Two of the biggest names in IRONMAN racing, aussies Luke Bell and Tim van Berkel are returning to IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast to headline the pro field and test themselves on the tough 2016 World Championships course.
The veteran Bell is set to re-invigorate his racing season that stalled with an uncharacteristic and almost unbelievable DNF at IRONMAN Cairns, while Van Berkel is using the Sunshine Coast race as a tune up for his assault on the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona.
Bell’s IRONMAN Cairns was one of the shortest on record, when he was pulled out of the water by the rubber ducky (IRB) no more than fifty metres off shore.
“The main challenge of the first half of the year was supposed to be IRONMAN Cairns but unfortunately when the gun went off and I dived in the water, I dived onto the feet of a couple of guys in front of me and cracked a rib within the first few strokes. So that ended that goal. It was a very quick trip.”
“That is the nature of IRONMAN, you spend a lot of time and effort hoping everything is going to be good on one day. It is either good or it is not, but that is the way it is and we are all used to it. You just put it behind you and move on. I rested up fully for about three weeks and did what I could that was pain bearable, but it took me 4-5 weeks all up to recover.”
Back in peak fitness Bell is keen to leave Melbourne and head north to the warmth the Sunshine Coast and show everyone that at 38, he is still a force in the world of IRONMAN 70.3.
“It has been a couple of years since I have actually raced on the Sunshine Coast so I am happy to hear that they are using the 2016 World Championship course. A challenging bike course is always better than an out and back on a freeway. It keeps it honest and makes sure that someone who is good over all three disciplines wins the race.”
“The Sunshine Coast is one of those places that everyone in Australia likes to race. Whether it is the 70.3, or Mooloolaba. Over the years coming up through the juniors and all the age groupers racing Moooloolaba and the ITU events, it is a place that everyone is very familiar with. You look forward to getting up there hanging out on the beach and spending a few days in an enjoyable family oriented location.”
“Sunshine Coast 70.3 is great preparation for the guys heading over to Kona because it is about four weeks out and you also have the young guys trying to make their mark on the 70.3 world coming up through. It is a great opportunity for them and it gets everyone in the one spot at the one time and we try and belt the hell out of each other,” he said.
One of those athletes looking for a last minute tune up for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona is Tim Van Berkel who has done IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast twice with mixed results.
“I DNF’d the first time but the second time I won in 2015, so I have good memories there and I am looking forward to having another crack at it.”
“The bike is changed from the year I won it but the swim and the run are the same. It is awesome that they are keeping the World Championship course from last year because it has a harder ride that goes out into the hinterland. Being a smaller guy and it being pretty hilly I think it will suit me. When the bike is hard, packs split up a bit and it takes the sting out of some of the faster runner’s legs. I think the new bike course is the way to go.”
“Everything is about Kona for me I am hoping to get back in the top ten like I did in 2014 and that is the big goal. The last two years I have been really disappointed with my results there and I want a top ten and I am putting all my eggs into that basket.”
“IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast is five weeks out from Hawaii and it is my last solid hit out. It is perfect for me because all I have to do is jump in the car and head three hours north and I am there.”
“I love racing up that way and I am expecting a very strong field to turn up. It is a triathlon Mecca up there in Mooloolaba and Maroochydore with the ITU and the 70.3 racing and the 70.3 Worlds last year. I love racing in Australia and I like to come home in good form so I am really looking forward to it,” he said.