Pre-race favourites New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone and the Sunshine Coast’s Melissa Hauschildt have defended their Ironman Western Australia titles with sensational displays of cycling and running.
The usual Ironman format was modified to a 180km ride and 42.2km run due to a shark sighting that required race organisers to cancel the swim. But that didn’t stop the best athletes from displaying their enormous talent and thrilling the large crowd that had gathered in town and along the ride and run courses.
Bozzone and Hauschildt were the form athletes coming into the event but with hot conditions and tough competition they had to work hard all day. While both athletes were disappointed with the cancellation of the 3.8km swim leg, they were fully supportive of the decision by race organisers.
“The event staff had to make a safety call to cancel the swim which was the right decision. I have been in other races where they spend too much time contemplating contingencies. But with a definite contingency plan in place here, the event staff managed to enact the plan and get us underway and I managed to ride 180km and run a marathon.”
“At the end of the day a cancellation of the swim is something that can happen and it has happened several times in my career. Being a professional you just need to learn to deal with that kind of stuff and deal with it as constructively as we can. When they made the decision I went back into transition and put my headphones on and refocused, went for a little warm-up run and then I was racing. The conditions were pretty tough out there, so I am almost glad we didn’t have to add a 3.8km swim as well,” Bozzone said.
“I was disappointed because I was hoping to get the course record again,” Hauschildt said. “I knew I could bike and run faster than I did last year but safety comes first and there is always next year. I wanted to win a triathlon, not a duathlon but the organisers had to do what they did,”
In his typical style, Bozzone made it all look easy but he freely admitted he didn’t feel good all day.
“We all started 20 seconds apart and I was the last of the pros out of the blocks. My game plan was to ride for 15-20 minutes solid. Usually, my heart rate out of the water is a bit high so I thought I could cope with that and then back it down and stick to my race wattage and plan, then get off an hopefully have a good run.”
“I caught up to the key guys in about 20 minutes and I wanted to get away and focus on my own race like I did last year so I kept the pressure on for another 40 minutes and didn’t feel too bad. Then we slowed down a bit and 40 minutes later things started to get a little hairy. Tim van Berkel went to the front did a bit of a pace and some of the chasers, Dougal Allan and others rolled back across to us and I tell you what I have not felt that bad for ages. I was struggling and Tim and Dougal got away and had four minutes on me by the end of the bike.”
“Fortunately my running legs felt good. I had a couple of rough patches around 25-30km and 37-40 km. It was amazing to come away with the win and these guys kept me honest all day. Dougal rode the second half of the bike really well and he always puts together a solid run. Not a bad day for the Kiwis, first, second and my good friend Cam Brown in fourth,” Bozzone said.
Hauschildt admitted the swim cancellation interfered with her pre-race routine but she quickly adapted and got on with business.
“It was hard at the start because you do lose motivation for a little bit. I was hoping they could put the race on tomorrow when the shark had disappeared,” she joked. “I had to quickly get over that disappointment and it was a bike/run and I just did a jog warm up and got straight into it.”
“The first half of the bike felt really easy after the faster pace last weekend at 70.3 Western Sydney. But Carrie Lester was up ahead and I didn’t want her to get too far ahead, so I think I biked a little bit hard on the first lap and paid for it at 140km and blew. But everyone blew even more so I had the fastest bike and got into T2 first which was the main aim.”
“I don’t know what I was doing in T2 but I left my nutrition in there and at 18km I started cramping. It was a bit of a nightmare because I am still not fit enough to run that pace just yet. I was aiming for under three hours which is 4:15 pace but I just need more time and last weekend is still in my legs. A couple of more months and I will be right,” she said.
With two Busselton titles in the bag, Ironman Western Australia is quickly becoming a favourite race for Hauschildt.
“I love this race. I came here last year before I had my surgery and I wanted to tick off Kona qualification first. I didn’t look at the course. It was the one that was on so it did it. I loved it last year, the crowd is awesome and the course is great, so it might have to become a regular. I really needed the wins at the IRONMAN Asia Pacific champs and this race. At all the three world champs I competed in I was at the back and the media didn’t want to know me and people don’t care about what you are doing, they think you are finished and washed up. That was really tough so I am glad to get these wins and get my confidence back. I am definitely very happy. I wanted to run faster but I am stoked to get the win and I know it is all positive from here,” she said.
City of Busselton Mayor Cr Grant Henley was supportive of the race organiser’s decision to cancel the swim and delighted with the quality of racing.
“I think the race directors had a tough call but they had to act in the interest of safety which is always paramount. To be able to reschedule the race to ensure we didn’t flood the volunteers with the rolling starts was necessitated and in the end, it was a tough day at the office with the weather conditions as well.”
“Two back to back victories is lovely. It is nice to see these guys coming back year after year and chasing the fast time that we are becoming famous for when the conditions are right. It is great to see them come back and do so well. Once again this is just a fantastic iconic event bringing thousands and thousands of people down here and we are pleased to support it and will continue to support it with the State Government going forward,’ he said.