no fluke by fighting hard and finishing second in his first ever appearance in the Philippines. Jan Nilsen had an off-day and could not do better than fourth place. The 50-year-old Thailand-based Norwegian could not hide his disappointment at first, yet quickly realised that what he has achieved this season can only be described by one term: outstanding!
CM 50 was once again characteristed by a jolly atmosphere throughout the event weekend. The start of the 50 miles and 60km races was held at 1 a.m., with a relatively mild temperature of 24 degrees that nevertheless proved hard to cope with for some of the faster runners. China's Xu Xiutao had flown into the Philippines with a mission to win and keep his own championship ambitions alive, but already after 26 km he threw in the towel. The humidity and the temperature difference between Clark and his native Beijing, where it has been seriously freezing recently, made the 22-year-old's legs feel like lead. However, also ATM points leader Jan Nilsen found himself struggling already at that early point of the race. Initially ahead together with Manolito Divina, Arief Wismoyono and Kristian Joergensen, Nilsen took a wrong trail and lost contact with the frontrunners. On the way up to the Miyamit Falls and the highest peak, he would still get close to Wismoyono, James Tellias and the surprisingly strong Louie Ganayan, but by then his main rival Divina was already out of sight.
As Divina increased the gap, taking full advantage of his familiarity with the course, a crisp Wismoyono and persevering Tellias were the strongest of the rest. Joergensen had already dropped back with stomach issues and Jan Nilsen gradually also lost more terrain. In the end, Manolito Divina finished comfortably in 10:21:52, having ample time to celebrate his third successive victory in this race and the Asia Trail Master championship. About an hour later, Wismoyono and Tellias arrived together, after the Indonesian had gone off course in the latter stages and was joined again by the local runner, who also finished third last year.
The respect runners have for Jan Nilsen was widely illustrated afterwards. Dominator of all big Indonesian volcano races, amongst other races outside ATM, what the 50-year-old has shown this year is highly remarkable. Pushing the youngsters to the best of their game, and still beating them on a regular basis as well. Visibly tired, Nilsen did admit it might be time for a short resting period. Divina was ecstatic himself: father of four young children and daytime worker in a warehouse, his ATM championship ambitions were severely under threat only a month ago when he injured his ankle during UT Mapawa. Fortunately for him, it healed just in time for CM 50, although Divina did suffer quite a bit of pain during the race.
Last year's Asia Trail Master champion Arief Wismoyono thus finished second behind the man who is taking over his title. The Bandung Explorer team ace has had a less consistent season than 2015, and was therefore visibly delighted to end the year on a high note in the Philippines. Wismoyono will certainly again be a strong contender in the ATM series next year, having already pencilled in a list of races including the Malaysia Eco 100 in Penang, the important Malaysia SuperTrail that Divina won this year.
In the women's race all attention went to Majo Liao, twice winner of this race, and the number 2 in the Asia Trail Master championship. A surprise to some, yet not to others, Sandi Menchi turned out victorious instead. From the get-go, Menchi was putting Liao under pressure and was able to open up a small gap on the long climb. Previously a short distance runner, Menchi has now arrived on the long distance stage and it looks like she can become a significant contender in ATM races in 2017. Majo Liao was nevertheless happy with her second place in both the race and the ATM championship. Third place went to Hong Kong runner Cherry Chung.