Sunday, December 6, 2009

HOM Century Cycle 2009 / Shelby & Suka

I awoke bright and early Saturday morning ~ at 4:15am in order to prepare for HOM's race day check in. As I let Strider out to do his business, I looked up at the sky to see some clouds but mostly clear weather. It was a big relief as it had been raining most of the week. We prayed for sunshine and no rain...and God heard us! I arrived at PIC just before 5am and gathered all the boxes stacked up onto the luggage cart and rolled it down near the Employee lot. Polly greeted me there with her smiley, kind face and soon, we started checking the racers in. We wanted to see if they had their numbers on correctly on the back of their shirts and the front of their helmets. We also had two racers sign up that morning. The total list was 117 people but some didn't show so I believe 110 started the race at 6:15am.
Paul Chetwynd is no stranger to Saipan. He had raced for a few years in the Xterra Saipan Championship and runs his own mountain bike tours in Nagano, Japan. This year, we were lucky to have him come out, race and write an article for Outdoor Japan.
Last year, we had two Korean pro cyclists. This year, we had 15 competitors from Korea, thanks to our PIC Korea office and their efforts in organizing all the media and participants.
The 3rd Annual Hell of the Marianas is deemed the "toughest bike race in Micronesia", which is probably true as it lends itself to the vast majority of hills on island. Coupled with the heat and humidity, 100km is a real challenge!
The course starts at PIC and heads north to the Mobil Chalan Piao intersection where they cyclists turnaround and return past PIC through the chute. They then head north to Koblerville and to the airport near Herman's Bakery. The real hill begins when they turn onto Isa Drive and climb up the Papago Hill, just south of our house. After some "woop dee doops", cyclists have to go down to the Lao Lao Bay Golf Course and climb up that Kagman hill. Mountain bikers and those with the three chain rings on road bikes have a distinct advantage over the regular road bikes. After Kagman, they continue on Isa Drive until the Tun Goru turnoff (5.6 mile) roundtrip ride to the entrance of Kingfisher and back. The Kingfisher hill is probably the toughest on the course and that's what makes the 2nd leg of the race the most difficult. After tackling that, racers speed down Capitol Hill (going 40-65 mph) and head north once they hit the Chalan Pale Arnold Road to Radar. The Radar Hill is a long climb but there are small breaks in between where the road becomes more level. After going up and down Radar (the 50km mark), cyclists head to Suicide Cliff, Bird Island and the Grotto.
Suicide Cliff is another long, windy climb but by now, the riders are used to the pain.
I caught Mieko san charging up the hill just past the hairpin turn up to the triangle.
About 10 minutes back, Russ was smiling as he trailed Tyce.
The two Russian pros made the race seem easy. They were talking to each other and to the Russian journalist who flanked them in the meda car while the rest of the pack was at least 5 minutes behind at this point where they just finished their last hill at the Grotto.
Amber Halliday, the new Aussie pro had the Korean pro drafting on her tail the entire time I saw them. She was third, after the Russians and proved that a Beijing Olympic rower can be an incredible pro cyclist in just one year!
The Northern part of the island is still the best place to ride, with fewer cars and lots of road/trails.

I caught Russ again as he emerged from the Grotto and was ready to go up his last hill...
At Banzai, Russ looked strong and was racing in good time.
At Banzai, teams were waiting for their partners to show up for the last leg of the race. Josh & Melody, Rex & Sean and Jake & Jackie all tackled 50km each! Strong work!
A view of Suicide Cliff from Banzai Cliff. Again, the weather was perfect for race day!
At the awards, Angie and Norma won in their two person women's team division.
The 36-45 yr Men's road bike division was the most competitive with 16 cyclists. Lewie Tenorio won first place which was the new carbon-fiber Specialized bike frame!
Russ was happy to show it off as it weighed about 5 lbs.
The HOM race was another successful sports event on island. Yea, to PIC, the volunteers, media and participants!! Thank you!
This afternoon, we visited the Kosack's to have Suka meet Shelby. Here's their gorgeous view of Managaha from their patio.

We paid our respects to Coco who passed away at age 19 last month. She was a very loved dog.
Suka chased Shelby around the yard and they played a lot.
Shelby showed him her back fighting position, too. It's nice to see dogs make friends.

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