Australia’s Craig Alexander and Switerland’s Caroline Steffen turned in strong performances in Geelong to take their first wins of the new year. Alexander’s win was thanks to a blazing run time of 1:11:57, while Steffen dominated the women’s field on the second leg of the race with a bike time of 2:20:38.
Written by: Paul Moore
On a hot day in Geelong, 1,500 athletes took to the choppy waters off Eastern Beach. But there weren’t just swimmers in the water this morning. A swarm of jellyfish plagued the swim course, leaving a few athletes with stings.
The jellyfish didn’t seem to deter the pros. Clayton Fettell quickly established a lead on the swim, exiting the water nearly a minute ahead of the rest of the men’s field (21:54). Michael Murphy (22:54) led out a group that contained Alexander (23:01) and Paul Ambrose (22:56).
But it was all about Fettell. The time-trialler went out hard on the bike, extending his lead by a minute at the end of the first 30km lap. Two chase groups soon merged into one as tried to reel in the charging Fettell, but the Australian was, he later said, “riding scared”.
It worked. By the end of the three-lap course, Fettell had established a lead of nearly five minutes over the chase-pack, registering a blistering 2:12:37 on a sometimes technical, undulating course.
With a big chase group entering T2 together, it was all about catching Fettell.
And that is exactly what Alexander set out to do. Accompanied by former Geelong winner, Leon Griffin, Alexander quickly settled into his stride and started eating into Fettell’s lead.
By the end of the first lap of the three-lap run, Crowie had cut the lead to two minutes. Then, at the 11km mark, the reigning Ironman World Champion took the lead. Griffin soon passed the fading Fettell, but was unable to close the gap on Alexander. With a 1:11:57 run-split, Alexander took the win in 3:53:15. Griffin was second (3:54:35) and Tim Berkel ran his way to third (3:56:10).
“I’m really happy with that,” said Alexander after the win. “That was a solid hit-out, especially considering all the travel. I’ve done a strong block of training these last five or six weeks.”
Leon Griffin was philosophical about his second-placed finish: “Today was always going to come down to a running race. Craig showed why he’s the world champion, he ran away with ease.”
In the women’s race, despite leading out the swim (24:43), Sam Warriner struggled to contend with Caroline Steffen, who was in blistering form.
With Steffen close behind Warriner out of the water (24:54), it looked like the race would quickly develop into a ding-dong battle between the two pre-race favorites.
But Steffen had other ideas. On a rolling terrain that suits her riding style, she had established a two-minute lead over Warriner at the end of lap one.
She had extended her lead to almost five minutes going into T2, registering a race-best 2:20:38. Lisa Marangon (2:25:42) and Sam Warriner (2:25:56) were the next through T2, as they attempted to catch the Swiss star.
Steffen, however, was too strong. Despite the rising temperatures, she maintained her five-minute lead throughout the run, eventually finishing in 4:14:32. Carrie Lester ran her way into second (4:19:32), with Lisa Marangon third (4:19:49) and last-year’s winner Sam Warriner eventually finishing fourth (4:23:01).
Steffen was understandably ecstatic after her win: “It feels awesome to win! It’s my first win in a 70.3 race. I had an awesome day, I felt so strong. I did my own race, and never looked back.”
Ironman 70.3 Geelong
Geelong, Victoria (Australia) – February 7, 2010
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Craig Alexander (AUS) 3:53:15
2. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:54:35
3. Tim Berkel (AUS) 3:56:10
4. Peter Schokman (AUS) 3:56:25
5. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 3:56:39
1. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:14:32
2. Carrie Lester (AUS) 4:19:32
3. Lisa Marangon (AUS) 4:19:49
4. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 4:23:01
5. Suzanne Alway (AUS) 4:28:33
Check back for a photo gallery of the race.