Yesterday saw a handful of the world’s best female long course triathletes go head to head, with some having traveled from the other side of the globe to be a part of the Asia Pacific Ironman Championship in Melbourne.
Caroline Steffen headed the field, returning to reclaim her title which she failed to defend in 2013. With a large amount of change in the Steffen camp in recent months, you could be forgiven for questioning Steffen’s ability to win under such circumstances. Swiss born, Sunshine Coast based Swiss/Aussie Steffen only separated from professional teamTBB late last year, a team she had trained and raced under since her early career success in Kona 2010. The change saw Steffen partner with a new manager, Evan Gallagher of BPM Sport, and only very recently put her trust into 2 x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack as her new coach. Despite these changes Steffen arrived in Melbourne with a firm goal – to claim back her Ironman Asia Pacific Champions crown.
The biggest threat by far on paper was former teamTBB teammate Mary Beth Ellis, who also recently underwent some changes with a return to former coach Siri Lindley. MBE’s track record in Ironman racing is nothing short of astounding, having been undefeated over the Iron distance outside of Kona; until yesterday. Known as one of the toughest racers on the circuit, or as loyal sponsor Cervelo dub “Tonka Tough”, MBE is relentless on the race course and doesn’t have a weakness across the three disciplines. MBE traveled from her hometown in Boulder Colorado to chase early season points for Kona, with Melbourne a new event on her calendar for 2014.
Also making the trip across the Pacific was Canadian and 70.3 specialist Angela Naeth, racing in what would be her second Ironman. Naeth finished 5th at Ironman Lake Tahoe in 2013, and with her lethal bike/run combination had to be the races dark horse to cause an upset come race day. Although with a considerably weaker swim the Canadian would have her hands full chasing down the strong swimmers of MBE and Steffen; a game not at all unfamiliar to the Canadian, but perhaps a little too much to ask on a fast course such as Melbourne.
Australia put on a strong showing headed by multiple Ironman Champion Rebekah Keat, also under the guidance of Siri Lindley. Keat is capable of a win amongst any field on her day, also being strong across swim, bike and run like training partner Ellis. Australian Ironman Champion Rebecca Hoschke, coached by Grant Giles of Aeromax Coaching, has been having a stellar season with a win at Challenge Forster following her 17th place finish in Kona last October. Joined also by another multiple Ironman Champion Kate Bevilaqua and “newbie” pro’s Michelle Duffield of Western Australia (having raced Kona as an age grouper in 2013), Kristy Hallett and Tracy Douglas.
Mary Beth Ellis threw down the gauntlet early on, establishing a 2 minute lead over her nearest rival Steffen and making the Swiss Miss chase hard early on, a task Steffen is not at all intimidated by. Although it was uber biker Angela Naeth who would storm through following a slow start, to record the fastest bike split of the day in 4:51:20 and entering transition in third position alongside Ellis and only 43 seconds back of Steffen.
Steffen went on to secure victory on a run she knows all too well, running away from former team mate Ellis who ran strong to finish in second. Both ladies are Cervelo sponsored athletes and so it was a good day all round for Cervelo with Dave Dellow, Steffen’s boyfriend, also finishing third in the men’s race. Angela Naeth faded to fifth, whilst American Kim Schwabenbauer flew through the field to record fastest run of the day in 3:01:34 and rounded out the podium in third. Rebekah Keat finished off a successful day in the Siri Lindley camp with a fourth place.
In the age group race some fast times were recorded on what was described as “the perfect day”. A little help from the large numbers that would have made it difficult to spread out on such a course, and we saw a number of age groupers finish inside the top ten females. Whilst the times from Melbourne are not comparable to most other Ironman courses on the circuit, this wouldn’t have stopped the huge celebrations that would have followed what was a very fast day out for the majority of athletes.
Congratulations to our Asia Pacific female Champion Caroline Steffen, what a successful start to a new partnership with Chris McCormack, and also the second placed Mary Beth Ellis and third placed Kim Schwabenbauer.
Top 10 Women Finish
1 Caroline Steffen (SUI) 8:57:56
2 Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:02:14
3 Kim Schwabenbauer (USA) 9:10:05
4 Rebekah Keat (AUS) 9:11:05
5 Asa Lundstrom (SWE) 9:16:08
6 Angela Naeth (CAN) 9:21:10
7 Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:21:39
8 Simone Boag (AUS) 9:31:19
9 Rosie Oldham (AUS) 9:32:33
10 Jessica Simpson (AUS) 9:34:07
Age group champions:
Congratulations also to the Asia Pacific age group champions!
18 – 24: Emily Kempson AUS 10:46:54
25 – 29: Jessica Simpson AUS 9:34:08
30 – 34: Rosie Oldham AUS 9:32:34
35 – 39: Nicole Hart AUS 9:39:38
40 – 44: Simone Boag AUS 9:31:20
45 – 49: Melissa McKinlay AUS 10:00:26
50 – 54: Miah Franzmann AUS 10:24:51
55 – 59: Mary Mitchell AUS 10:33:25
60 – 64: Debra Wess USA 14:20:42
65 – 69: Karla McKinlay AUS 13:32:44