Preview: Clash of titans at Mesastila Peaks Challenge!
The Indonesia SuperTrail in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series brings a fantastic cast to the Mesastila resort in Magelang, Central Java, this weekend. Not only the top of the Indonesian trail scene signs present, but also plenty of regional trail stars keen on battling it out for the championship, and the prestigious honour of winning or scoring a podium in this by all means very tough race. Not just the main 100K, in fact, but also the 65K B-race will be hotly contested by well-known runners.
Let's commence, of course, with the 100K that starts in the early hours of Saturday morning. Last year's champion and King of Indonesia (for winning Rinjani 100, MesaStila 5 Peaks and BTS Ultra 100 miles) Jan Nilsen will be back to defend his title after a season plagued by injury. Nilsen looked competitive at the end of July in the Mantra Summits Challenge, wherein he was overtaken by Fandhi Achmad only in the last flat section to the finish. But just how well his foot has healed remains a question, and the same Fandhi Achmad could again be his main foe this weekend.... only over double the distance as at Mantra. The Jakartian runner is making a move now on the Asia Trail Master Championship tour after winning two Candidate Races in six weeks. Three weeks ago, Fandhi Achmad also claimed the technical Bandung Ultra 100 win and races like Mesastila and BTS Ultra are definitely his cup of tea. While he is unlikely to still feature for the overall ATM Championship title this season, Fandhi Achmand can take points away from the others, such as his compatriot Arief Wismoyono. The 2015 Asia Trail Master champion - and winner of Mesastila Peaks Challenge that year - is currently in third place in the ATM standings and will be competing with Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho for the points lead in the absence of Steven Soonseng Ong. The Malaysian returns to action in Thailand soon at UT Chiang Rai, and may see both Wismoyono and Yuen Wan Ho overtake him as they finish their fifth points race of the year. It will be interesting to see how they fare this weekend. Can Wismoyono at last grab another big win against top opposition, and can Yuen Wan Ho finally get rid of his label as "the nearly man". The sympathetic Hong Konger has a subscription on podium places in the ATM tour but so far he has only scored one victory: HK 168 last season. Fr sure, Yuen Wan Ho will recognise another runner at the start line this weekend, because he finished second behind him in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail race last year. Jason Robinson is another top international runner to watch out for. While Mesastila has about six times the elevation gain of Merapoh, Robinson is no rookie in trail running and might as well benefit from the fact he is relatively unknown on the ATM circuit. The same applies for a Filipino runner, who is coming over from Manila to show something: WIlnar Iglesia. According to insiders, Iglesia is no underdog to Manolito Divina when it gets rough and tough. Moreover, at Penang Eco 100K this year, he proved he can run a fast pace, too. Iglesia finished second behind Ong last May. Iglesia and Robinson are the main dark horses for the race win this weekend. Other contenders for the podium in this kind of mountain ultra are as always Yim Heng Fatt, still second in the ATM Championship with already five race results in his pocket this season, in-form Hendra Siswanto, Muhammad Fauzi - third last year - , Pramonosidi Wijanarko, Alan Maulana, Aris Sopiando Muklis and Abdul Aziz.
A year ago Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid crowned herself as the Asia Trail Master champion here at Mesastila with a superb win in extreme conditions. This weekend that will certainly not yet happen, although the Malaysian can haul herself back to the top spot of the ranking in her fifth points race of the season. Interestingly enough, her main rivals to date are ALL present at Mesastila as well. Championship leader Lily Suryani will take part in her seventh points race of the season and will be looking to improve on her 4th place of Tahura Trail and Merapoh Trail. Second-placed Ruth Theresia started her remarkable performance progress at this event last year, and by all means she should be able to stay closer to Tahira on this occasion. Could an upset be in the making? In an ultra everything is possible. Ruth looked tremendous in February, but in races over summer some fatigue seemed to have slipped in. The Bandung Explorer has taken it easier since last month, and she may benefit from that now. Another important female runner to watch is Australia's Kim Matthews. The winner of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon two weeks ago will be doing the 65K this weekend to preserve energy for the final big races this year. If she wins that, it could prove to be a smart move because also in the female 100K there is a 'guest runner' who in the very least can challenge for the podium. Sydney-based Indonesian Valin Helam may be a few years older than her contenders, but she has the wherewithal to deliver a lesson to the youngsters on a good day. The same applies, albeit to a slightly lesser extent perhaps, to Shindy Patricia. The Malang runner is always a podium candidate and can do a good job for her own ATM ranking this weekend.
The 65K for men carries a lot of weight as well. The three top favourites are all serious ATM protagonists as well: Pablo Diago Gonzales is a double 70K race winner this year, and Yogyakarta's Dzaki Wardana won the 100K Ijen Trail last May. Moreover, Wardana was second behind Jan Nilsen on the 100K at Mesastila last season. Both of them will need to watch out for up-and-comer Mohammad Affindi from Malaysia, a teammate of Tahira at Malatra. Affindi delivered quite a statement last August to compete with Sefli Ahar at the Merapoh 100 in only his first 100K trail ultra! Again, Merapoh and Mesastila are two different animals, but Affindi himself claims he is even stronger at higher elevation trails!
As usual you can follow the action live on facebook and instagram this weekend.