Billed as one of the best fields ever assembled over the IRONMAN 70.3 distance outside the world championships, the SunSmart IRONMAN 70.3 Mandurah lived up to the hype.
German Michael Raelert (GER) spent much of the day on sub-world record pace to take out the men’s race while Australia’s Annabel Luxford dedicated the win to friend and mentor Australian triathlon legend Jackie Fairweather who passed away last week.
Luxford went one better than her second place finish last year taking the win from Caroline Steffen (SUI) and Nikki Butterfield (AUS).
It was an emotional win for Luxford who fought back tears while speaking about Fairweather.
“It was extra nice to get a win with the passing of Jackie, she was a friend and mentor, and her words to me were to always get the best out of yourself,” she said.
Raelert used a blistering fast run leg of 1:12:45 to hold off Australia’s Tim Reed, with Christian Kemp in third, to take out the race which doubles as the Australian Pro Championship.
“It was great race; I’m exhausted right now but happy. Tim pushed it on the bike and did a great job,” Raelert said. “Can I call myself the Australian Champion now?”
An exceptionally fast swim saw the top 10 men, led by Raelert, exit the water within 20 seconds of each other.
Concerned about the quality of runners in the field, Reed put the hammer down in the first 50km of the bike. His plan was to go hard and see who was left, and by the end of the 90km bike it was Kemp, Luke Bell, and Raelert.
Bell and Kemp couldn’t match the speed of Raelert and Reed on the run with the German slowly beginning to extend his lead until he had a comfortable cushion, in the end wining by just under three minutes.
After a knee injury ruined his 2013 season and a bike crash stalled the beginning of this year, Raelert has come roaring back with wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Reugen, IRONMAN 70.3 Miami and now IRONMAN 70.3 Mandurah.
He looks to have regained the form and confidence that early in his career saw him almost unbeatable at the IRONMAN 70.3 distance. For much of today’s race he was under his own world record time of 3:34:04, just slowing late in the run to record a 3:35:54.
“I didn’t know it was so close to the world record I went for the win not the time, but looking at that time I think I have something more to give, I’m not disappointed, just thinking what could have been.”
Reed was delighted with second place in such a quality field. After seventh at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, he is fast becoming one of the sport’s most consistent performers.
“I am pumped to be the first Aussie across the line. I gave it everything I could and am totally spent. For the first 40 or 50km I went after the ride but Michael was just too strong,” Reed says.
Luxford lead out of the water by 10 seconds over a group of athletes including pre-race favourites Caroline Steffen and Rachel Joyce (GBR). Defending champion Mel Hauschildt had a poor swim exiting the water over two minutes back and after fighting her way back into contention, she pulled out of the race late in the run leg.
It was all about the bike for German Anja Beranek who tried to take the sting out of the legs of the faster runners in the field by pushing as hard as possible while on two wheels. She finished the 90km bike leg with a 2:18 advantage over Luxford.
Beranek held onto the lead until Luxford took over top spot within seven kms of the finish. Steffen and Butterfield took the remaining two spots on the podium relegating Beranek to fourth.
“I started in the AIS programme with Jackie as an 18-year-old and for the last 12 odd years she has been a fantastic mentor and friend and it was nice to come out here and race today. I am really happy with that win.”
1. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:35:55
2. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:38:42
3. Christian Kemp (AUS) 3:39:48
4. Luke Bell (AUS) 3:43:49
5. Ruedi Wild (SUI) 3:47:26
1. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:02:20
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:03:08
3. Nikki Butterfield (AUS) 4:03:49
4. Anja Beranek (GER) 4:04:24
5. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 4:08:41
For full results visit www.ironmanmandurah.com
Other notable finishers included 1980 Olympic Gold Medallist Neil Brooks who finished 7th in the 50-54 age group in a time of 4:52:36.
Katey Gibb also completed an emotional day, the 10th placed pro after racing in honour of her boyfriend fellow triathlete Brynt McSwain who was killed in a hit and run while on a training ride early last month.
SunSmart IRONMAN 70.3 Mandurah is proudly supported by the City of Mandurah, Healthway in promoting the SunSmart message and the State Government through Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, which is funded by Royalties for Regions.
Text and images courtesy Ironman Asia Pacific / Ironman.com