Riders, swimmers and runners have started to arrive for the annual Ford Hyundai Warrior Race. This is the Pacific’s only Half Iron distance, there is none else anywhere. Which is a great asset for Samoa as a Sporting tourist destination.
Athletes representing American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and the United States will line up on Saturday morning against our local athletes for the two distances, Warrior Half Iron distance and Beat the Heat.
The longer and premier race kicks off at 6.30am in the morning with a 2km swim, followed by a 90km bike around Aleipata and a 21km Half Marathon run to finish. It seems easy to write all three disciplines in a single sentence, but come Saturday the participants will find it anything but easy. The heat will be a predominant factor.
Key competitors in the race will be Samoa’s own Darren Young who is the defending champion in this race from last year. He will come up against Vince Sesto of Victoria, Australia who is promising to give this race a fair shot. The other competitor to watch out for is Japan’s Kantaro Oishi. He returns for his third race, having missed only one of the Warrior races since its inception in 2013.
There are three original triathletes from the first race in 2013, they are Oishi, Darren Young and our other local triathlete and Multiple Ironman racer, Daniel Afoa.
The race this year has been moved to Lalomanu. The reason is simply to avoid the hard and uneven road surfaces on the traditional Warrior bike course between Apia to Le Mafa Pass. Whilst the roads are perfectly good for cars and trucks, it is increasingly getting difficult for bike racing.
The move to Aleipata is a good one too. It will highlight the very best part of Upolu. It is scenic and the road surface is excellent. This comes with having much less traffic at that end of the island, in much the same way as the Savaii roads fare much better for the absence of too much traffic.
The shorter Beat the Heat race boasts a 1.5km swim, followed by a 50km cycle ride and a 10km run. Even though it is shorter, it is named as such because it starts much later, 90 minutes after the main event. The conditions faced will be the same for all athletes whether competing in the longer or shorter event.
Whilst the soloists will find it difficult, at least they have the mind-set going into this race. Each having mentally prepared to do all three disciplines one after the other. But the competing in a team may be different, and even more challenging particularly for riders and runners. The swim is the easiest part of triathlon racing. Then the hard graft on the bike and run.
Past winners of the event include some of Australasia’s best. Inaugural winner Graham O’Grady won the first race but bombed out the next year and did not finish. Sam Betten of Australia won that race and holds the course record. Darren Young won it last year, and will go in as favourite to keep his title.