After saying that he would not do an Ironman this year local pro triathlete Tim Berkel is starting this weekend’s Ironman Australia. Berkel’s entry means that the race now has four serious contenders.
Paul Ambrose would have to be the bookmakers favourite based on his training this year, his Abu Dhabi do or die performance, his steady results over the last two years including the Ironman Louisville win in 2010 and a stream of podium finishes and wins in 70.3 races mainly in USA. Add to this the ‘money can’t buy’ mentoring from his regular training partner Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and everything says he is the man to beat this weekend.
Of course this means that we are saying that Leon Griffin, Tim Berkel and Jason Shortis aren’t favoured to win. It is a long race and one that will see many things not go to plan. Paul Ambrose will be wanting this win more than the others. A win at Port Mac will give him the kudos that his training and hard work (Macca will tell you Ambrose trains harder than most) has been all about.
Leon Griffin could be the dark horse. After taking a year off professional triathlon life and working on the trading desk at Bendigo Bank in rural Victoria and building a house with his lovely wife he has come back in to the fold and is keen to perform. One of the characters of the sport ‘Griffo’ has spent the last couple of seasons showing that he is a leading 70.3 triathlete and is a former World Duathlon champion. Griffin didn’t have the best race at Ironman WA last December and has been consistent this year with a 2nd placing at the San Juan Puerto Rico 70.3 and a 4th two weeks later in the California 70.3.
Written off by some sections of the triathlon media as a one hit wonder after his 2008 Ironman WA win, Tim Berkel went on to win two Challenge Copenhagen titles and Busselton 70.3 last year. Having said that Berkel is the unknown quantity for this race with no real long distance races this season to give us an indication of how he will fair. Berkel spent a good part of the beginning of this year going back to basics in the pool, under the guidance of Grant Giles at Aeromax Team he has spent a considerable amount of time getting his swim up to speed. Berkel does not want to go to Kona unless he can get out of the water with the leaders and that was what the beginning of this year was all about. On top of that Berkel got married to Belinda and wanted to stay close to home in Australia this year racing mainly 70.3.
Despite his age Jason Shortis cannot be written off. He showed in WA in December that he still has plenty of life left in him. A 2:49 marathon got him on to the podium with a 3rd overall. Shortis has completed a huge amount of Ironman races in his long career. He is one of the legends of the sport and still has some speed. If the other guys don’t take him seriously he could muscle his way through the field.
In the women’s race Hilary Biscay will be the one to beat on Sunday. Australians Michelle Mitchell and Nicole Ward will be on a misson to make sure Biscay does not win. Out of the two Mitchell would have to be the considered the most likely for a home country victory. Biscay was 5th at Ironman WA last year in a time of 9:39.
Ward will swim well and should be one of the faster runners but the bike could be her undoing. Ward finished 4th in last year’s Ironman Australia with a 3:19:50 marathon, and has had recent podiums in Shepparton and Batemans Bay Ultimate Triathlon. Unlike other pros who train full time or almost full time, Ward works in the corporate world and yet somehow still manages to put in the training required to be a contender. With the support of her husband Bern, she punches above her weight and achieves some great results. Ward had a solid hit out at the Ulitmate Triathlon in Batemans Bay recently where she raced tired in the middle of a big block of Ironman training.
Michelle Mitchell finished second overall at Challenge Cairns last year only 4mins behind powerhouse Rebekah Keat. Mitchell then went on to win Challenge Barcelona in 2011 and has had more success since then.
Kat Baker will be a solid contender based on previous results. In 2010 Baker performed well in the SiS Port Macquarie Half Ironman with a second overall.
|1||BERKEL Tim (4)||Male||27||Port Macquarie (NSW)|
|2||GRIFFIN Leon||Male||31||Kangaroo Flat (VIC)|
|3||AMBROSE Paul (1)||Male||27||Alfords Point (NSW)|
|5||DEFILIPPIS Scott||Male||32||United States|
|6||DMITRIEFF Chris (4)||Male||33||Killareney Vale (NSW)|
|7||SHORTIS Jason (15)||Male||42||Miami (QLD)|
|11||BISCAY Hillary||Female||33||United States|
|12||MITCHELL Michelle||Female||30||Woodroffe (NT)|
|13||WARD Nicole (3)||Female||36||Freshwater (NSW)|
|14||BAKER Kat||Female||25||Fadden (ACT)|