The Trail Blazer race in Singapore had not stolen its name: the shortest and fastest points race in the Asia Trail Master Championship series this season produced a great direct battle between championship leader Alessandro Sherpa and Spanish challenger Salva Rambla. While many local runners toed the starting line as well, nobody was able to keep up with the leading duo over the 26 km distance, partially on slippery trails. Sherpa and Rambla know each other quite well after they jointly ran to victory in the V Trail in Laos a month ago, but in Singapore no gifts were handed out. After a great dual, Salva Rambla had the quickest dash to the finish line and won the race, keeping his Asia Trail Master Championship ambitions very much alive. Sherpa was second some 30 seconds later and nevertheless happy as he still increased his total ATM points tally by another 25 points.
The final two weeks of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series but still four points races to go. On Sunday, the new COMPRESSPORT Trail Blazer in Singapore and the traditional CM50 Ultra in Philippines will already shed a big light on who the ultimate championship challengers are this year, and -who knows- maybe it will all be decided already! Both points leaders in the championship will be running, too, albeit with different motivations.
Ruth Theresia has accumulated such an advantage over the other women by winning three back-to-back races in Indonesia in September and October, only a mathematical possibility remained for some other race winners of this season to still overtake her on points. But time has run out. Carole Fuchs will be doing Izu Trail Journey on 9 December, but that won’t be enough to catch Theresia. Corinne Williams has decided to end her season after Borneo TMBT Ultra due to other life commitments. Singapore’s Evelyn Lek - who burst onto the scene by winning both Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100 and Vietnam Mountain Marathon 100 - will compete in her home race this Sunday, but even if she wins it and follows up with Izu and HK 168, she cannot reach the 2650 total points tally set by Ruth Theresia. The leading lady of the renowned Bandung Explorer Team can therefore rest on her laurels and enjoy her second participation in CM50 Ultra supporting her friends. Ironically, exactly one year ago, Ruth lost her chance to become ATM champion in this same race after a great battle with Kim Matthews. While Ruth has emphasised not to look for her at the front of this weekend’s race, another finish would mean her 16th Grandmaster race finish! At the end of 2018, she is the only runner who is a 3-Star Grandmaster!
Who can we expect to compete for the race victory in Clark? Plenty of good local athletes on the start list, such as Aggy Sabanal, Melanie Hingpit, Ann Pulanco and Khaterina Visperas. Sabanal, who is also scheduled to run in Japan in 2 weeks, will be eyeing the first runner-up position in the ATM Championship behind Theresia. In addition, there is the in-form Malaysian Jassica Lintanga. The Sabahan runner will aim to score another podium - and who knows a first ever ATM points race win - and in so doing cement a top five ranking in the 2018 ATM Championship.
The men’s race in Clark will see Manolito Divina in action for the second time this season after his comeback on the ATM tour in Plataran X Trail Bali. He will be competing against tough guys like Spaniard Ander Iza Rekakoetxea, and other Filipino top runners such as Jared Teves, Joeffrey Camara, Ray Cabanig, Arnold Lozano, Aleksis Capili, Kyle Antolin and Felmer Hiponia. In the context of the ATM Championship, eyes will be cast on Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi first and foremost. He is ranked second behind Sherpa, and still has potential to challenge leader Alessandro Sherpa on points by improving on his ‘worst’ results of the season. Mizukoshi is currently 210 points behind, but a win in CM50 could reduce that gap to 110. And in 2 weeks there is his home race, Izu Trail Journey, where last year he ran very well, too. More runners to watch out for in Philippines are Sungsik Joh and Kristian Joergensen, the Manila-based Dane, who ran a fantastic Borneo TMBT early September. A Joergensen in that kind of form will be a serious contender for the race victory in Clark as well.
While Mizukoshi will be trying to catch up with Sherpa, the Italian himself will do his utmost to further increase the gap in the new Trail Blazer race in Singapore. Previously Sherpa had announced an end to his season to allow his injuries to heal properly, but he clearly feels his points margin is not wide enough to sit back and relax. Attack is always the best defence, as they say in sports. The name of the Singapore race is not a coincidence: the 25 km will be very fast for a trail race, of course aided by the fact that the nation state does not have any serious elevation gain to speak of. Sherpa has a great running speed, but how much will his knee and ankle hamper him? In addition, Spain’s Salva Rambla will be giving him a run for his money, too. Rambla himself is not entirely out of the Championship neither, especially should he win this Sundays’s Trail Blazer. Furthermore, in an atypical and non-technical trail race like this one we can expect several road runners to appear who may upset the normal order of things. In any case, while Ruth Theresia can prepare for a big celebration party on Sunday, Sherpa is unlikely to find himself in that situation already.