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The ‘Big Easy’ was anything but, as wind gusts of up to 35 mph blasted professional and age-group triathletes all day along Southshore Harbor at the 2016 Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans on Sunday, April 17.
With reigning back-to-back elite men’s champion Andy Potts (USA) deciding not to race, fellow American Andrew Starykowicz was able to shine and capture his first win in two years with a dominant performance in less than ideal weather conditions.
For the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Starykowicz, who exited the 1.2-mile swim in third 29 seconds behind leader Matt Chrabot (USA) and three seconds behind Fernando Toldi (BRA), the wind was also a welcome element to the day’s racing.
“I train outside all winter in Chicago and you have whipping winds like this almost every day, so I love riding my bike sideways and it’s a lot of fun and instead of thinking how much it sucks I’m thinking how much I love it,” said an exuberant, but exhausted, Starykowicz after the race.
“There were times I was pushing 44 mph and the wind was at your back and there were a few sections where I was literally watching leaves tumbling on the ground as fast as I was going—it was awesome.
“I love the wind and I love riding in stuff like this and it was cool for me today.”
The win was long overdue for the 34-year-old 10-time champion, who last won two years ago at Eagleman.
“This is a huge confidence booster,” admitted the former Big Ten water polo champion and All-American swimmer. “When you are winning regularly you take it for granted, and when you go almost two years without winning it means a lot to get this one today.”
When asked the reason for the drought, Starykowicz offered no excuses.
“I was just getting beat,” he told Triathlete.com. “I was having good races, I was just getting beat.”
Canadian Taylor Reid, 25, used the 56-mile bike leg to overcome a time deficit out of the swim (+2:48) to claw back and pass six other athletes before surpassing Chrabot on the 13.1-mile run to claim second overall.
“My swim wasn’t strong, but I was not super surprised as it’s my weakest of the three,” said Reid. “I got on the bike and knew I had to hit hard into the wind and then pull it back.
“I basically kept rolling and came on to the run in about third place and I could see Matt Chrabot about 800 meters up and I was ‘OK, let’s try to get him at the turnaround’ and I caught him at mile 6.
“He basically hopped on my feet in the wind and I was just like it is going to come down to a sprint and I have to prepare myself for that last 800m and luckily he was gassed and I just put all on the line came up with second.”
Second place was a nice comeback for the 2015 Silverman 70.3 champion, who crashed at Oceanside 70.3 in his last outing.
“I’m pretty happy,” said Reid, who races the 70.3 North American Pro Championship in St. George, Utah next month (May 7). “I crashed at Oceanside, so this was a good turnaround after a bad day at the office two weeks ago.”
For defending two-time elite women’s champion Sarah Piampiano (USA), it was just another day at the office as she was able close a minute gap on the turnaround of the bike course and surge past fellow Purple Patch teammate Sarah Cameto (USA) and run away into a vicious headwind for the win.
“It’s interesting because I don’t feel like this course would necessarily favor me, as I tend to like hillier courses,” Piampiano told Triathlete.com following the race. “But I just always seem to ride and run really well on this course and when you find something that works you have to just keep coming back.”
The win marks the 35-year-old former investment banker’s third New Orleans title after first winning the race in 2012 (with a cancelled swim) and overcoming two mechanicals last year.
Laura Bennett (USA) blitzed the swim in rough Lake Pontchartrain water, which would ultimately decimate the age-group field minutes later. Amanda Stevens was next (+1:18), followed by Sarah Cameto (+2:56), Amanda Wendorff (+4:31), Caitlin Snow (+4:33), Bailey Hinz (+7:15) and Piampiano (+7:36), who said of the swim…
“The swim was rough,” admitted Piampiano. “Even with the harbor protecting everything it was still challenging, but I was lucky enough to have a few people to swim with and that always helps to protect yourself from the waves and the currents.”
Once on the bike, Piampiano put her Purple Patch training into effect to chase down and surpass the race leaders prior to the run.
“I’ve worked a lot with my cycling coach Paul Buick, and he has done a lot with us on learning how to ride in the wind, and I’ve been out in a bunch of training camps in Kona where it’s quite windy, so for me I kind of welcomed it because I knew a few of the other competitors would be nervous due to the conditions,” explained Piampiano, who is set to race Ironman Texas next month (May 14). “I could see myself making up big ground in some of the areas with lots of crosswinds, and for me I liked it but it still made it challenging.”
2016 Ironman 70.3 New Orleans
New Orleans, La. – April 17, 2016
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 3:46:52
2. Taylor Reid (CAN) 3:52:19
3. Matt Chrabot (USA) 3:53:07
4. Ivan Tutukin (RUS) 3:56:05
5 Raul Tejada (GUA) 3:56:55
1. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 4:19:57
2. Sarah Cameto (USA) 4:26:48
3. Laura Bennett (USA) 4:29:51
4. Caitlin Snow (USA) 4:30:21
5. Amanda Stevens (USA) 4:33:23