Vlad Ixel victorious on new MSIG Sai Kung 50 course

Australian wins gruelling race to be crowned overall champion of the MSIG Sai Kung 50 race, while Hong Kong’s Lo Ching-ling wins the women’s title

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 11:56pm

Vlad Ixel, the Hong Kong-based elite Australian trail runner, conquered warm weather and a technically demanding course to be crowned overall champion of the MSIG Sai Kung 50 race in Sai Kung Country Park yesterday.

Hong Kong’s Lo Ching-ling grabbed the women’s title in the third and final leg of the MSIG HK50 series, which saw more than 1,000 participants toe the start line at Pak Tam Chung at 6.30am yesterday morning.

Another Hong Kong-based Australian, John Ellis, finished third overall to be crowned champion of the MSIG HK50 series, following stellar performances in the series’ first two legs, MSIG Hong Kong 50 and MSIG Lantau 50. Among the women, Nepalese youngster Sunmaya Budha, just 18 years of age, secured the overall MSIG HK 50 series title by finishing second in the Sai Kung leg behind Lo to follow up on her second place in the Lantau leg last December.

The MSIG Sai Kung 50 course took runners on a big loop of Sai Kung West Country Park, followed by a smaller loop of Sai Kung East Country Park, for a total of 54 kilometres with almost 3,000 metres in elevation gain. Race winner Ixel, of the North Face team, crossed the line in six hours, six minutes and 14 seconds, closely followed by Frenchman Pierre-Andre Ferriere (6:10:21), who was also second in last year’s race, and Ellis (6:18:14).

It was a hard fought win for Ixel, who said he had struggled throughout the race. “The course is beautiful and I really enjoyed it, but there were climbs and other tough stuff going on. It’s quite technical on the way down and your legs are already tired but then you still have to run down. It was definitely challenging today.”

Unusually, Ixel decided to use running poles for the race – a right move, he said. “The stick does come in handy. I wasn’t sure at first if I should use it today. It definitely slowed me down on the downhills and the flats, but in a way it kept my legs fresher and helped me recover quicker.”

Women’s champion Lo crossed the finish line in seven hours, 37 minutes and 31 seconds, just ahead of Budha (7:40:26) and Lin Yanfeng from Shenzhen (7:53:47).

Lo said: “I didn’t think too much, I just speeded up in the runnable parts and slowed down in the technical parts. I’m in good condition.” Lo said she preferred this year’s course to last year’s. “There are some changes this year, making it more runnable. The part I enjoyed most is the view around Pak Lap, the sea and the hills were quite fascinating.”

The MSIG Sai Kung 50 also included 22km and 12km races. In the 22km race, Lucy Cant of New Zealand, who has been living in Hong Kong for four years, outran not only the women but also the men to be crowned the overall champion in 2 hours 35 minutes and 9 seconds. She said: “It is an interesting race and I had a nice day. Sai Kung is such a beautiful place to run. There’s a little track around the coast right over the sea which is pretty amazing. I’ll definitely come again and challenge the 50km if I have the chance.”

Malte Peter Larsen of Denmark was the 22km men’s champion in two hours, 45 minutes and 37 seconds. He said: “I love how the difficult trail sometimes requires both my hands to help me. I was exhausted when I reached the first checkpoint, but it was all good.”

Australian Pak To Lai was the overall champion in the 12km race in one hour, three minutes and 18 seconds. He said: “One thing special about MSIG HK Series is that it has different categories, and each category has its own thoughtfully designed course. I’m satisfied with my performance today. I would like to try the 22km next year.”

Hoi Sze Kwok won the women’s 12km race in 1 hour 19 minutes 8 seconds. She said: “This is the first time I am champion in a race organised by Action Asia Events. I prepared several months for it. Hard work pays off, I have reached my expectations! I really like the design of the course. It’s more technical than any course in other races I have taken part in. I enjoyed the scenery lot.”