Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Women’s Race Preview

Melissa Rollison could be the one to watch this weekend. Whether she can win or not will remain to be seen but she is definitely one of the more exciting women to watch race. With Michelle Wu suffering from a foot niggle and Anna Cleaver not racing Rollison has to be one of the hot favourites along

Like the men’s field the women’s race is packed full of talent. Last year’s winner Anna Cleaver is not racing this year. Anna is in the USA currently training with her coach Siri Lindley and focusing on Olympic distance. Anna competed for New Zealand in the recent ITU race in Sydney and placed second to Jo Lawn in the Port of Tauranga half ironman in New Zealand in January this year. So that is one of the potential winners out. Anna went to the USA earlier this year not realising that she was going to come back focusing on ITU. Apparently her swim and bike made Siri suggest this option. Whilst on non starters Christie Sym will also not be racing this weekend even though she is down as a starter. Instead she will be at Port supporting her boyfriend, Kiwi Bryan Rhodes. Christie will be racing at Busselton the following weekend but her big focus is Challenge Cairns and two 70.3’s don’t fit in to this plan for her.

Melissa Rollison is, in my mind, the one to watch this weekend. Whether she can win or not will remain to be seen but she is definitely one of the more exciting women to watch. With Michelle Wu suffering from a foot niggle and Anna Cleaver not racing Rollison has to be one of the hot favourites along with Carrie Lester, Belinda Granger, Jo Lawn and Rebekah Keat. Madeleine Oldfield is also one that could potentially win after her race at the 2XU Falls Creek long course earlier this year. Melissa won the Gold Coast half ironman last year and finished 2nd at the Asia Pacific 70.3 championship in Phuket at the end of 2010 finishing ahead of Granger and Wu. If anyone hasn’t seen Rollison run in a race you are in for a treat. At Phuket she was 4 mins faster that than winner Caroline Steffen in the run and 9mins faster than Belinda Granger. Not only is she fast (2008 national steeplechase champion) but when you actually see her running in person it is exciting. She runs hard and can back herself to go on with it.

Rebekah Keat comes to Port off the back of a great 2010. She won Challenge Copenhagen, Ironman Louisville and Shepparton half ironman, was second at Challenge Roth to Chrissie Wellington and second at Ironman WA amongst other great results.

In 2010 Belinda Granger won Challenge Wanaka, Ironman Malaysia, Rhoto Ironman 70.3 in Hawaii, was third at the 2010 Asia-Pacific 70.3 championship, 6th at the recent Ironman South Africa and was second to Michelle Wu at the Taiwan 70.3. There were other strong results as well. If Granger’s training has been on track then she will be in with a strong chance.

Last year’s 2010 Ironman Australia winner Carrie Lester is also one athlete that all of the professional women have a lot of respect for and all rate as a potential winner. Carrie won the Capricorn Coast half ironman last year and Huskisson long course and had a number of other strong finishes in major races in the USA.

One of the favourites for the race, Kiwi triathlon great and 7 time Ironman New Zealand winner, Jo Lawn will be racing this weekend. Jo won Port of Tauranga half ironman in January this year. In an email to Trizone this week Lawn said “I am so excited to be racing in Australia. I am fit and healthy and feeling great. I am not underestimating this field as it is very strong.”

After this weekend Lawn is heading over to Busselton to race the 70.3 then is off to the USA to compete in Ironman Texas.

Another potential podium finisher this weekend, Michelle Wu is also heading over to the States to spend time with coach Siri. Unfortunately Michelle has had a foot niggle and hasn’t been doing the run work she would have liked to in the lead up to this race. She is heading to Port with no expectations but assures us that if on the start line she will be going hard. “I have been working on my swim and bike instead of my usual run load and I’m happy with how they are going. At this stage though I will still be racing. The foot is healing well and I am able to run, but have avoided speed work or anything too hard.”

