Atkinson takes Ironman 70.3 Cairns

Atkinson takes Ironman 70.3 Cairns

Australia’s Courtney Atkinson survived tough conditions and competition to win today’s Ironman 70.3 Cairns ahead of fellow London Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt and Tim Reed.

Whenever you attract a field that contains Olympians, a former Commonwealth Games champion, multiple Ironman 70.3 champions and the reigning Ironman World Champion, eye-popping racing is sure to ensue.

The inclusion of so many athletes with a background in ITU racing ensured the swim in the murky waters in front of the Cairns Esplanade was kept at an extremely high tempo.

After several lead changes, it was Shane Barrie who led the front group out in the super quick time of 23:15. He was joined on dry land seconds later by two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson (23:17), Graham O’Grady (23:17), Joseph Lampe (23:21), Samuel Appleton (23:24), Brad Kahlefeldt (23:25), Michael Murphy (23:25), Pete Jacobs (23:27), Sam Betten (23:28) and Casey Munro (23:30).

Atkinson takes Ironman 70.3 Cairns

The big casualty from the swim was Tim Reed, who exited the water in 24:54, which left the Lennox Head-based athlete 1:39 down on race leader Barrie.

After attempting to launch himself off the front, Courtney Atkinson was quickly brought back into the fold of the lead group.

It did not take Reed long to find his bike mojo and he began chipping away at the lead group’s advantage which was being driven by Casey Munro, Samuel Betten and Graham O’Grady.

After hitting the turnaround just past the climb at Rex’s Lookout, riders faced a brutal headwind on the return journey towards Cairns.

The high pace being set by Munro, Betten and O’Grady combined with the headwind saw a number of those who made the lead group in the swim fall off the pace, including Jacobs, Appleton and Kahlefeldt.

Betten unfortunately fell off the pace just before they hit T2, leaving Munro, O’Grady, Reed and Atkinson to duke it out at the front.

By the four-kilometre mark on the run, Atkinson had established a 20-second lead on Reed, with O’Grady a further 30 seconds adrift.

The big move in the first half of the run came from Kahlefeldt, as the Queenslander surged past Jacobs, Appleton, Munro and Betten on his way towards the podium placings.

Atkinson takes Ironman 70.3 Cairns

Despite Kahlefeldt running the day’s quickest 1:14:22, it was not enough to stop Atkinson crossing the line in 3:56:34 to become the 2013 Ironman 70.3 Cairns champion.

“The head wind was brutal on the run, the wind was really tough today,” Atkinson said post-race.

“It’s not easy, I went through 10km on the run and I felt pretty good, then the time just kept slipping away and I needed to just try and get to the finish.”

Kahlefeldt’s scorching run ensured he took out the runner-up placing, with Reed taking out the last spot on podium thanks to a very solid bike/run performance.

“It was good for me to get second and have the short course boys go one, two. All credit to Courtney who pushed it on the bike. But that wind out there today was tough,” Kahlefeldt said.

“It was fantastic to hear people cheering for me all the way home; we don’t really get that in ITU so it was great to hear.”

THE FAVORITES FALL AT THE GOLD COAST HALF IRONMAN

THE FAVORITES FALL AT THE GOLD COAST HALF IRONMAN

On a rain soaked course Chris Kemp stepped into the winners circle for the first time in recent years taking out the Cannibal Gold Coast Half Ironman today, while Brisbane’s Melissa Rollinson has made a successful transition from athletics to triathlon claiming her second win in as many weeks.

The former champion steeplechaser smashing the previous course record to comfortably take the women’s title in record time over the 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run.

Kemp shaved just 12 seconds off the record previously set by Clayton Fettel in 2009 and Rollinson nearly seven minutes off the women’s with a scorching 1:22.06 for the run.
The early stages of the race were a replay from last year as renowned swim/bike specialist Clayton Fettell took control after a group of 12 athletes emerged from the swim together.

Fettell then set about dominating on the bike despite the tough conditions, as torrential rain and winds caused havoc. At the end of the 90km he had amassed a two and a half minute lead with New Zealand’s Mark Bowstead next to head into transition followed by Tim Berkel. Chris Kemp and Leon Griffen entered together and ran shoulder to shoulder.

