Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel outlasted a host of Aussies to take the Asia-Pacific championship in a breakthrough performance. On the women’s front Caroline Steffen, who has undergone all manner of changes including moving to new coach Chris McCormack, returned to her winning ways.
The third IRONMAN event in Melbourne was perhaps over-shadowed with the announcement by three-time IRONMAN world champion Craig Alexander that it was his final race over the full distance.
The Men’s Race
Bockel took the win from Australians Paul Matthews and David Dellow, with Austria’s Michael Weiss fourth and Alexander in fifth place.
“It was a hell of a day, I’ve been here for three weeks and I’ve taken this race seriously. Coming to Australia for a triathlon for a European guy, you are asking for trouble,” Bockel said. “Everyone laid it down out there, it was amazing. A fantastic race.”
A big group of men took advantage of ideal conditions in a blistering swim, as the top 10 exited the water in just over 45 minutes.
That group included Dellow, Matthews, three-time ITU world champion Peter Robertson, Courtney Atkinson, Bockel and Belgium’s Axel Zeebroek, while pre race favourites Alexander and Belgian Marino Vanhoenacker were two minutes further back.
The decisive move came on the second lap of the bike as Zeebrok, Bockel and Dellow opened up a gap on the rest of the field. By the end of the bike leg Dellow and Zeebrok had put two minutes into the field.
Zeebroek quickly opened a two minute lead on the run before Dellow wore him down to take the lead at the 15 km mark. By 28 km, Matthews had made up the seven-minute deficit he gave up on the bike to grab the lead, before Dellow regained control. But the Sunshine Coast man could not hold off the steady pace from Bockel, who moved to the front with 6 km remaining and was never threatened from that point.
Matthews, who stopped at one point, regained his composure and dug deep to edge Dellow for second in the shadows of the finishing line.
“I tried to hold my time as long as I could, just to hold it all together, but all the guys went after it today,” Bockel said. “I just had to be patient today.”
The Women’s Race
In the women’s race Steffen, now a permanent Australian resident, showed she was a class above the rest of the field.
The 2012 IRONMAN Asia-Pacific champion, who lives with boyfriend Dellow on the Sunshine Coast, took the lead early on the bike and, once onto the run, was never threatened as Melbourne again proved to be a happy hunting ground. In three attempts here she’s finished first in 2012, third last year and first again this year.
“After last year I wanted to get back to win this race. It feels like a home. I can’t say thank you enough—it’s a great course and the great support at the aid stations is amazing,” she said.
Steffen was happy the changes that she has made in the last few months paid off.
“People expect results straight away, and the last couple of months have been a lot of changes, so after my race last year I just wanted to get that trophy back,” she said. “I’m totally over the moon.”
American Mary Beth Ellis threw down the challenge, exiting the water with a lead of just over two minutes on Steffen, who quickly set about erasing that gap on the bike as pair spent the rest of the 180 km ride together.
Steffen lifted the pace late in the bike to gain a 43-second lead over Ellis and Canada’s Angela Naeth, who recorded the fastest bike split of 4:51:20.
Steffen stamped her authority on the race running strongly to take the win in a blistering time of 8:57:56, four minutes clear of Ellis, with another American Kim, Schwabenbauer, securing her first podium.
Alexander’s last full
An emotional Alexander paid tribute to his wife and supporters at the finish line before announcing that this was his final race over the full IRONMAN distance.
While disappointed with his own performance, he was delighted to see Matthews on the podium.
“A tough swim made it hard for me out there today, it put me behind the eight ball. It was nice to see Paul actually listen to me,” Alexander said.
Top 10 Pro Men Finish
Top 10 Pro Women Finish
|2.||Mary Beth Ellis||(USA)||9:02:14|