The rise of Olympic-distance athletes onto the endurance stage continued with Brad Kahlefeldt and Liz Blatchford prevailing at IRONMAN 70.3 Busselton in Western Australia.
The Men’s Race
Thirty-four-year-old Brad Kahlefeldt, a two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, made his breakthrough victory at the IRONMAN 70.3 distance on the back of an outstanding 1:10.35 run at Busselton today.
Kahlefeldt shredded a tire on his IRONMAN 70.3 debut at Geelong, received a penalty at the Huskission long distance race and crashed in IRONMAN 70.3 San Juan. He made a late decision to race after a standard-distance win over Joe Lampre at Hervey Bay last weekend.
“It’s a good feeling,” Kahlefeldt said. “There’s lots of guys who say the ITU (International Triathlon Union) guys can’t really compete over this distance straight away, so it’s a special win. Yeah, I can’t believe it.”
He trailed defending champion James Hodge and Sam Appleton out of the 1.9 km swim and found himself a further place back after the 90 km bike, trailing the talented 21-year-old Hodge by three minutes.
But Kahlefeldt proved the class of the field on the run, cruising to the front by the halfway mark, eventually winning in 3:45.39. He was nearly three minutes clear of Tim Reed (3:48.29), with Hodge third (3:49.25). He made his move immediately off the bike, pushing 3:11 seconds/ km pace to clock 22:17 for his opening 7km.
From that point, the result was never in doubt.
Reed, who beat Kahlefeldt in Noumea last month, enjoyed a solid day with the second-best bike split (2:06.59) and third-best run (1:13.24). It was his third podium in as many years at Busselton.
“I tried to really push the bike to keep [James Hodge’s] lead within a runable distance, but the downside of that is you’ve got Brad Kahlefeldt right behind you and you’re never going to outrun him if you get off the bike with him,” Reed said.
Hodge, a fulltime student in Wagga Wagga, tried to make it repeat wins on the back of an outstanding 23:12 effort in the swim and the day’s best bike of 2:05.55, but the wheels fell off with a 1:17.10 run.
The Women’s Race
Liz Blatchford, the Australian-based British athlete, has already made her mark since the move to the longer distance. She has enjoyed IRONMAN 70.3 wins in Boulder and Cozumel, and was second at a long distance event in Koh Samui recently.
The 35-year-old, now based on the Gold Coast, led from go to whoa, although she was pushed by Lisa Marangon in the swim and the bike, with the pair heading out on to the 21.1 km run together. Blatchford was quick to assert her dominance, though, with a 1:23.53 effort on the run to win in 4:19.07.
She was more than three minutes ahead of runner-up Kate Bevilaqua, who pushed through the field with a solid 1:25.58 effort on the run.
“It feels great, I love racing over here.” Blatchford said. “I grew up over here, so any time I come back I want to do everyone proud. I lead the swim out, then I just tried to pace myself in the bike. I just set out on my own on the run, although I could see the girls weren’t far behind me.”
Blatchford lived most of her life in Western Australia, while Bevilaqua still resides there, which gave the local fans plenty to cheer about.
“Usually I can’t sleep before an event at home because I’m so nervous, but knowing I did an IRONMAN the week before I was relaxed, thinking ‘oh well, if I blow it I blow it, we’ll just see what happens,’” Bevilaqua said. “I had a shocking swim and I was thinking ‘oh no, it’s going to be such a long day’ but I felt okay on the bike. On the run I was just taking it km by km until the last lap when I thought ‘oh my gosh, maybe I can have an alright day.’ I’m overwhelmed by how the day went for me, I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Kiwi Anna Ross, a distant five minutes back off the bike, ran up to third with an excellent 1:24.05 effort, just a few seconds behind Blatchford’s effort on the run.
Even though Blatchford took the win, she wasn’t the fastest woman on the day. That honour went to Aussie Age Grouper Rachel Smith, who combined a 30:52 swim with a 2:17:56 bike and 1:25:38 run to cross the line in 4:17:54.
Ironman 70.3 Busselton
Top 5 Men
1. Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) 3:45:39
2. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:48:29
3. James Hodge (AUS) 3:49:25
4. Sam Appleton (AUS) 3:49:30
5. David Mainwaring (AUS) 3:50:46
Overall fastest: Rachel Smith (AUS) 4:17:54
1. Liz Blatchford (GBR) 4:19:07
2. Kate Bevilaqua (AUS) 4:22:22
3. Anna Ross (NZL) 4:24:09
4. Lisa Marangon (AUS) 4:27:30
5. Andrea Oracki (AUS) 4:28:15