Luke Bell has been chasing an Ironman win for his entire career. After a decade of near misses and epic battles, the Victorian can finally lay claim to being an M-dot champion, claiming today’s 2013 Ironman Australia title.
It might be fitting that the man once described as the ‘next big thing’ did it at the Ironman race where it all began for him. A wire-to-wire win was an emphatic stamp on a journey that has taken him around the world in search of that elusive victory.
The day started all at once with pros given 50 metres before the 1600 athletes began their chase for an Ironman finish. Out of the water first was age-group athlete Ben Squires (45:53). The next was Luke Bell who had a big gap to the chasers in Patrick Evoe, Monty Frankish and Luke Whitmore. Jason Shortis got out but would soon succumb to a bike mechanical which torpedoed his 75th Ironman and last Ironman Australia. A sad way to go out for a guy who has entertained the crowd for so long at this event.
Out in front it was soon Bell’s race as he took over the lead and didn’t give it back. Smooth, strong riding for Bell saw his lead open up steadily as Frankish, Evoe and Whitmore had nothing to fire at the flying Victorian. The bike conditions once again tested the athletes and Evoe and Bell rode alone for most of the journey.
Once onto the run it was a two-up time trial with Bell rock solid and Evoe unable to make any inroads on the lead that the Aussie had gained on the bike.
Bell must have replayed the many career marathons in his head as he whipped across the tarmac setting up his win. For Evoe, the winner of Ironman Louisville 2012, it was a daunting task to take away the legs of Bell, but he gamely stuck to his task, and in doing so, got himself onto the second step of the podium and live up to his pre-race billing as one of the ones to beat. And with no one around him except the gods of nervousness from races past, it was a strong Luke Bell who finally prevailed.
It was a relieved Bell who came down the finish line to a rapt crowd and an ecstatic support crew who have waited years for this great moment. “It probably was my race to lose, but in saying that I went out there and tried to control the race.” Bell said at the finish-line. “I didn’t try to blow anything out of the water, I just tried to keep in control for the majority of the day.
“I think he (Evoe) made a surge on the third lap of the run and he dug in so I dropped in a couple of 3:55 kilometres to show him I still had some gas left in the tank. It was nice to head out onto the last lap and enjoy the last 10 kilometres.”
Bell’s marathon (2:53) was the day’s fastest and his win was a justifiable end to many years of hard work. We at firstoffthebike.com are all stoked to call Luke an “Ironman Champion”.
Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie, ‘the people’s Ironman’, might have been somewhat shallow in numbers of pros, but it more than makes up for it in heart, as the age groupers took control of the event. Some top performances from David Meade, Matt Koorey, Mat Harris, Levi Martin and Jessica Fleming made this one a fun day of race watching.