Beach Bunch: Sefli Ahar vs Mohamed Affindi, Part II
The 3rd edition of the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge in Brunei this weekend brings us a very interesting cast for both the 100k and 50k points races in the Asia Trail Master championship. The spotlights shine firmly on local hero Sefli Ahar, twice winner of the BBTC already, who is making his first appearance of the season. Sefli is up against none other than Malaysia's Mohamed Affindi, the young gun from Team Malatra who is determined to put Sefli Ahar under pressure. In the women's Ruth Theresia will defend her BBTC title as well, and if successful can become the new points leader in the championship.
Sefli Ahar and Mohamed Affindi know each other very well from The Magnificent Merapoh Trail last summer. In that 100k race Sefli had to tolerate the company of rising star Affindi for a long part of the race. At the finish, the difference between the two was also not that overwhelming. Now with more trail experience in the bag, Affindi could get even closer to Ahar this Sunday. The Bruneian star is a local police officer and is very limited in his travel opportunities. Just like last season, Sefli needs to pick his races carefully and see where the ship sails throughout the year. If he can reach five race finishes by mid December, for sure he will again be a candidate for the ATM championship title. But first is the title defence in his home country. Other podium candidates in the men's 100k race this weekends are Alex Chung, also from Brunei, and Filippino Wilnar Iglesia. After coming fourth and fifth in Akyathlon and Cordillera Mountain Ultra, Iglesia is gunning for his third A-race finish of the season and therefore is in with a shot to take over the championship points lead from Dean Perez. Wilnar Iglesia needs to finish higher than 9th to achieve that. Given his speed in the two previous races that should be feasible, although a lot can happen on 100k.
Another Bruneian, Amirul Tuah, will be competing mainly with himself on Sunday. Tuah is just 1 race finish short of completing his Grandmaster Quest! If he succeeds in the 100k, he will be the second Bruneian after Ali Ajis Rasil to obtain the 1-star Grandmaster.
Also in the women's race we have someone keen to become Grandmaster this weekend. In the footsteps of her sister Adelinah, Jassica Lintanga is not only a favourite for the podium - maybe even the victory - but also a well-deserved Grandmaster if she reaches the finish of the 100k. Indeed, if Jassica has a good day, she will give Indonesia's Ruth Theresia a run for her money. Theresia aims to repeat last year's victory and take over the championship points lead from Majo Liao in her 3rd ATM race of the season. Twelve months ago, Theresia delivered one of her best performances ever on trail during the Beach Bunch. The question is can she do it again? This Sunday, another Indonesian functions as the dark horse for the top honours. Surabaya's Sri Wahyuni has proven to be both fast and resilient over the past half a year with podium places in three ATM points races in Indonesia. Still a relative newbie to trail, Wahyuni could grow into this race if Theresia and Lintanga were not to have their best day.
There is also a 50K in Brunei and that one is also regarded as an A-race for the ATM points championship. That means the winner only scores 50 points less than the winner of the 100K, yet those 50 may turn out to be crucial at the end of the season. Last year, Tahira Najmunisaa opted for the 50k here, and lost the points championship to KIm Matthews by 35 points...
A major protagonist on the 50K is Pablo Diago Gonzales. The Singapore-based Spaniard is returning from an unfortunate DNF at the 9 Dragons Ultra due to a knee injury, and will be keen to open his points account for 2018. In the women's, Singapore's Jeri Chua from the Red Dot Running Company could be the one to follow if you hoped to win the race.