Winners of Melbourne's Ironman
Ironman will return to Frankston, EastLink and St Kilda on Sunday 24 March 2013.
Alexander and Steffen win Melbourne's Ironman in 2012
Lavamagazine.com's Jennifer Ward:
At the inaugural Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne it was a day of familiar themes and unexpected turns. With home favorite Craig Alexander taking the win in his first-ever sub-8:00 (hours) performance and Switzerland's Caroline Steffen laying down the fastest bike leg of her career, the two set the bar high for future events on this new course.
The day started out at the Frankston Foreshore, 42.2 kilometres south of the finish line in St. Kilda. The manic winds of the previous few days had subsided, replaced with stillness joined by low temperatures and overcast skies. It was a day that saw no extremes — save for the performances to come.
Australia’s Clayton Fettell, fresh off his first-ever Ironman in Busselton, led the 3.8 km swim in 45:59. Luke Bell, Greg Bennett and Luke McKenzie rounded out the day’s top male swimmers.
The athletes biked out on EastLink, making it the first time for most of them save for local boy Luke Bell. They had to negotiate EastLink's Melba tunnel four times, with some incredibly fast speeds on the tunnel descents.
An energy-packed turnaround in the town of Frankston reenergized the competitors before they headed out on their second loop.
Fettell, just 25, extended his lead on the bike until the 150 km mark, where he was surpassed by a group of Ironman veterans including, by turns, Belgian Frederick Van Lierde, Craig Alexander, Eneko Llanos, Cam Brown, Joe Gambles, Luke McKenzie, Luke Bell, David Dellow, Paul Matthews and Matty White. Alexander and Van Lierde made some of the most significant surges, but weren’t able to put much time on the group into T2.
Leading the way on the first few kilometers of the 42.2km one-way marathon back to St. Kilda were Alexander, Brown, Eneko Llanos and Frederick Van Lierde. (Early leader Fettell had to withdraw from the race.) The duo from down under — or as Alexander would later call the “old men” — were set up early for a run battle that turned the day into a drama on the road. They ran together up until Alexander pulled away at the 30 km mark. Another one of the surprises of the day was the tight-knit nature of the men’s run pack: Eneko Llanos and Frederick Van Lierde put in strong bids for third and fourth and through 30 km were only a minute behind the shoulder-to-shoulder leaders.
In the end it was Alexander who managed to pull away from his Kiwi competition and soar across the finish line in 07:57:44. “Nothing beats winning in front of the home crowd, friends and family, the sporting public and the Australian triathlon community,” Alexander said at the finish line.
Alexander reported that he felt a little rough on the first three km of the run, before he found his rhythm. “We did the first 10 km in under 36 minutes, it was an awesome front group of all Ironman winners. It started to get hard at the 22k mark … it’s a testament to mental toughness. I couldn’t let it go. I just kept thinking I want to be the first on Greg Welch’s trophy!”
As flat and fast as the course was predicted to be, Alexander said after the race that he didn’t think he had the fitness to go 7:57: “It was two old men fighting together,” Crowie said of his duel with Cam Brown, who finished in 8:00:12, an excellent time for the Kiwi who wasn’t able to race a full distance in New Zealand’s shortened race this year. Belgian triathlete Frederick Van Lierde finished third in 8:01:26.
Steffen rides away
In the women’s race, Rachel Joyce led the swim, with Gina Crawford and Michelle Vesterby following close behind. Mirinda Carfrae also posted a strong swim, at 53:29. But it was on the bike where the real gaps were created, with Steffen moving quickly through the field to join Joyce at the helm. The Brit and the “Swiss Miss” maintained a lead that grew from seven minutes to 20, keeping Joanna Lawn, Rebekah Keat, Gina Crawford and Carfrae working hard over the course of the entire bike.
Steffen’s bike work (leading to a 4:35:29 bike split) put her up into the second pack of professional men and set her up to blow through T2 with a comfortable lead over Joyce. She followed up with a 3:01:22 marathon, a time that surprised her when Michellie Jones presented her with her trophy at the finish line.
“How fast? That’s my fastest time ever by four and a half minutes or so,” the Swiss athlete who’s been training near Noosa stated post-race. “My first goal was to be on the podium, my second goal was to be sub-9:00. I still can improve heaps on the run, it’s still early in the season. I was a little disappointed in Kona and I wanted to show everyone that I’m not done.”
With a time of 8:34:51, just seconds off Chrissie Wellington’s 2011 Ironman South Africa world record of 8:33:56. Steffen reported that she had an “an absolutely perfect day,” though she had to work really hard to catch the second group of pro men. “I was working 100 percent, like all out, for maybe 20 minutes straight just to get the gap closed.”