Sam Appleton edged out a strong pro field at Ironman 70.3 Geelong, defying wind and surprisingly brisk temperatures.
Appleton clocked the tricky course in 3:49:41, finishing ahead of compatriots Josh Amberger and Dan Wilson.
Amberger was first out of Corio Bay in 22:40, but Appleton was able to cut into that lead on the bike before racing home to claim his eighth half-distance victory with a strong run.
“It was a really hard day out there,” said Appleton. “Josh was pushing me the whole way and hats off to him, he swam and biked really well and kept me honest on the run the whole way. I was looking back the whole time.”
“I’m happy to start my year with a win here in Geelong. I was second here two years ago so it’s great to go one better and get on the top step… it’s always special to win a race in your home country.”
For Amberger it meant consecutive second placings, as he continued his impressive form following on from Ironman 70.3 Dubai. The 27-year-old recently told Trizone about his coaching shake-up, and already the benefits are apparent.
“[The coaching change] is off to a good start with two podiums but it’s two bridesmaid podiums, so we’ll have to do something about that,” he said.
While Amberger isn’t content with seconds, he was able to reflect post-race on his improvement from last year’s race where he finished third.
“Last year I felt like it wasn’t so much a race for me, it was just a grind and Jake (Montgomery) smashed me,” he said. “This year it was a really good race. The bike was quite tactical and it was literally full throttle the whole way. The wind was cross-tail most of the way so there’s no sitting in, everyone’s working and Sam and I really just wanted to take it to the boys.”
Behind Appleton, Amberger and Wilson were Cyril Viennot and last year’s champion Jake Montgomery. Montgomery spoke to Trizone during the week about his recovery from a serious car crash he suffered while riding his bike. At one point the 22-year-old was told he would never compete again, but on Sunday he defied the odds to claim a top five finish. After capping his remarkable comeback, Montgomery said this year’s race felt more fulfilling than last year’s triumph – his maiden pro victory.
“I felt unreal coming down that finishing shute. I think I had a bigger smile than I did last year when I won.”
“It’s weird that it is [more fulfilling than last year]. If I think back five months ago I might not have even done of these again, so to finish where I did today is a big achievement,” said Montgomery.
- Sam Appleton 3:49:41
- Josh Amberger 3:50:29
- Dan Wilson 3:51:49
- Cyril Viennot 3:53:04
- Jake Montgomery 3:53:46