Australian’s Luke Bell and Rebekah Keat recorded crushing victories at their hometown race at CHALLENGE SHEPPARTON yesterday, both setting up the wins on the bike leg, thriving in the windy conditions.
A cool start to the day turned into a smoking hot one for Bell, exiting the swim with the leaders he set about putting down a monster bike leg that ultimately secured the victory for the Victorian. Sam Betten (AUS) ran down Nick Kastelein (AUS) in the final kilometres to grab second and relegate Nick to third.
“It looks easy but it was painful and it’s always good to win from the front.
“I was quite happy when I woke up this morning and saw the winds,” said Bell.
Keat and ‘Team Sirius’ teammate Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) were the two left to battle it out at the front of the women’s field, but Keat was not going to be denied a fourth Shepparton title today. Van Vlerken had to settle for second and Radka Vodickova (CZE) snared the final podium spot.
It’s very special to me, Challenge put on an amazing event.
“It’s great to get first and second and have my coach and partner here.
It was a group of five that emerged from the water in quick succession led out by Nick Kastelein (AUS), then Matthew Pellow (NZL), Mike Phillips (NZL), Betten, and Bell.
Conditions seemed ideal but out on the bike leg the wind was up and Bell took full advantage of them. At the end of the first lap he had put 4 minutes into the chasing group that was reduced to three as Pellow was the first to call it a day.
“It’s hard conditions to race in, you’re conscious not to over pace into the headwinds and the tailwinds you’re trying to hold wattage and stay on pace.
“Trying to hold 50kph on the way back and 40kph on the way out, I could see the guys looking at each other and it plays into your own hands I guess, it drives you to stay on the pedals and the gas,” said Bell.
With a tail wind behind him on the way back into T2 Bell had amassed nearly a 7-minute lead heading out onto the first of the three 7km loops.
“I went out steady, maintained the second lap and then dropped three quick ‘k’s’ at about 3.45kph pace to make sure I could get to that last out and back and be able to enjoy the final 3km home,” said Bell.
Kastelein was the next to charge out onto the run in pursuit of Bell. Phillips and Betten not far behind and in the chase.
Kastelein was setting the hot pace and reducing the gap at each lap by a minute everytime but was never going to breech the enormous buffer Bell had set up.
Bell took the time to soak up the finish line after a frustrating past six months.
“Training has gone exceptionally well, I just haven’t been able to deliver on race day which has been frustrating for the past 6 months. It’s just a matter of being patient, it always comes back around and it’s just nice for it to come back here.
“The course in town here is spectacular it just never feels like you’re out there by yourself,” said Bell.
The early pace took its toll on Kastelein as Betten got him in the final kilometers to snatch second today.
“That was tough – today it was more a battle mentally than physically, I tried to put it to the back of my mind that I’ve been sick all week and really haven’t done a lot.
“It was a matter of switching the head on and giving it to myself.
“Second place here feels like a win, it was an amazing race.
“I’ve always wanted to perform well at Challenge race and I think I’ve ticked that box today, I’ve still got another step on the podium to go though,” said Betten.
Radka Vodickova (CZE) led into the first change over with just under a minute lead over Keat and van Vlerken.
“Radka is an exceptional athlete, I’m not the best swimmer but I managed to stay on her feet almost the whole way,” said Keat.
Keat then went about eradicating that lead on the first lap of the bike and had put 2min 25sec into Vodickova and van Vlerken.
“I felt amazing on my bike, I’ve only been on my Cervelo for six months but it felt like a rocket today,” said Keat.
As Keat hit transition the lead had come down to 2 minutes to van Vlerken but disaster had struck for Vodickova with a front tyre blowing out. She limped back into T2 and was still determined to do what she could.
It then came down to the two teammates to battle if out for the top spots on the run. Keat was back to her brilliant self and looked in control on the first two laps pushing her lead back out to 2 minutes 26sec. She had a scare on the final lap before she crossed the line to claim an unprecedented fourth Shepparton title.
“I felt great on the run, I wanted to negative split it but felt a twinge in my calves with 2 km to go, I stopped for a little bit to see if I could push through it, popped some Nurofen and got through it.
“”I was racing so hard because Yvonne has won every single race this year, she told me I was faster on the short stuff but I beg to differ,” said Keat.
Keat waited with a special ‘beer’ show shower for van Vlerken at the finish line.
The 2015 DATEV CHALLENGE ROTH champion was full of praise for Keat.
“This is her race, this is like CHALLENGE ROTH day for me today, I’ve won it four times and this is her race, she so deserves to win.
“She’s my good friend and I’m so proud of her.
“I’m very happy with second, we had a lot of side wind on the bike which it makes it very honest,” said van Vlerken
1. Luke Bell (AUS) 3:51:23
2. Sam Betten (AUS) 3:55:17
3. Nick Kastelein (AUS) 3:55:49
4. Mike Phillips (NZL) 4:00:59
5. Brad Wauer (AUS) 4:04:11
1. Rebekah Keat (AUS) 4:13:47
2. Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) 4:16:11
3. Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:28:29
5. Hannah Lawrence (NZ) 4:38:46