There is something about a new race venue. They don’t come up that often and when they do the interest is always in the first group of athletes who undertake the task of course testing. Falls Creek was for many, out of the blue, in the fact that it had not been used as much more than a training base for runners and cyclists in the past.
Sitting at around 5,000 ft at the peak, ‘Falls’ is subject to swift weather changes and climate extremes. This was the talk pre race and the Friday and Saturday must have put a tremble into the field. Weather aside this race too must have held some trepidation for the competitors with an undulating course and a trail run for the last leg. But the Supersprint team went out on a limb and stuck to their course plan and what they created was something that will become a treasured asset on the triathlon calendar. Why? Because it is a tough race. You don’t cruise around the roads of Falls Creek. It’s a stand up bare knuckle fight to the end that leaves athletes exhuasted but content.
The day dawned with light to no wind and clear skies. The mist from the previous days was gone leaving an amazing skyline and setting for Australia’s newest long course race (2k/80k/20k). Back to the old school long course distance was a treat for those with long memories and with a field capped at 550 it had all the feeling of a race from 20 years ago.
And with Mother Nature playing her role the athletes took to the water with gusto as for the top age groupers there were course records up for grabs and a Victorian title (long course) and for the pros a $2000 payday was also a nice incentive to have a race.
One of the pre race favourites Clayton Fettell was absent leaving the race a little lost for a swim leader. Enter Ben Allen. He swam away from the field with ease and had opened up a two minute gap on the field with some superb aquatic navigation and speed. Behind him Olympic bronze medalist (Sydney 2000) Jan Rehula, who happened to be in Falls Creek for this weekend, was setting up his own race well coming out of the water next of the best.
Behind him the pros were stringing out and Leon Griffin, Monty Frankish, Lindsey Wall and Chris Bradford and Dave Meade were all getting to know one another as they cycled away on the 3 looped 80km bike leg in search of Ben Allen. Left behind was Jason Shortis. Shorto was not having a happy race and would have to work hard if he was going to get amongst it.
The women’s race saw Liz Blatchford, Madeline Oldfield and Michelle Wu all out of the water and riding hard early. For Oldfield this was going to be a huge test. A relative baby in this sport Oldfield had been putting together some impressive results against the locals but with the likes of Blatchford and Wu in the field the blowtorch had to be applied. They settled down to ride through the beautiful scenery which they had little time to appreciate. Behind them former AIS cyclist Suzanne Alway and local hopeful Elly Franks and Nicole Ward were trying to play catch up. But the pressure on the front was too much and the escape 3 were in control of this race by the end of the bike.
The men’s bike was panning out as expected. Rehula took the lead from Allen and had a chase group of three in pursuit of him. While this was unfolding it was Leon Griffin who looked the best. The 2 time 70.3 winner had the field where he needed them and was in no hurry to reel in Rehula. His pedal strokes were smooth and his aero position rock sold as the kilometres ticked over.
Out of T2 there were two things that struck us. Griffin’s transition was nothing short of pedestrian as he laced up his training runners (and redid one) and calmly made his way out onto the course. Michelle Wu also had a forgettable change as Oldfield and Blatchford executed a more typical approach to T2 (read quick).
On the run the brave Rehula had come to the end of his race leadership. He surrended the lead after 3 km of the run and with rest of the field chasing him down Griffin went in search of another victory. Likewise Oldfield was doing the same. She never let Blatchford near her as she bolted away out of transition and opened up what wast to be the the race winning lead.
Both Oldfield and Griffin had time to spare at the finishline as they ran up the final slope to victory. Behind Griffin the trail of destruction saw Rehula, and young Lindsey Wall fill the podium. Wall, a Snowy River native, was a surprise podium place getter and looks to be someone to watch. For Griffin the win proved both to himself and the triathlon world that he still ‘has it’. Griffin has always had the Rolls Royce engine. His body, which has let him down at times, allowed him the freedom to casually knife through the field with ease on a course that was taylor made for the hard man from Bendigo.
Behind Oldfield, Blatchford came in second and Wu third. The stress of the race was all too much as Wu burst into tears post race. A true recognition of how hard the race was and how hard she pushed herself. Oldfield claimed post race that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. Nicole Ward ran herself into 4th with a strong 20km effort. Oldfield is now a bone fide top level pro in the making. Her resolve throughout the race was solid and she took on athletes with better CV’s without a second thought.
And the pros were not alone in their synopsis of this being a tough race. Many of the age group athletes were echoing the same sentiments. They clearly loved this new challenge and many pushed themselves to the absolute maximum. Tears, curses and hugs were the order of the day as the finish line resembled something akin to a marathon at times.
- Leon Griffin 3:56:42
- Jan Rehula 3:57:25
- Lindsey Wall 3:58:41
- David Meade 4:02:24
- Monty Frankish 4:02:35
- Madeline Oldfield 4:30:06
- Liz Blatchford 3:42:46
- Michelle Wu 4:35:36
- Nicole Ward 4:37:03
- Suzanne Alway 4:39:04
Age group Highlights
Sam Hume (35-39) 4:06:18 (puncture)
Sean Bruce (40-44) 4:18:53
Niels Madsen (55-59) 4:37:58
Bev Thomas (40-44) 4:42:42
Emma Miller (30-34) 4:54:24
This race is a must for those wanting to really test themselves. The second edition of the Falls Creek Triathlon will be a better version once the first race kinks are ironed out but as challenge in triathlon in Australia it ranks as one of the toughest.