Sandes sets HK 100 record, despite threat from Nepalis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2012, 12:00am

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He is the only man in the world to have won all four Desert Races, each a gruelling 250 kilometres. Yesterday, Ryan Sandes added Hong Kong to the growing list of countries he has conquered after finishing the Vibram Hong Kong 100 (kilometres) in a record-breaking time.

South African Sandes held off a stiff challenge from Nepali duo Aite Tamang and Bed Bahadur to complete the arduous course from Sai Kung to Tai Mo Shan in nine hours and 54 minutes.

'This is my first race since September last year and although it has been a few months, I felt really good,' Sandes said. 'The last climb was really tough and I was trying to finish as fast as I could. My strategy is always to go all out for it and to try and do my best. Happily it worked here.'

Well aware of the danger the Nepali duo presented, Sandes turned on the gas despite the tough conditions, with the course climbing to an elevation of 4,500 metres. The winner of the Gobi March and the Sahara in 2008, as well as the Atacama Crossing in Chile and the Antarctic Race in 2010, finished 23 minutes in front of Tamang, whose time was 10:17. Bahadur was third in 10:26.

Sandes, who on arrival said he was surprised to hear that Hong Kong had great trails for running, has now targeted the Western States 100 as his next major challenge. Whether he will be back next year is doubtful, now that he has ticked the Hong Kong box. But the defeated Tamang, winner of the Annapurna 100 last year, said he would be keen to return next year for another tilt.

'This is my first time in Hong Kong and I would definitely love another chance to return to this great city and run in this wonderful race,' Tamang said.

A total of 750 runners took part yesterday, a 300 per cent increase from last year's inaugural event. The race began at Pak Tam Chung, with the participants having to traverse 100 kilometres of hills and trails, from the High Island Reservoir East Dam, Ham Tin Wan, Wong Shek, Hoi Ha, Yung Shue O, Kei Ling Ha along the MacLehose Trail, Beacon Hill, Shing Mun Dam and Lead Mine Pass before finally ending at Rotary Club Park.

The event, which is a qualifier for the world-famous Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Western States 100 races is expected to finish today with runners still coming in. Defending champion William Davies was not among the early finishers.

Davies had predicted before the race began that it would be hard to retain his title. He was right as Sandes stormed home in record time to be crowned king of Hong Kong's hills.