Words Phil Wrochna | Pics Phil Wrochna
Ironman Melbourne was a contrast of many things over the short life that it had. There were some dizzying highs and some trough dwelling lows. It was a frustratingly brilliant event that had you loving it one minute and cursing it the next. And with it falling off the radar this season March is not what it was.
The pro fields in the men’s race were red hot in most seasons. Marino Vanhoenacker, Frederik Van Lierde, Eneko Llanos, Cam Brown, Craig Alexander, Luke Bell, Joe Gambles, Paul Matthews, Dirk Bockel, Dave Dellow, Tim Berkel, Jeff Symonds, Greg Bennett on the men’s side.
On the women’s side Caroline Steffen, Bek Keat, Mirinda Carfrae, Amanda Stevens, Anja Berenek, Jo Lawn, Gina Crawford, Corrine Abraham, Beth Gerdes, Rachael Joyce and Mel Hauschildt have all given the race a go. The first year build up to this event was electric and the excitement as to who would show up made for a very cool opening race.
I feel the need
This was one quick course. The roads were smooth and new, the winds only showed up for one edition and the run was one of only a few to be point to point but offered enough variation to ease the muscles (somewhat!) and run quick. It never got too hot. Craig Alexander proved the course’s potential right off the bat in year one with a stunning 7:57:45. A number of age groupers too took a bat to the course and went sub 9.
There were two hot spots on the course. Frankston was full of people waiting for T2. “Funky town” as it is known was always full and the swim start always attracted a huge crowd. The second jumping spot was the Great Provider set up by the Giant Bikes crowd. This made kilometre 41 a dream for anyone who braved the borderline craziness generated by the blue squad. The other rolling tradition (not quite a hot spot) was the peloton that usually got on and followed the lead men. Overall though the crowds loved this race through the day.
Fast, a little scary and hugely unique the tunnel that was near the bike turaround made for some gnarly bike handling. The weather too in the tunnel changed as did the light. And, as it was on a freeway it was not something many of the athlete could see via the bike before hand. it made for some crazy ride through experiences come race day.
The weather saw the swim shortened in year two and really tarnish the reputation of the event. Whenever weather alters a race it suffers from that stigma for the next few editions. Melbourne never got the chance to really put that into back of people’s minds. Most nights were cold in Melbourne making the finish line a bit of a ghost town towards the finale.
Diminishing pro fields.
Build it and they will come. Sort of. In year one Ironman Melbourne attracted 51 male pros. In 2015 it got 21. The pull of the race just fell off. Even an Asia Pacific Title attached couldn’t sway the masses. Which is not to say it was an easy title to win it was just less and less wanted a piece of it.
Point to point running.
It was really tough supporting on this course. A point to point run might suit the athletes as they leave T2 but it sucked for supporters trying to follow them. We spent each season on the back of a moto riding with the pro men and it was horrible with even a course permit. Considering that family make the journey as much as the athlete it was not much of a reward for those wanting to follow their athletes.
The bike course
A freeway may have been conducive to quick times but it was ugly. Nothing much to see here and again not much fun to try and spectate. The bike course made athletes turn inward. Industrial backwaters and the odd art installation on the road side was not much to look at save for the tunnel.