A gamble to stay warm in freezing conditions have paid off for the Gold Coast’s Melissa Hauschildt who stormed home to win the 2013 ITU Long Distance World Championship in Belfort, France overnight.
The 29-year-old former Commonwealth Games steeplechase silver medallist and 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Champion clawed back a three-minute deficit going into the final 20km run after officials eliminated the swim leg due to unforeseen cold weather and water temperatures.
The original 4km swim, 120 bike and 30km run course in and around the picturesque Malsaucy region in the country’s north east was decided over a 9.5km run, 87km bike and 20km run duathlon course for athlete safety.
And it was Hauschildt’s decision to add extra clothing after the first run leg, preparing for the bike leg, that proved decisive in the end.
Hauschildt’s time of four hours, 42 minutes and 39 seconds denied Denmark’s Camilla Pedersen victory, with the Dane settling for world championship silver for the second year running.
Hauschildt was the early pace setter, clocking a time of 35:19 for the first 9.5km run but with harsh conditions forecast she took a long first transition (3 minutes 20secs) to add extra clothing, allowing Pedersen (1 min 15secs) to take the lead.
It looked like it would prove to be a costly decision as the determined Pedersen led until the second lap of the 20km run.
But Hauschildt, who as Melissa Rollison had carved a brilliant athletics career as a steeplechaser and cross country runner,Â fought back in the final stages and finished in 4:44:15, 1 minute and 36 seconds ahead of Pedersen.
A delighted and relieved Hauschildt revealed she took a long time in the first transition to put â€œlayers and layers of clothing on.â€
â€œI definitely didn’t get too hot though so I’m glad I put all those layers on,â€ Hauschildt said, admitting her late surge was not part of her race plan but was caused by a grueling bike leg.
â€œThe first 10km felt really good, I didn’t run too hard. The bike though was really tough. That climb, 8k at about 10 percent was hard.
â€œWhen I got off I just had nothing left in my legs. It wasn’t until 7k to go that I started feeling my legs and that’s where I took off, fought Camilla and luckily got the win.â€
Pedersen said she was happy with a second silver medal considering the change to the format.
â€œI knew my strongest part was going to be the swim and the long bike and since there was no swim and a shorter bike I lost a lot of my advantages, but I’m really happy with second. It was my first duathlon ever, so it was tough,â€ Petersen said.
Canada’s Rachel McBride (CAN) claimed bronze in 4:52:03, finishing just 13 seconds ahead of Frenchwoman Jeanne Collonge and preventing France from having a world championship medallist in the women’s elite race.
Despite being forced out of the Auckland 70.3 in January after a nasty crash on the bike , Hauschildt made a amazing recovery to break Caroline Steffen’s race record at the Australian Long Distance Championship in Geelong before stepping up to win the Koh Samui International Triathlon (4/122/30).
Early in Hauschildt’s career she won a gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane and at t the 2006 Commonwealth Games, competing in the Steeplechase, she gave world champion Dorcus Inzikuru a fright before settling for the silver medal.
A week after the Commonwealth Games, she helped Australia to a team bronze medal in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
Next stop for Hauschildt will be the 70.3 Vineman Triathlon in California (July 14) before Ironman 70.3 in Boulder (August 4), the Hy-Vee 5150 Championship (September 1) en route to her Ironman 70.3 World Championship defence in Las Vegas (September 8).
Triathlon Australia Media Release