The beautiful Musandam Peninsula, dubbed the ‘Norway of Arabia’ for its beautiful Khors (rocky inlets), small villages and impressive, mountain-hugging roads were all enjoyed by the participants of the inaugural edition XTERRA Oman off-road triathlon event that concluded in Khasab on the weekend.
Musandam governorate has been growing as a popular tourism destination and the event was organised to bring more focus on this beautiful peninsula and also underline its credentials as a top venue for hosting world-class events.
Maxim Chane from France and Marta Menditto from Italy won the inaugural event on a hot and sunny day at the Khasab Fort on Saturday.
The closing ceremony took place at the Khasab Fort in the presence of Mubarak Ali al Rahbi, president of Musandam Governor’s Office, and Nasser al Hosni, director-general of Musandam Municipality.
It’s the fifth career XTERRA World Tour win for Chane, and the third for Menditto.
In the men’s elite race, Chane, who is one of the fastest swimmers on the XTERRA global circuit, was surprised to see a fellow competitor put more than a minute on him during the swim.
"From the gun a really fast swimmer just took off, and I tried to follow but had to pace myself ahead of a day in the heat. Luckily, he was competing for a relay team,” he said.
Once on the bike, it was Chane’s turn to take off and he did, posting the fastest bike split of the day in 1:12:03 then blitzing the run to take the tape in 2:06:06, more than 14 minutes ahead of Tom Walker from the United Arab Emirates.
Cultural learning experience
“This was totally different from any race I've done before,” said Chane, about the first-ever XTERRA race in the Middle East.
“XTERRA is about exploring new cultures and experiences so this ticked every box. Every day here has been a cultural learning experience that I'll never forget.”
Gianfranco Cucco from Italy rounded out the top three in his first-race as an elite.
"The purpose built course here in Khasab was great, not too difficult for the local athletes but quite tricky when trying to push hard,” said Cucco.
“The sandy rocky ground was just ready to catch you out and ruin your day. Then running in the heat was really tough, but a proper Middle Eastern race experience for sure.”
In the women’s race, Menditto led from wire-to-wire, posting the fastest swim, bike, and run times to take the win in 2:39:18, more than eight minutes ahead of Ana Celia Creus Del Campo in second. Mia Anna Andersson came in third.
Perfect early season conditions
"It's not every day you get to be the first winner of the first event in a new region,” said Menditto. “In five years’ time when there are multiple events in the Middle East, it'll be great to be remembered as the first XTERRA Oman Champion.”
Menditto also welcomed the hot race conditions, saying it was a perfect early season event to prepare for the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race next month in Kenting.
“I wanted to push hard as preparation for the first XTERRA World Cup event in Taiwan, as the conditions will be similar so I focused on managing my nutrition and hydration while racing as hard as I could in the heat."
The race combined a 1.5km swim in the Sea of Oman with a 30km mountain bike and 10km trail run through Musandam’s spectacular desert-mountain terrain.
“The event proved to be a significant success for the Musandam Governorate and Muscat Municipality, as it highlighted Musandam and Oman as a premium destination in the Middle East for hosting world-class, globally-recognized sporting events,” said Mohammed bin Khalfan Al Obaidani, CEO, Triathlon Middle East.
The region remains largely “undiscovered” by international tourism, representing the ultimate escape into true Arabian wilderness and rewarding adventurous travelers with cultural charm, ancient history and a range of outdoor activities such as sundowner cruises, dolphin watching trips, and diving with whale sharks and sea turtles.
“We had a fantastic response from the athletes taking part – who were delighted with the stunning natural beauty of the Musandam Peninsula. Our team was also very proud to witness the warm welcome shown by the local Musandam community to all foreign athletes taking part,” added Al Obaidani.
XTERRA Oman was the second of 20 events in 14 countries on the 2023 XTERRA EMEA Tour, dishing out qualifying spots into both the XTERRA Triathlon and XTERRA Trail Run World Championship races, and US$23,000 in prize money - US$16,000 purse for the full-distance triathlon and US$7,000 for the half marathon.
(With inputs from www.xterraplanet.com)