MELBOURNE, Australia (March 19, 2013) â€“ The 2012 IRONMANÂ® Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne was a showcase for the extraordinary ability of Swiss Caroline Steffen.
Apart from a brief period after the swim she produced a wire to wire masterpiece that, at stages, threatened the women’s Ironman world record held by Brit Chrissie Wellington.
Last year Steffen’s major threat came from Aussie Mirinda Carfrae.
This year the threats to her title will come from a number of different women, with Ironman veteran Aussie Belinda Granger who finished tenth in 2012 but sitting on the sidelines this year, is expecting a women’s race with plenty of fireworks.
“I think it is going to be an amazing women’s race. There are a few really strong swimmers this year so Caroline won’t be leading from the start like she did last year. But I am sure this will just make her even more hungry to ride hard to catch them,” said Granger.
“Caroline is definitely still the favourite but with the likes of Meredith Kessler, Amanda Stevens, Anna Cleaver, Dede Griesbauer, Sarah Piampiano and Lisa Marangan leading the swim, it might be a while before we see Caroline take the lead of the race.
“Girls such as Natasha Badmann, Angela Naeth and Yvonne Van Vlerken are not renowned for their swimming ability but look to see them storm through the field on the bike and continue that trend on the run. All three girls are incredibly strong bikers and runners.”
While Granger admits Steffen is the best athlete in the field and is in red hot form after a second at the Abu Dhabi triathlon in late February, she doesn’t think she will have it all her own way.
“For sure Caroline is the girl to beat. She knows the course and knows what to expect out there which is a huge advantage. But Ironman is a long, long day of racing and there are a few new girls racing this year who, on their day, could cause an upset.
â€œMeredith Kessler is ever improving and won Ironman New Zealand earlier in the month in emphatic style taking control of the race in the swim and never looking back,” she said.
“Six time Ironman World Champion Natascha Badmann is one of the greatest Ironman distance athletes the triathlon world has ever seen and is coming to Melbourne for the first time. She might be the oldest female professional athlete racing but she is also one of the wisest and most determined. It will take her time to get up to the pointy end of the field as her swim is definitely her weakness but her ride/ run is one of the most lethal.”
According to Granger the other big factor in the race will be Melbourne’s famously fickle weather.
“I will be absolutely shocked if we get the same conditions as last year. They were as close to perfect as you could get – a little cold for my liking, but no wind on the bike and a
tail wind for the marathon. I have a feeling that it could be very windy this year which will change everything in terms of records falling. Caroline had the perfect race last year.
She led from the beginning and never looked back. In fact, I think the bigger her lead got, the faster she got,” she says.
Belinda Granger’s Top 3
Caroline Steffen | Meredith Kessler | Natascha Badmann
Who will be the first placed Australian and where do you think they will finish?
“Now this is a tough one. There are a few girls that could take this honour, Carrie Lester, Nikki Butterfield, Rebecca Hoschke. All three have their strengths and should factor in the top 10 overall. Lisa Marangon is also making a comeback to Ironman distance after concentrating on the shorter distances over the last few years.”
Who is your smokey for the race?
“Honestly it is so hard to go past Caroline but if Meredith has recovered well after New Zealand then she could cause an upset. But Meredith will need to come off the bike with Caroline to have a chance – then we will have a race on our hands. One similar to the men’s race last year when Cameron Brown and Craig Alexander went head to head for practically the entire marathon.”
The URBAN Hotel Group IRONMANÂ® Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne will be held on Sunday, March 24, 2013. The event gets underway at 7.25am for the professional athletes
The 226km race will take place in Melbourne’s South East and Bayside suburbs. The course will include a 3.8km swim in the Frankston Foreshore, a fast and smooth 180km bike on the EastLink motorway and 42.2km Brooks run from Frankston to the URBAN Hotel Group IRONMANÂ® Asia-Pacific Championship finish line, located at the iconic St. Kilda Catani Gardens.
For further event details: www.IRONMANmelbourne.com.