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Australia’s Luke McKenzie gets his first Australian Ironman win, while Great Britian’s Liz Blatchford grabs an Ironman victory in her debut. It was Courtney Atkinson and Samantha Warriner who earned the 70.3 titles.
Despite winning five Ironman triathlons in his career, Luke McKenzie knew he would feel unfulfilled until he crossed a very important item off his bucket list:
“I wanted to win on home soil,” said the Australian, “and now, to win my first Ironman in Australia and Queensland is very special.”
McKenzie worked hard to make his wish come true, holding off a stacked men’s field to win in 8:17:42. After exiting the water second to Clayton Fettell, McKenzie slowly reeled in first place. A drafting penalty for Fettell pushed McKenzie’s lead to eight minutes upon entering T2.
Fellow Australian Tim Berkel was determined to close that gap, spurring a 2:44 marathon to finish second place with an overall time of 8:22:16. “I just concentrated on chasing Luke, and full credit to him – he smashed that run.”
Only one week after suffering a kidney infection requiring hospitalization, Chris McCormack took the third podium spot at Cairns.
“I am so happy just to make that finish line,” said McCormack, a two-time Ironman world champion who validated a spot at this year’s Kona race with the finish, “you play the cards you’re dealt. Luke, take that to Kona. That is the way you win an Ironman. Very impressive.”
Liz Blatchford made a memorable Ironman debut with a first-place finish in the women’s race. The British short-course triathlete has moved up in distance over the past year, winning 70.3 races at Boulder and Busselton. The full Ironman, however, was a thoroughly different experience:
“Who invented this?” Blatchford half-joked upon finishing, “It was every world of hurt, but it was also amazing. I really can’t believe I’m the winner.”
The win didn’t come easily for Blatchford, who raced neck-and-neck with New Zealand’s Gina Crawford for much of the race. At mile 20 of the marathon, Blatchford made a definitive surge, extending her lead to finish in 9:19:50, three minutes ahead of Crawford. American Stephanie Jones took third place in 9:31:46.
It was an ITU invasion at the 70.3 race, as former ITU champions Courtney Atkinson, Brad Kahlefeldt and Tim Reed filled the podium spot.
“The wind was really tough today,” said winner Atkinson upon finishing, “really tough. Every single person in the race is going to earn their finish.”
Atkinson earned his finish by dominating from the start; after exiting the water with a 26:51 swim split, the Australian triathlete pushed a strong pace for a 2:11:53 bike. Despite the wind picking up considerably on the run, Atkinson was able to turn in a respectable 1:16:35 half marathon, holding off strong runners Kalhlefeldt and Reed.
“After 10 kilometers, I felt time just slipping away, and I needed to just try and get to the finish.”
Second-place finisher Kahlefeldt, who chose Cairns as his introduction to non-drafting long course racing, enjoyed the challenge of chasing Atkinson. “All credit to Courtney, he had a fantastic race. He really pushed it on the bike. I am enjoying this long-course racing, and I think I might stick around for the next few years to see what I can do.”
In the women’s race, Samantha Warriner celebrated her fifth race in as many weeks with a solid win over a strong field. Warriner marked her territory early on in the race with a 30:35 swim, a full minute over her competitors. Her lead was extended to over nine minutes during the race before slowing considerably in strong winds on the run. She finished in 4:39:18, only one minute ahead of second-place finisher Kiyomi Niwata. Australian Ange Castle took third place in 4:45:40.
Ironman and 70.3 Cairns
Cairns, Queensland, Australia – June 9, 2013
Ironman: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
70.3 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Luke McKenzie 8:17:42
2. Tim Berkel 8:22:16
3. Chris McCormack 8:32:50
4. Jason Shortis 8:38:21
5. Clayton Fettell 8:41:42
1. Liz Blatchford 9:19:50
2. Gina Crawford 9:23:14
3. Stephanie Jones 9:46:28
4. Anna Ross 9:46:28
5. Beth Walsh 9:55:23
1. Courtney Atkinson 3:56:33
2. Brad Kahlefeldt 3:57:25
3. Tim Reed 3:59:53
4. Pete Jacobs 4:00:04
5. Sam Appleton 4:03:32
1. Samantha Warriner 4:39:18
2. Kiyomi Niwata 4:40:24
3. Ange Castle 4:45:40
4. Matilda Raynolds 4:46:31
5. Rebecca Hoschke 4:49:55
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