Michelle is fairly new to the 70.3 and is still getting to know who is who in the game but with her results in the last year most probably now know who she is. “It’s a tough field!! Names like Belinda Granger, Rebekah Keat and Jo Lawn need no introduction! And then there’s of course Carrie Lester, Melissa Rollison, and Madeleine Oldfield plus a whole lot of others I don’t know.” One thing that stands out for Michelle is that she is confident of hanging on in the swim in this race. Michelle always rates swimming as her weakness. Although at the recent Huskisson long course she surprised her fellow competitors by being right there at the end of the swim. “Hopefully this extra training will mean I can get out of the water amongst the leaders if I get a good swim!”

There are some power house bikers and super fast runners so Michelle knows that she will need to be there on the bike. “I’m going to have to be on top of my game in order to be in the mix. I’m putting my money on Melissa Rollison having the fastest run, so I hope to have some sort of a gap off the bike over her. I wouldn’t want it to come down to a running race with her! A lot of these girls are amongst the best in the world, so it’s really going to be good test for me. It will be an amazing experience racing against the likes of Keat, Granger, and Lawn. At the end of the day I’m just going to race my own race, and focus on controlling one thing – myself! “

Melissa has had a tough start to the year. Along with her partner they were caught up in the Brisbane floods (there house became an island), have been renovating a new home, had a severe ear infection and a foot issue that stopped her running. This has all added up to be a horrible start to the year. Things are back on track however and Melissa is pumped to be racing this weekend.

Melissa Rollison’s weakness up to now has been her swim. Swimming is something new to her. She has started swimming under Brendan Capell this year and just recently Zane King, a former Olympian has also joined him in coaching. “This has been amazing. I’m finally learning some technique which I’ve just discovered is so important in swimming fast. So my main focus this year has been on my swimming as it’s my weakest leg .I’m cycling well also. I haven’t spent as much time running as I have in the past as I’m now trying to bring my cycling and in particular my swimming up the level of my running but overall I feel fairly confident I’m ready for a good race.” This must an ominous sign to the others in the race.

Rollison has also recently taken delivery of an Avanti TT bike and has been spending some time getting used to the different set up and finding the right saddle for it. After only riding a road bike up to now this will no doubt assist her bike leg greatly. “I am still very new to the sport, with only two half ironmans under my belt I know there is still a lot for me to learn and it’s all very exciting.”

On the competition she will be facing this weekend Rollsion says “To be honest I wouldn’t have a clue who my main competition is. Out of the starters I know two names, Michelle Wu and Belinda Granger who I competed against in Phuket. Both very strong and tough competitors. I’m used to running my competitors down after losing a lot of time in the swim but I’m hoping that’ll be different this time. I just hope my improvement in the pool will convert to the open water.”

Doing her first ever 70.3 race this weekend will be Madeleine Oldfield. Oldfield has only done two long course triathlons along with a number of Olympic and sprint distance triathlons. She won the 2XU Falls Creek triathlon surprising her competitors. “Since Huskisson Long Course in March I have put in a solid block of training and have been doing lots of quality bike and run sessions, so all signs are pointing towards a good race at Port Mac 70.3.”

“This is the first 70.3 I have raced so it’s all a bit unkown as to how I’ll go. However, after racing well at Huski and Falls Creek I am looking at continuing on with my form into Port Mac. I have done all I can in training so it’s all about getting it right on race day.”

The 70.3 Port Mac field is the strongest field Oldfeild has raced in. “I can’t wait to get out there and mix it with some of the best names in the sport including Granger, Keat, Wu, Lester and Sym. It’s going to be important to focus on my own race and play to my strengths and hopefully learn off some of the girls who have been in this sport for a long time.”

After Port Oldfield is off to Busselton for the following weekend’s 70.3 then off to the USA to race some 70.3s and try to qualify for the worlds in September.

Women’s Pro Starter List

Rebekah Keat

Belinda Granger

Carrie Lester

Michelle Wu

Alison Fitch

Elly Franks

Hannah Lawrence – NZ

Michelle Bremer – NZ

Madeleine Oldfield

Mary Miller – USA

Joanna Lawn – NZ

Melissa Rollison

Anu Vaidyanathan – India