Cairns Half Triathlon Race Preview

By Karl Hayes

The Cairns Half is being run concurrently with the full Challenge Cairns, also starting in the blue waters off Yorkeys Knob. Whilst the field is not stacked like the last two races of this distance in Australia Joey Lampe and Leon Griffin will make sure that this will be a great competition. These two guys are amongst the fastest around.

Justin Granger will also be there pushing the pace and newcomer Luke Gillmer hopes that the lessons learnt at the recent Port Macquarie 70.3 put him in a better position this weekend. Not racing this weekend is Richard Thompson who was one of the top finishers at this year’s Huksisson long course. Richard is out with peritendinitis and hasn’t been able to cycle or run for four weeks. He will be up in Cairns though supporting a group of triathletes he coaches. He is then off to the US for a training block and then will be back to race Yeppoon, Japan 70.3 and eventually Ironman Cozumel in Mexico.

Joey Lampe has been tearing up the Olympic distance circuit recently with strong wins at Byron Bay and Cairns last weekend. On top of this he had a strong 6th at Port Macquarie 70.3. Lampe’s weapon is his swim and on past results he should exit the water at least a minute ahead of the field.  His bike is right up there but Sunday should see him maybe slightly behind Leon Griffin who is known for his fast bike. Lampe’s run should have improved recently with the Olympic distance racing.

The only question will be how Lampe has recovered from last weekend’s Coral Coast Olympic distance triathlon  “Last weekend won’t impact me I am recovered and ready to race. I have no injury worries so that is good and my training has been great. I spent the last week up here at cairns and the weather has been perfect for training.”

After this weekend Lampe will have a week off and then get ready for Yeppoon 70.3 and then will head off to the USA.

Leon Griffin possibly has his nose in front with the bookmakers. It is an unknown and his last two results had slower than normal runs. Throw in to the mix a now full time job and this weekend we will see how the mix of training and work is going. Port possibly saw an easing up with Busselton 70.3 a week later where he placed a solid 8th with a 1:22 run. At the start of the year Griffin won the 2XU Falls Creek long distance triathlon.

Leon has been focusing on his cycling and running recently which is an ominous sign for the competitors. “Training is going as well as can be with the work getting in the road! I’ve been doing a few bike races to bump the miles up on the weekend so don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much.

My swimming has dropped away now the outdoor pools are shut in Bendigo…and my running has definitely picked up from the last IM 70.3’s now my ankle is right and I’ve been able to get a few weeks in a row strung together.”

With Griffin suggesting that his swim is off a bit Lampe will have an opportunity to try to put some more time in to him on the swim.

After Carins Griffin will settle back to a normal life in Bendigo. “This will be my last race before taking some time off through winter, so I’m excited to come up and support the Challenge event and hopefully have one last good race before my season winds up (not that it ever really wound up!!). The field looks solid, obviously the top dogs are racing for the big $$ in the Challenge Cairns race, which I would have loved to be part of also and was my intention at season’s beginning, but none the less I will have some work cut out with the guys racing the half. I Joey Lampe who took out the Olympic distance race last weekend would have to be the odds on favourite however.”

It will be interesting to see how Luke Gillmer has improved since Port Macquarie. He has had a strong swim focus over the last month. “I have had a mixed bag over the last month with some really strong sessions and some really average ones.  I have made enough adjustments to my and will see on Sunday whether it has worked.  I still feel I am off the pace in that first leg.  Run and bike are feeling really solid though so I am looking forward to getting out of T1 and trying to fight my way back into the race.  Hopefully a crocodile won’t see my out there on my own and make an easy lunch out of me.”

After Cairns Luke is off to the Philippines in August for the 70.3. “It will be nice to have a 2 month build to reflect on my recent results and look at what I need to change.  I have a 2 week break from work leading into Philippines so I will have a chance to focus on my sport only for that time which will be beneficial.”

On the competition on Sunday Luke thinks that Lampe and Griffin will battle it out for the win. “I will be focusing on my own strategy and my own performance and seeing where I end up.  After racing under the WTC  draft rule I am a little concerned going back to the shorter draft rule, hopefully the boys don’t bunch up too much out there and we have a fair race.”

Mens Field

Leon Griffin VIC
Justin Granger QLD
Adam Gordon QLD
Joseph Lampe NSW
Robert Harris QLD
Markus Hein QLD
Luke Gillmer QLD

In the women’s race there will be another Aussie v Kiwi battle going on. Nicole Ward, Rebecca Eveleigh and Ali Fitch will be up against some tough competition from across the Tasman. Tamsyn Hayes and Hannah Lawrence will be taking it to the Aussie girls.

Whilst this race does not have the likes of Michelle Wu, Melissa Rollison, Kat Baker etc it should be an exciting race to watch with the top four or five women being quite evenly matched.

Nicole Ward is coming off a very short preparation.”I took two weeks off training after Ironman Australia and just started doing some short sharp training last week. I’m feeling pretty fresh and excited about a new race in the beautiful location of Cairns!”

Rebecca Eveleigh, like almost all the pros and age groupers racing, is incredibly excited to see the Challenge series come to Australia. “I’m super excited to see the Challenge Series has landed in Australia and Cairns at this time of the year is a perfect location for a triathlon.  It’s even more impressive that USM, in partnership with Challenge, have made it a festival of events with various triathlon distances. 

Eveleigh raced Challenge Roth last year and had ‘an experience of a lifetime’ so there was no way she was going to miss participating on Sunday and supporting the Challenge Series with the opportunity to race in her own country.  With regard to domestic racing, I love the fact that the sport gives you the opportunity to see so many parts of Australia.  I haven’t been to Cairns before so I’m also looking forward to being a tourist over the weekend.  The race course itself allows you soak up the North Queensland tropical atmosphere, plus some warm weather!

Rebecca is also racing off the back of Ironman Australia (5 weeks ago). “I’ve decided to race the half ironman event (though I wish I was doing the full IM, hopefully next year!).  I’ve had two weeks off training after Port. I then had a hit out at Club Champs. I felt good and it was a great opportunity to get some speed back into the legs with a short distance race. The past couple of weeks, my coach Grant Giles from Aeromax, has prepared me for Cairns with a mix of strength and speed work sessions, as well as keeping the body ticking over generally.”

On the field she will be up against…

“The female line up for the half includes a strong mix of Aussie and Kiwi athletes.  Nic Ward will be in top form after a great performance at Port IM.  For me, I don’t really have any expectations, I’m just super excited about being part of the event!  Can’t wait to get out there and go as hard as I can for as long as I can!  I wasn’t sure about my race number though – No.13 ?? Lets hope it will be a lucky number on race day and I don’t end up in a field of stingers! Emma Major I reckon is the dark horse for sure and no doubt will be up there at the front, also well acclimatised to the warm conditions being a local Queensland girl.”

After Carins Rebecca will be having a break and then will start to prepare for Hawaii World Champs.

Visit the Challenge Cairns website for full deatils



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.