Preview - Stellar line-up at Sungai Menyala on Sunday!
After a short break, this weekend the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series enters the second quarter with two points races in Peninsular Malaysia and in Central China (UT Xinxian 100 in Henan Province). The Sungai Menyala Forest Trail arguably attracts most attention giving its stellar line-up including both current Asia Trail Master champions. Manolito Divina (PHI) and Tahira Najmunisaa (MAS) will not have an easy walk in the forest on Sunday as the competition on paper is tough. 2015 ATM champion and new Grandmaster Arief Wismoyono is traveling to Port Dickson for the 50K race, and appears set to regain the lead from Gaspard Dessy in the current ATM points standings. Tahira will be facing the talented Sandi Menchi from Baguio in the Philippines, recent winner of the Cordillera Mountain UItra. The Sungai Menyala Forest Trail is pure trail running, but with little elevation gain on the 50k course it is a race suited for fast legs. Race director Razif Yahya, himself a very experienced international trail runner and technical organiser, sees a bright future for his latest event, which caters for runners of all levels.
It will be the third ATM race for both Manolito Divina and Arief Wismoyono this season. Both scored race wins: Manolito in the Rizal Mountain Run and Arief in Coast To Coast Night Trail Ultra. While the Filipino ace had an unfortunate DNF at Tahura Trail in the season's opener, the Bandung Explorer leader also scored a fourth place there. On Sunday he needs 350 points - equivalent to a 6th place - to overtake Gaspard Dessy in the ATM championship ranking. Strictly in theory, there is a third participant in the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail who can claim the top ranking spot: Malaysia's Yim Heng Fatt went very well in Thailand and Brunei and is 455 points behind Dessy at the moment in third place. That implies he needs a win and a DNF of Wismoyono, though.
Another Malaysian to watch out for is Steven Soonseng Ong - joint winner of the UT Unseen Koh Chang SuperTrail in Thailand last February and currently 9th in the ranking. In Thailand, Ong ran a tactically very clever race to come out on top. Can he do it also on a shorter and less technical course?
Tahira Najmunisaa is already lining up for her fourth ATM points race of the year. Unbeaten in 8 ATM races, she is the record holder as well in terms of ATM race wins. Particularly in Tahura Trail and UTKC, the Malaysian running icon was again blisteringly fresh and quick. Still young herself, she will be determined to extend her string of race victories even more against upcoming young talent Sandi Menchi. The Filipino actually beat Tahira on a climbing course in Sabah last year, but Sungai Menyala is different. Other top female runners at the start will be Gretchen Felipe, the Lintanga sisters, Cheryl Bihag and Jeri Chua.
As usual, you can follow the action live via our social media channels all weekend. The race itself starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.