Exclusive Interview with Dave Spence on Xterra Malaysia
Not many people know enough of Langkawi, Malaysia’s majestic and legendary islands which will host the only off-road Triathlon in Malaysia, the Xterra Malaysia next month.
We caught up with Race Director, Dave Spence to give us the insight and the low-down on the battle ground of the Xterra Asia Pacific Tour Championship Crown.
TA: Who are the Pro triathletes gracing Xterra Malaysia?
Dave: Once again we are blessed with a really stacked Pro field of 16 racers from 14 different countries including Saiful Khohar and Jackie Ho in the Asian Elite category and home favourites, Barry Lee and Shahrom Abdullah.
Once competitors, now close members of the Xterra “Family” – Bradley Weiss (South Africa), Ben Allen (Australia), Jacqui Slack (England) & Carina Wasle (Austria) will return to support our events as they tirelessly have over the past few years.
Young Barry Lee participated in his inaugural professional race in the Philippines earlier this year. He and his young compatriots are living proof that it is very cool to be playing in the great outdoors, getting dirty, dusty and picking up the odd scratch and bruise.
TA: Who will feature the fiercest of competitions?
Dave: When the start gun goes off you can be sure that the racing will be fierce from everyone. It’s hard to single anyone out as they know and, anything can happen in off-road racing.
Combine this with the fact that this race carries double points and Langkawi is set for a great race as they battle it out for the Asia Pacific Tour Championship Crowns.
TA: Can you describe the swim for those who are not familiar with Langkawi island?
Dave: Langkawi’s waters are deliciously warm so you can most definitely leave your wetsuits at home for competitors from colder climates. Pantai Kok, one of Langkawi’s best public beaches has very calm waters with little or no current.
Take the swim as a nice warm up for the other two disciplines as there is still plenty of race ahead of you to help you recover any lost time.
TA: What can participants expect from the bike trails?
Dave: They can expect a bit of everything with some hills and descents unless you’re doing the Sprint where we have bypassed these for you.
There’s some rocky single-track, gravel fire road, flowing forest trails and village paths that should give every rider something they like.
You’ll also get some dry and wet bits, coupled with river crossings, rubber plantation, mangrove orchards and lots of protected secondary forest.
The course is set with the Mat Chinchang range as a backdrop as you traverse its slopes while riding up and down the valley floor between Langkawi’s second highest summit and Bukit Sarawak.
Along the way, racers need to be prepared to give way to cattle and water buffalo that you may find meandering.
TA: We can imagine running in Langkawi must be postcard-picture-perfect. How do you describe the trail run?
Dave: The run will be sandy and soft, from start to finish with thanks to the majestic Pantai Kok which brings great ocean views and sea breeze.
Some of Langkawi’s 100+ islands and the amazing backdrop of Mat Chinchang stands at 708 metres towering above the white soft sands of the beach. After traversing a river, you’ll disappear under the dense forest canopy and start climbing up to the famous and iconic Telaga Tujuh (aka 7 Wells Waterfall).
Championship course racers get to climb a further summit and descend a super flowy ridge line. Some dense foliage will protect you from the sun, and provide wide variety of flora and fauna on the forest floor. After popping out of the trail behind the cable car, you’ll traverse the riverbanks back to the beach for one final view of beach and Perdana Quay Bay before crossing the finish line.
TA: What’s your favourite part of the course: Swim, bike or run?
Dave: I genuinely don’t have a favourite but love all for very different reasons. My current favourite bit is this amazing vine in the new flowing forest section on the bike course that I stumbled upon while exploring back in January. See the picture below.
TA: What advise do you have for beginners who are taking part in Xterra for the first time?
Dave: Three words really – relax & have fun.
Relax and have fun in the swim and make sure you take a quick peak at least from the furthest buoy from shore to see the peaks of Machinchang, as it’s really something when seen from the sea. On the bike course, don’t worry about pushing up or down. The Pro’s do too and know it’s always best to live to fight another day. Finally relax and have fun on the scenic run.
Xterra isn’t about being intense and too serious. My experience is if you race to relax and have fun, by default you worry less and you Live More!
TA: We don’t get enough off-road triathlons in Malaysia. Will Xterra help to build up the grassroot level for off-road triathlons?
Dave: You’ve hit a nail on the head, and yes, XTERRA Malaysia and I personally would love to build this up at a grassroots level. Live More is trying to organise more school multi-sport series and Cross-country runs.
In the longer term, I would love us to help create a full blown off-road series and a National Championships for Malaysia’s off-road events like the Aussie’s have and like what exists in the US and Europe.
However, like all good things this will take time and State as well as Commercial sponsors. So for now, I am really happy with where we are now heading in terms of getting the regional recognition of being an awesome venue for an off-road race.
Xterra is also viewed as an exciting niche segment in the current triathlon scene and as being a little weird and quirky at the moment.
In time, those that like to lead a healthy lifestyle in the great outdoors will see off-road races in the same way I believe.
If you’re into getting more ‘down to earth’ and into nature with triathlons, we’ll see you at Xterra Malaysia pretty soon. For more info, follow Xterra Malaysia on Facebook.
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