By Emma Bishop
It was all about the ‘face off’ between the Kings of Kona this weekend. Apparently Australia’s Courtney Atkinson didn’t get that memo.
The 5th edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines continues to live up to its reputation as THE must do race destination in Asia. Not even 24 hours of non-stop rain could dampen the spirits this morning in Lapu Lapu, Cebu City.
With over 2000 athletes on the start line and the largest professional field to date the wet start was never going to be an issue. In fact the overcast skies worked in the favour for many as record times were posted along with personal bests for age groupers throughout the day.
Courtney Atkinson (AUS) started the roll of records when he led from start to finish to break Pete Jacobs winning streak of three IRONMAN 70.3 Philippine titles in a row to take his first title here and at the same time continue his own winning streak.
The two-time Olympian now remains unbeaten since he stepped up to the longer distance. “I keep having to pinch myself as I cannot believe it. I keep waiting for the house of cards to fall down.”
So how did the race play out?
“It was quite choppy out there in the swim and I managed to get away with Pete (Jacobs). I feel I am pretty even over the swim, bike and run but stronger on the run. However once I got away on the bike I had already committed. There was no going back and it was pretty hard to go it alone. The bike course is flat but it is still hard to work on. There are a lot of bumps so you really earn every extra km that you gain. Definitely did it the hard way but I am happy with that.”
Atkinson is accustomed to racing in Asia, but it was his first IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines.
“The Cebu city is great. There were people everywhere and that really helps you pick up your pace. I love racing in Asia and this is racing in a true Asian City. I really don’t quite know how they do it!”
There was no real doubt once Atkinson started his run that there was to be a new champion crowned but the race for 2nd and 3rd was in some dispute with a group of six guys in pursuit of Atkinson on the bike – Jacobs (AUS), McCormack (AUS), Dellow (AUS), McMahon (CAN), Brown (NZL) and Rix (AUS). Once onto the run the group split with McCormack and McMahon taking the lead. But a little after 13km the order changed with McMahon dropping back, Jacobs running into 2nd and Dellow overtaking McCormack for 3rd.
It was a similar start to finish race for defending champion Caroline Steffen (SUI). But Steffen didn’t just take the win. She powered home keeping the target on her back well out of eyesight of the chasing Bree Wee (USA) and Belinda Granger (AUS) who completed the order resulting in a podium repeat 2012.
Steffen just received her new bike last week and she commented that a new one was now required after tearing up the wet and windy bike course.
“It looks like I have done an XTERRA race, there was a lot of sand and grit out there after all the rain.”
With particular goals in mind for the day Steffen achieved all of them. Number one was her swim.
“I have worked a lot on my swim and felt much stronger. It was my goal to improve on my swim and I achieved that and as for the bike. It was all about lying rubber on the road.”
Steffen was in a trio with Freddie Croneborg and Ben Allen throughout the bike.
“I maybe went too hard early on and they tried to drop me but I hung in there and then, they shock their heads and gave up!”
Goal number two was a simple instruction from coach Brett Sutton.
“Get the job done and then we start the Kona prep.”
Steffen broke her course record set last year by four minutes. Feeling fresher after a less intense race schedule leading in the conditions also helped the powerhouse to stamp her mark on this race which saw Steffen come in 9th overall.
“Last year the conditions were like a sauna, it wasn’t easy still very heavy air out there but I only had to take hydration on every second aid station.”
Further down the order there was another battle royale between visiting WTC CEO Andrew Messick and Sunrise Events President and CEO Fred Uytengsu. Messick took the friendly honors over Uytengsu, crediting Uytengsu for passing him some salt pills and saving his day.
“Without them, I would have completely blown up.”
Messick was here experiencing as an athlete his first IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines, his takeaway from the day?
“Those are the biggest crowds I have ever seen on the roadside in a triathlon – only at tour de France were the roadside crowds bigger.”
Men’s top 5 PRO:
1. Atkinson, Courtney AUS 00:23:50 02:12:38 01:18:40 03:58:07
2. Jacobs, Pete AUS 00:23:53 02:16:03 01:15:37 03:59:09
3.Dellow, David AUS 00:26:02 02:13:50 01:18:55 04:02:22
4. McCormack, Chris AUS 00:26:06 02:13:55 01:20:12 04:03:15
5. McMahon, Brent CAN 00:25:58 02:13:57 01:21:10 04:04:05
First Filipino Elite Male:
Norte Banjo PHL 00:27:51 02:27:38 01:27:41 04:26:44
Women’s top 5 PRO:
Top 5 PRO Female:
1. Steffen, Caroline SUI 00:26:31 02:18:15 01:27:29 04:16:12
2. Wee, Bree USA 00:27:12 02:28:04 01:28:44 04:27:49
3. Granger, Belinda AUS 00:27:50 02:27:53 01:34:11 04:33:50
4. Slack, Jacqui GBR 00:27:47 02:32:20 01:35:31 04:39:31
5. Torres, Monica PHL 00:37:34 02:33:52 01:36:47 04:52:08
First Filipino Elite Female:
Araullo-Gonzalex Alessandra PHL 0032:14 02:39:59 01:48:34 05:05:33
First age groupers of the day Assad Attamimi (M) in 4:18:28 and 12th overall and Vikki D’Arcy (F) VIKKI D’ARCY in 4:49:36.