Craig Alexander, Trigger Point Performance Athlete, defends Ironman 70.3 crown!
Craig Alexander launched his campaign for a third consecutive Ironman World Championship in perfect style, successfully defending his title at today’s Ironman 70.3 Geelong. The Australian beat a stellar field which included his countryman and 2008 race champion Leon Griffin, and Australia’s youngest ever Ironman champion Tim Berkel (NSW), who finished second and third respectively.
In the women’s race, Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen took her inaugural Ironman 70.3 victory. Last year’s winner Sam Warriner (New Zealand) narrowly missed the podium, finishing fourth behind Australia’s Carrie Lester and Lisa Marangon.
1,500 athletes took part in today’s event, held at picturesque Eastern Beach in Geelong, Victoria. They were treated to ideal race conditions, with a light breeze and the sun breaking through just as the starter’s gun fired.
The professional field had the benefit of a five minute head start over the rest of the age group and team competitors. As expected, Clayton Fettell established an early lead, emerging from the 1.9km swim in an astonishing 21:54, over two minutes clear of the chase group which included Alexander, Paul Ambrose, Michael Murphy and Jan Rehula. Griffin, Berkel, Peter Schokman and Matty White were a further 10-15 seconds behind.
An accomplished swimmer and water polo player, 23-year-old Fettell has been working hard to develop his bike/run combination since winning last year’s Gold Coast Half Ironman. Last month he finished 14th overall in the national time trial cycling championships, and it was clear that his tactic going in to the 90.1km bike leg would be to throw out the challenge to “catch me if you can.”
By the end of the first lap, he had already extended his lead by a further minute. Meanwhile, the original chase group had been joined by a secondary group which included notoriously strong cyclists Jason Shortis and Ollie Whistler.
Fettell later said that he was “riding scared,” however he is clearly well motivated by fear, as he had developed a buffer of almost five minutes by the time he entered the bike/run transition. He ran out strongly, however it was clear that the race was by no means over, with a group including Alexander, Griffin, Berkel, White and Schokman in hot pursuit.
By the end of the first lap, Fettell’s lead had been whittled down to just two minutes, and at the 11km mark, he was finally passed by Alexander, and then Griffin. Berkel kept a steady but solid pace to gradually run through the field to claim third position.
In his post-race interview, a typically humble Alexander said, “I’m really happy with that. That was a solid hit-out, especially considering all the travel. I’ve done a strong block of training these last five or six weeks.”
He noted that there is a huge amount of talent coming up through the ranks, offering particular praise to Leon Griffin. “Griff’s on the same sort of upswing as me. He had a great race. I think he’s very under-rated. He finished ninth in Clearwater last year, which is the world championship for this distance. He received a four minute penalty and lot of guys felt he was hardly done by. He’s a great athlete.”
Griffin returned the compliment, saying “Today was always going to come down to a running race. Craig showed why he’s the world champion, he ran away with ease.”
Next stop for Alexander is likely to be Ironman 70.3 Singapore at the end of March, before he and his family head to the US where he will continue his preparation for the Ford Ironman World Championship with a number of the major Ironman 70.3 and Olympic Distance races.
Steffen dominates the women’s race
The women’s race unfolded very differently. In the early stages, it appeared that the match-race between defending champion Warriner and her Swiss rival Caroline Steffen would develop as predicted, with Warriner leading her competitors out of the swim.
However, Steffen quickly stamped her authority on the bike course, saying later that the slightly undulating terrain suits her perfectly. By the end of the first lap she had taken the lead from Warriner, with Lisa Marangon in third position.
From there, Steffen took control of the race, eventually winning by exactly five minutes over Marangon and a fast-finishing Carrie Lester. Warriner finished a disappointing fourth.
An ecstatic Steffen said “It feels awesome to win! It’s my first win in a 70.3 race. I had an awesome day, I felt so strong. I did my own race, and never looked back.”
Steffen’s win today qualifies her for the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3, where she finished fourth last year.
TOP FIVE RESULTS – PROFESSIONAL MEN & WOMEN
1. Craig Alexander (NSW) 3:53:15
2. Leon Griffin (VIC) 3:54:35
3. Tim Berkel (NSW) 3:56:10
4. Peter Schokman (NSW) 3:56:25
5. Clayton Fettell (NSW) 3:56:39
1. Caroline Steffen (SWI) 4:14:32
2. Carrie Lester (QLD) 4:19:32
3. Lisa Marangon (NSW) 4:19:49
4. Samantha Warriner (NZ) 4:23:01
5. Nicole Ward (NSW) 4:30:29
Article compliments of http://ironman.com