Sunshine Coast based Swiss Athlete Caroline Steffen has won the inaugural Ironman Asia Pacific Championships and in doing so posted the second fastest time in history. It was a perfect day for Steffen who embraced partner Dave Dellow on the finish line, Dave having finished 5th in the mens race. Steffen was clearly overjoyed at the end and asked the big crowd to think of it as a home country win, as Australia is her adopted home. The crowd were happy to adopt her.
The race started in perfect conditions today in Melbourne. The women’s race, stacked with talent, started 2 minutes behind the men, with thousands of spectators lining the foreshore and pier at Frankston to cheer them off. It was still dark when the gun started, but Britain’s Rachel Joyce did not let this put her off and she led out of the water and was off on the bike before the chase pack which included Keat, Carfrae and Steffen were even into transition.
It was not long before the Swiss Miss Steffen had bridged the gap to form a powerful duo to work together (legally) to try and put some distance into the known runners in the chase group behind. By 2hrs into the bike they had established a lead of 7:30 over Keat, Lawn and Vesterby, with Lester and Crawford a further 2.30 down. At this stage
in the race former world champion Carfrae was 11.30 off the lead rider.
Steffen and Joyce continued to work hard to build the gap, aided by being able to pace off a group of pro men, but eventually the pace proved too much for Joyce and at the turnaround of the second lap had given up 2.30 mins to the Swiss athlete. By the time they entered T2 45ks later the deficit had blown out to 6.45.
By the time Lawn and Keat hit T2 they were 24mins down on Steffens, and with Steffen running strongly and putting time into Joyce in the first 10k, already the lead was starting to look unassailable. Steffen looked comfortable throughout the run, and Joyce was just not able to recoup any of the time lost on the bike.
With 10k to go the only question was not whether Steffen could hold on, but whether she could best Chrissie Wellington’s world record. The crowd urged her on, but she was receiving no course updates and eventually fell just 1 minute short, finishing in 08:34:51, though she claimed this was not a concern. Waking up tomorrow morning she may feel differently!
Joyce maintained her pace to finish 11 minutes later in 8:46:09 with a strong finishing Carfrae coming home in 9:04:00
Switzerland’s Caroline Steffan took out what she described as a “home victory” for her, as she is based on the Sunshine Coast.
“This feels like a home victory for me and I hope you enjoy it with me,” she said.
In claiming the inaugural title she also posted the second fastest ever ironman time (8.34.51) to beat the UK’s Rachel Joyce and Australian Mirinda Carfrae.
Carfrae said it just wasn’t her day as she had simply felt flat.
“I just had no ‘pop’ today but no excuses, those girls were flying all day,” she said
Joyce lead the women’s pack out of the swim, covering the 3.8km opening stage of the ironman in 52:34.
Following her out of the water was Gina Crawfod (53:11) followed by Michelle Vesterby (53:23), Rebekah Keat (53:24), Kate Murphy (53:24), Carfrae (53:29) and Steffen
By 30km into the bike leg Joyce and Steffen had assumed the outright lead and were being chased by all of the other major players in the field.
By the 40km mark of the 180km cycle leg they had opened up a five minute lead over Vesterby and Keat. Former Ironman World Champion and pre-race favourite Carfrae was around 9min 40sec behind the leaders with veteran Belinda Granger.
Another 50km on and Carfrae was almost 16 minutes off the pace as Steffen and Joyce put time into all their rivals.
With a third of the run completed the race looked to be Steffen’s.
“On the run, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good run, I knew what I had to do, I concentrated and I worked really hard on the run. I knew it was definitely fast,” said Steffen
At the 10km of the run Carfrae’s bid for victory appeared over with the Queenslander almost 30 minutes behind the leader but the gutsy triathlete still managed to fight her way onto the podium.“When I started the run I thought this is going to be a long day. The girls flew on the bike; but third place is still pretty good on the podium,” said Carfrae.