Malaysian powerhouse Mohamad Affindi grabbed his maiden win on the Asia Trail Master tour with a masterful run at Tahura Trail in Bandung, Indonesia, last Saturday. Taking the bull by the horns from the get-go, Affindi still had enough dash left in the tank to fend off the late charge by the surprisingly quick Pablo Diago Gonzales. Tomohiro Mizukoshi was a great third, while his Japanese compatriot Asuka Nakajima controlled the women’s 42k trail race and made a perfect ATM debut.
The 7th edition of Tahura Trail was one for the record books with over 2700 people registered for the four races that took place during the weekend. 480 of them appeared on the start list of the 42k trail marathon, which for the third year in succession was the opener of the Asia Trail Master Championship season. As per tradition, the current ATM champions were present at the Tahura Park. However, Alessandro Sherpa (recovering from a surgical procedure two weeks ago) and Ruth Theresia (in training for her first goal, the 9 Dragons Ultra) did not compete in the main event. Bandung in January is often hit by heavy rain showers, but for the first time in three years, the race was dry from start to finish.
Whenever a new season kicks off, we look forward to seeing new names appear on the boards, but this time in the men’s it was the established guard who controlled proceedings. Mohamad Affindi had been chasing a race win in ATM for one-and-a-half years, scoring multiple second places in the process, and finally got it right in Bandung. The 34-year-old Malaysian typically started fast and went solo after local youngster Yusuf Aprian, Ari Masrudi and Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi were overheating. Seasoned long distance trail runner Mizukoshi was able to maintain a high pace, though, and didn’t allow Affindi to lose focus. Aprian lost a bit more terrain, yet would finish eventually as fourth and that is a visual improvement from last season, when he got eighth. Aprian, only in his mid-twenties, was the top Indonesian runner on the weekend and increasingly looks like the man who could challenge Arief Wismoyono - unable to run in Tahura due to work obligations - for the number one spot in his country. On the other hand, Masrudi didn’t have the best of runs as he slipped from second (2017), fifth (2018) to sixth this year. He was the one who resisted most to Affindi’s early attack. Another local trail veteran, Rudi Iskandar, managed to pass Masrudi at the end to score fifth place. Christovik Simatupang and Fandhi Achmad were the next finishers.
And where was Pablo Diago Gonzales all that time? At some point, the Singapore-based Spaniard was down in tenth place! However, he is not a three-time race winner and two-time top five ATM championship finisher for nothing. Diago Gonzales left the early battles to the others, and gradually began to up his pace in the second half of the race. One by one he collected and overtook, and in the final five kilometre he even passed Tomohiro Mizukoshi going into second place. Eventually, he even approached Affindi, which made the latter so nervous he shifted back up a gear and powered over the final hill to the finish line in 4:27. The top trio arrived relatively close together they all got into the live video broadcast that you can see below. By all means an excellent start of the season for all three protagonists.
The women’s race was perhaps less spectacular as Asuka Nakajima’s pace was just a little too high for Surabaya’s Sri Wahyuni, who collected yet another podium place in an ATM points race. Wahyuni will take comfort in Affindi’s victory, as it also took him a long time before finally taking the podium’s top step. Nakajima is based in Jakarta, runs a 3:14 road marathon, and will be someone to be reckoned with in the next months, as she is poised to compete in several ATM points races, including even the super tough Indonesia SuperTrail, Mantra Summits Challenge in Malang in July.