New Zealander Anna Cleaver came out of the water with the lead pack of men, and this put her more than 1 1/2 minutes ahead of Nicole Ward, the second fastest female swimmer. Ward was tipped as the pre-race favourite, but had a penalty on the bike, and a cramping calve which pushed her just off the podium into fourth place.
Katherine Baker was only one second behind Nicole exiting the water, but then clocked the second fastest female bike split to put her into second place coming onto the run leg, and with more than four-minutes over her third place rival, Rebecca Everleigh, the positions did not change for the 21.1 Km run leg.
The 1.9 Km swim, 90 Km cycle, and 21.1 Km run will no longer be called a Half Ironman within Australia. In 2011, the Half Ironman distance event will be held on the same day as Ironman Australia (3.8 Km swim, 180 Km cycle, and 42.2 Km run), and the new Half Ironman distance will be branded Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie.
Cleaver has extensive experience racing in age group competitions representing New Zealand but her form and improvement suggests she might not be in age group categories for much longer as she proved too strong for the largely Australian field.
Right from the start and the 1.9km swim, 29 year old Cleaver took control of the race.
â€œI think the gun went off before most people were ready so it was a bit of a fight for position at the start of the swim. I stuck with the lead boys and came out of the swim in 23mins 55 seconds, with the next two girls a minute and a half behind me. It is was a different experience to Gold Coast as swimming with the boys requires more aggression and you get knocked around a fair bit.
â€œThe plan on the bike was to ride hard and hold off the strong female cyclists for as long as I could. Kat Baker caught me at the 60km mark at Gold Coast so I wanted to improve on that this time. I expected it to be a challenge though as the tough cycle course would suit her and the other girls who are all known for their strong bike splits.
â€œThe bike was a 2x45km lap course. I found the hills tough and welcomed the flat stretch half way through each lap. I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to ride with the lead pro boys up the hills so I had to be controlled at the start of the bike. After reaching 70km without being caught I decided today was the day when I was going to try to come off the bike leg first, regardless of how much it would make the run hurt! It was pretty lonely out there but I had a few laughs with the drivers on lead motorbike and the race photographers.
â€œA very quick transition saw me almost run past the lead mountain biker! The run was 3 laps, and involved one steep hill and part of it was exposed to those hot winds. I ran the first part springy and fast and eventually settled into a more comfortable pace. There were so many supporters on the course cheering me on, most of them doing the race themselves, so thank you!
â€œMy first win in the Australian half series and it was great to cross the finish line with my Mum there waiting!â€
Top 20 female results below.
Pictured – Anna Cleaver, Kat Baker, Rebbeca Everleigh, Michael O’Hara from SiS, Nicole Ward and Suzanne Alway