Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Mens Race Preview 2011

By Karl Hayes

This year sees one of the strongest fields you will see in a 70.3 race in Australia. Many of the guys racing will be heading over to Busselton days after the race for the following weekend’s 70.3. Last year’s winner Mitch Robins is not racing this year with his focus now firmly planted on ITU racing.

Richard Thompson was down to race but has had to pull out due to an achillies strain. Richard was recently 7th at Huskisson and was disappointed with this result after missing the swim pack. For the record his picks for this weekend are Joe Gambles, Josh Rix and Tim Reed.

Most of the guys racing have posted some impressive results over the last 12 months. Tim Berkel won Challenge Copenhagen 2010, Joe Gambles was 4th at the 70.3 world champs, Christian Kemp won the 2010 Gold coast half, Tim Reed, Josh Rix, Matty White all had podiums at major 70.3 races in the USA. Leon Griffin has a great history and is now working full time back home in Victoria. Cameron Brown almost needs no introduction but we should take the time to acknowledge the ten time winner of Ironman New Zealand. Also Joe Lampe and New Zealand’s Bryan Rhodes are incredibly strong triathletes.

Last years 2nd placed Tim Reed is back racing. Tim also placed 2nd at the 2010 Busselton half ironman and recently was 4th at Huskisson long course and the Triman Torquay long course triathlon. Read Tim’s Port Mac race preview.

Speaking to a few of the guys during the week it seems that everyone feels that the race is wide open (naturally with this sort of field). Kiwi’s Cameron Brown and Bryan Rhodes get a few mentions and Christian Kemp is seen as the dark horse. I mentioned this to Kemp last week and also later in the week I had a couple of the competitors come back with the same comment. Josh Rix could be another dark horse as well. But the overwhelming athletes favourite is Joe Gambles. Joe finished 4th at last year’s 70.3 world champs and had a huge season in the USA with many wins and podiums on the 70.3 circuit.

Alex Price has opted to take on the 30-34 age groupers after struggling with foot injuries since Canberra half last year.

Kiwi Bryan Rhodes has spent the last week up at Lennox Heads with Aeromax Team and is ‘pumped’ for this weekend. “I just returned from a disappointing whirlwind trip to the USA. I turned up to New Orleans only to be faced with a duathlon… not great when you’re a swimmer! Back in Oz a week now I’ve been mixing up the training with the young whippets including Clayton (fish) Fettell, Joey Lampe, Mitch Robbins and Tim Reed, we’ve been training hard and will be looking to throw down on Sunday!” Looks like Rhodes has some unfinished business.

2010 Gold Coast Half Ironman winner Christian Kemp does not want the pressure of the ‘dark horse’ tag but it is there and he is going in to the race with a very definite goal. It is about recovering after the race and getting the nutrition right as he prepares for the season ahead. This has been the big change that he has made over the last year. “My confidence heading into Port 70.3 is reasonable. I have had a good block of training heading into the race but in saying that, the field is very strong and there is a multitude of athletes that could win the race on the day. I will be racing as hard as I can on the day!! If I find myself in the mix late in the race then I will be laying it all out there to get on the podium.”

Kemp finished only a minute behind Crowie at Huskisson long course last year and only 10 seconds behind Pete Jacobs. Kemp suffered injury after Huskisson which shelved his plans to head to Europe. “After Port I will head to the US and compete is a number of 70.3 events over there, and if the racing continues to go well, qualify for the Vas Legas Worlds Champs in September.”

Kempy’s picks for the 70.3 are Joe Gambles (favourite), the kiwi lads in Cameron Brown and Bryan Rhodes as well as the Aussie guys such as Leon Griffin, Tim Berkel and Matty White.

2010 Canadian amateur long course champion and making his 70.3 debut as a pro next weekend is Luke Gillmer. Luke was based in Canada last year where he had some good results and made the decision to go pro. Whilst not expecting a win Gillmer is not heading to Port to make up the numbers. “I will be keeping the other boys honest and looking to finish as high up as possible. In the last 10km on the run I feel I can pick up a lot of positions.” Gillmer has been training under Clint Lien and is confident that the training has not included any junk miles. “My Run is looking the best of the three disciplines but my swimming is a bit off the pace.” Luke’s next race will be Carins.

Melbourne based, no Brisbane based, wait… Adelaide based Josh Rix is confident even though he has spent a bit of time travelling around recently. Josh was 2nd at Shepperton half in 2010, 4th at the 2010 Gold Coast half and placed 2nd at the Steelhead 70.3 in the USA. “My training has gone surprisingly well considering 2 weeks ago we spent a week travelling from Brisbane to Sydney (stopped for a swim half way at Kempsey) then Sydney to Melbourne, spent a weekend training there, then drove to Adelaide. My coach Kristian Manietta has everything planned and factored in and so things are going sweet.” Josh has been enjoying strength rides in the Adelaide Hills so his legs should be l rocking for Port. “I’m pretty confident, really looking forward to going back to the 70.3 distance after doing 3 Ironman distance races in a row.”

Of course a lot can happen in a race. The swim can set up the whole course of events as to whether or not you get in with the front group and get a good sit. If any of the guys take too long through transition (getting wetties off etc) then they can miss the front group. Josh knows this will be crticial and a good setup for his strong bike. “The bike is stock standard; you go hard, try and get into front group and get fuelled up for the run. The run will depend on how much damage you’ve done to yourself to get to that point.”

Josh’s picks for the race “Lookout for Gambles if he can be with us off the bike (he wasn’t 100% fit at Abu Dhabi), Chris Kemp is a dark horse if he is having a good day. Cameron Brown is a machine so he will be hard to beat. Berkel is another version of Gambles. Great field; will be very fun to race it.”

Home town lad, Tim Berkel, will be hoping he is race fit this weekend. Berkel has been up in Lennox Heads for the last four weeks with Aeromax Team under the watchful eye of coach Grant Giles. “I always love racing in my home town and the support I get is crazy, so I always give it my all to do the home town proud. I’m lacking race fitness but I’m going in confident for a good result.”

“The field is a cracker for an Aussie 70.3. Anyone of 6 guys could get up for the win but the danger men would have to be ‘Smokin’ Joe Gambles and Kiwi Cameron Brown.”

Berkel once again finds himself doing back to back races after vowing never to do two in a week again. “I have said that I would never do two 70.3 in one week again but I find myself doing it again with Port 70.3 and Busselton 70.3 so wish me luck! I am doing challenge Cairns 4 weeks later then off to the USA again for our winter.”

Ironman Australia Website

Cameron Brown    NZ
Leon Griffin    
Tim Berkel    
Joe Gambles    
Matthew White    
Josh Rix    
Justin Granger    
Richard Munro    
Luke Gillmer    
Bruce Hunter    NZ
Jemani Francis    
Richard Thompson    
Christian Kemp    
Joseph Lampe    
Tim Reed    
Bryan Rhodes    NZ



Karl Hayes

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.