By David Stewart
Ironman WA is getting ready to roll this weekend, and the start list reads like a who’s who of Australian iron distance racing. Foremost amongst these must be Sydneysider Pete Jacobs. His reputation is that of the course’s strongest swimmer, but after setting the third-fastest marathon time ever on the Ford Ironman World Championship course in Hawaii last month at 2:41:05. many are now looking to see just how fast he can go at Busso.
Talking about his new found reputation Pete reflected â€œI don’t think I can break the swim record again; I was swimming very well then (2007), but maybe I can get a run record. (My performance in Kona has given me) confidence that I can outrun any others there, I’ve just got to make sure that I get off the bike in a good position then hopefully I can have another good run and have a win.â€
Despite some very impressive results – including a 4th at Challenge Roth, 9th at the Ford Ironman World Championship and a win at Ironman 70.3 Philippines this year – Jacobs is yet to win an Ironman. He has won three half-Ironman races on the same Busso course which should give him an advantage. â€œI’m familiar with the laps on the bike: how to pace the different sections â€“ go hard on the faster sections then take it easier on the slower, windier sections. I know the run very well and love that run along the beach so I’m really going to enjoy it.â€
Trying to ensure Jacobs does not take out the title will be South Australian Matty White’s. The 33-year-old has recently returned from his first full US season â€“ a six-month stint based in the triathlon haven of Boulder, Colorado, during which he raced more than one Ironman 70.3 a month.
â€œ2010 has been my best year ever; I finished top five in most of the races I went in, which I didn’t expect,â€ White said. â€œTo podium at Busselton would just make my year, coming off such a big seasonâ€¦ it is a major goal for the year. I’d love to (win) but I keep hearing all these names that are going to be hard to beat. But that’s a good thing because when there are a lot of good competitors you notch it up a level. I find it hard to motivate myself when I’m racing an average field, so it will be a good opportunity to go really fast.â€
Defending champion Patrick Vernay is White’s number one pick for the title. â€œBut he’s getting a little older; hopefully his age will catch up with him!â€ White laughed.
White, a self-coached professional athlete who also works as a fire-fighter, finished fifth at Ironman Western Australia 2009 in a personal best time of 8:35:03. But he says he can go faster. â€œLast year I went in under-done; I wasn’t that fit so I didn’t go as well as I had hoped,â€ he said. â€œThis year I’ve had a lot better preparation… and my running pas picked up a lot more. â€œIt is a fast course so it does suit me, and it’s hot which is also good for me.â€
Jacobs and White will also have to keep an eye out for Luke Bell. Two broken arms made for a less-than-ideal start to the 2010 season but the 31-year-old could redeem his season if he scores a breakthrough Ironman-distance.
Despite his dominance at 70.3 races and podium finishes at several Ironman races world-wide â€“ including two Top 10 finishes at the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii â€“ Bell has not won an Ironman race in his eight-year professional career. 2010’s last Ironman race could well be the drought-breaker.
â€œI’ve raced at Busselton a couple of times as a last minute decision; this year is the first time I’ll actually be thinking about the race in the lead-up and preparing for it,â€ Bell said.
â€œLuckily I’m pretty well-rounded at all three sports so I hope to be at the pointy end (of the field)â€¦ It will be a good race.â€
Bell may be quietly confident of his chances but he would not make an outright prediction.
Unimpressed with his performance at the Ford Ironman World Championship in October, Bell opted to end his six-month stint of racing and training in the US and return home to Melbourne. â€œ(SunSmart Ironman Western Australia) is definitely the end-of-season race for me, before a good month’s break,â€ Bell said. â€œThere are a lot of guys who didn’t have the race they wanted to at Kona so they are looking for another end-of-season race. â€œI had a shocker at Kona so it will be nice to have something to rebound with.â€