Great Britain’s Laura Siddall and Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker were the stars of a day of high drama and intense racing at IRONMAN Australia that saw course records broken and history made.
Siddall went back to back at Port Macquarie and in defending her IRONMAN Australia crown she joined former multiple champions such as Chrissie Wellington, Paula Newby Fraser, Lori Bowden and Lisa Bentley.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, Belgian superstar Vanhoenacker set a new course record, clocked up his 17th IRONMAN win and made IRONMAN history, becoming the first athlete to win an IRONMAN title on every continent.
While Siddall’s performance lacked the intense all day pressure of Vanhoenacker’s victory, it still required enormous control and strong belief to enable her to get the job done. The Port Macquarie favourite was delighted to record her victory in front of her Australian friends and family
“The win last year was pretty special and you dream about going back to back but you have to be very practical. It is a different year with new women on the start line, you still don’t know what is going to happen on the day. It was a long marathon to get there and the finish line didn’t seem to want to come but it was an amazing feeling to back up and get that win. To be in the mix with those women and those illustrious names is pretty amazing.”
“Getting across the line was the priority and it was a struggle not to get involved in the emotion of the race. It was a matter of ticking over the kilometres, getting the job done, not trying to get ahead of myself and not be stupid. From a personal perspective I would have liked to have run a bit faster but I got the job done and that was the main thing. I am super happy.”
IRONMAN Australia is Siddall’s second IRONMAN victory of 2018 and a major confidence boost for the second half of the season that will include another crack at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year really. Winning IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo was amazing. I have spent a lot of time in New Zealand so it was fantastic to get the win there. I have a lot of fondness for Port Macquarie and Australia, it is where I started the sport and did my first 70.3 as a beginner. So to win here is really special. That hurt and I know I will have to do it all over again to defend my title but I will have to come back next year wont I? I guess that is the plan,” she said.
Marino Vanhoenacker came to Australia, as a man on a mission and he returns to Belgium satisfied it is mission accomplished, making thousands of new fans with his signature racing style and writing himself into the IRONMAN record books.
“The IRONMAN on every continent was an idea that started slowly and I didn’t even realise that it hadn’t been done before. About three years ago people started to tell me and the harder it took the more and more I started focusing on it. Missed out on a few big chances and I thought I have to finish this off before I am done with triathlon.”
“So it became a little bit of an obsession with me and I invested big time in this trip to IRONMAN Australia. It was now or never. I am turning 42, so I am not getting any faster. I really wanted this at the end of my career and to be able to achieve it in a strong field like this is a dream come true.”
“At the finish I said it was a really uncomfortable day and it was. I was in the lead pack for a very long time with these fast swimmers and it felt too fast for the whole swim and this continued on the bike. Mark Bowstead was pushing so hard and all day long I was thinking just one kilometer slower would be perfect. I tried to hang on but at the end of the bike I had nothing left and had to let go.”
“Emotionally I was gone. When Mark rode away from me I thought should I park the bike in the change tent and not come out on the run. It wasn’t a tactical move I just had nothing left, so it was a little bit scary to wait and see how the legs would feel on the run. I slowly started making ground on Mark but then Luke McKenzie was closing in fast and I didn’t like that thought so the pressure stayed on the whole race. It was an uncomfortable feeling.”
“Once I started closing in on Mark on the run I got the good feeling again and started to believe again that maybe I could pull this off. But then Luke was closing in. I put everything into it and at 32km I ran two quicker kilometers and I got a gap Luke which was a huge relief. Then I just tried to survive for the last half an hour.”
IRONMAN Australia has been on Vanhoenacker’s radar for many, many years but until 2018 it had been reluctantly overlooked. This year he made his mark with the victory that will be talked about for many years.
“For the last four or five years I have celebrated IRONMAN like it could be my last win and it could be. So every win is really, really big to me but this is one of the biggest, with the most meaning and the most input from myself. Now I don’t have anything left and at the moment I don’t know how to proceed in the season. I left everything out there in Port Macquarie. In the last 100m I was crying. I was wasted and left it all out there,” Vanhoenacker said.