“Bike is probably my weak leg, and I know that Berkel, Griffen and Ollie Whistler are really strong on the bike with their ironman racing, 90km isn’t that long for them and I suppose they were trying to hurt me on the bike knowing I’d be strong on the run,” said Kemp after the race.

THE FAVORITES FALL AT THE GOLD COAST HALF IRONMAN

“Clayton didn’t get as good a lead as last year, we held him to that pace a bit better but I know he’s had some injuries and that was a shame as it would have been a much tighter race,” he added.

As they headed onto the run Fettell looked strong but there was a host of classy runners hunting him.

Kemp was the first to start making his way to the front and by the second lap he had moved into the lead.

“We were slowly catching Berkel and Bowstead and with Clayton only having 3 minutes I felt pretty confident we’d get we’d catch him, it was just a matter of time and I had to be patient.

“I just relaxed into the group with those guys and at the end of the first lap I felt great and those boys started to struggle a bit. On the second lap I pushed it up a bit, tried to relax, and told myself not to do anything stupid and I’d probably be on the podium.”

Fettell finally succumbed to the lack of run training after his injuries, withdrawing on the second lap. Berkel also a casualty from the race, not having the best day on the run.

At the 17km mark things started to hurt and tighten up a bit for Kemp and it wasn’t till the 20km mark he felt safe, cruising across the line.

“I haven’t had a win like this for a long time, and they don’t come every day so I’ll certainly enjoy this one.”

The big mover in the field was New Zealander Callum Millward, recording the second fastest run split to claim second today.

Gold Coaster Ollie Whistler scored himself a place on the podium and was full of praise for training partner Brad Kahlefeldt who he says has been a massive help to him.

“I’ve done it the last couple of years, finished fifth last year. It may not seem like a massive achievement from 5th last year to third but the field here was world class today,” said Whistler.

The Sunshine Coast’s Katherine Baker made her mark on the scene as she emerged a clear leader after the swim and bike. Baker lead for most of the run until the noted runners in the field swamped her. New Zealander Anna Cleaver was holding down second place to Baker with Amelia Pearson behind her until Rollison found her running legs. Rollinson’s running background proved too good in the end and she crossed the line for a comfortable win from Michelle Wu who also put in a credible run to claim second today with Baker hanging on for third.

THE FAVORITES FALL AT THE GOLD COAST HALF IRONMAN

“That was a nasty event, it’s such a mental game,” said Rollinson.

“I’m not a strong swimmer, so the plan was to stay as close as I could, I’ve been doing a lot of riding so I was hoping to catch up some time there then hold on in the run,” she added.

Rollison came off the bike in fourth place and then went about running them down. Her run split (1:22:06) placed her fifth in the elite men’s times. Once she had found her rhythm it was mechanical, picking off each of the runners in front, although she admits a mental challenge.

Rollinson has made it a clean sweep of victories of the three events she has contested. A Gatorade Queensland Tri Series event last year, then last weekend at the Kingscliff Olympic distance and stepping up to the Half Ironman.

Each race she has done has doubled in distance but will now focus on the next task – Noosa Triathlon.

Despite the running background Rollinson says admits she has never run 21km in her life, let alone after a 90km bike.

In all 1400 competitors took on the half ironman challenge this morning, all with their own personal goals.

Earlier this morning 520 competitors tackled the shorter distance, 1km swim, 33km cycle and 7km run in the Sprintman with Bryce McMaster and Marion Summerer taking line honours.

Results – Half Ironman

  1. Chris KEMP 03:51:59
  2. Callum MILLWARD 03:53:24
  3. Ollie WHISTLER 03:55:37
  4. Josh RIX 03:56:04 00:23:57
  5. Mark BOWSTEAD 03:56:34
  6. Leon GRIFFIN 03:59:07
  7. Michael POOLE 04:02:35
  8. Monty FRANKISH 04:03:01
  9. Joseph LAMPE 04:06:36
  10. Luke WHITMORE 04:07:26

Women’s Results

  1. Melissa ROLLINSON 04:19:23
  2. Michelle WU 04:22:01
  3. Katherine BAKER 04:22:38
  4. Anna Cleaver 04:23:00
  5. Amelia PEARSON 04:25:56
  6. Michelle MITCHELL 04:30:48
  7. Julia GRANT 04:31:49
  8. Matilda RAYNOLDS 04:33:02
  9. Elly FRANKS 04:38:36
  10. Rebecca EVELEIGH 04:39:53