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Atkinson, Steffen Win 70.3 Sunshine Coast

The men's race was decided in a sprint finish.

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The recent dominance of half-Ironman distance racing by ex and current short course athletes continued today in Mooloolaba at Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast.

Two-time Australian Olympian Courtney Atkinson and Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games Australian representative Dan Wilson, in his first ever Ironman 70.3 as a professional, produced a sprint finish that delighted the crowd, while defending champion Pete Jacobs had to be content with third place.

In the women’s race it was one for the Ironman athletes with Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen out-pacing former short-course star Czech athlete Radka Vodickova. Defending champion Gina Crawford (NZL) rounded out the podium.

Read the race recap from Ironman below:

Men’s Race
The morning kicked off with a calm ocean producing a fast swim that saw all the pre-race favourites exit the water together. Defending champion Jacobs was joined by; Courtney Atkinson, Luke Bell, Clayton Fettell, Dan Wilson, Brad Kahlefeldt, Casey Munro, Lindsay Wall and Michael Fox.

Onto the bike and conditions were ideal for a fast ride, with Fettell, Bell, Jacobs, Atkinson, Kahlefeldt, Munro and Wilson spending the entire 90km bike leg in close proximity.

Out onto the run and it became foot race with Courtney Atkinson out of transition first, quickly followed by Jacobs, Wilson, Bell, Munro, Kahlefeldt and Fettell.

It was during the second lap of the run that Wilson and Atkinson separated themselves from the field and began a battle royal, culminating with a neck and neck sprint finish.

In the end it was Atkinson’s experience that allowed him to edge Wilson in the final straight by the smallest of margins.

“I enjoyed today because it was a really cool, tactical race,” Atkinson said. “It was tactical racing; we were surging constantly over the last 3km.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of running and concentrating on getting my speed back.

“If the race panned out the way I thought it would, and it did, I knew Dan was going to be my biggest competition.”

Even though he failed to grab the win Wilson enjoyed the day and confirmed he would definitely be on the start line for more Ironman 70.3 races.

“I had a great time out there today, I’ll definitely be back,” he says.

Women’s race
Vodickova is proving to be a threat in every Ironman 70.3 she contests, and coming off a 6th at the last weekends IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Canada, she was riding a wave of confidence.

That confidence carried her through the swim and she exited with a 27-second lead over Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen and defending champion New Zealand’s Gina Crawford a further 2:40 back.

Steffen then used her bike strength to quickly bridge the gap and the two rode together hitting the run course within seconds of each other.

Crawford worked hard on the bike to get back to just one minute behind.

Onto the run and it was the strength and experience of Steffen, who is based on the Sunshine Coast that allowed her to instantly pull away from Vodickova.

“It’s a home race and to be able to race and win in front of all of my friends is just crazy,” she said.

“I am really happy and had a good day out there.”

Vodikova was delighted she has able to spend most of the day within striking distance of an athlete of Steffen’s pedigree.

“I was able to try and stay with Caroline, and she is strong, so that makes me happy.”

“I am really pleased to make the podium here today.”

Steffen’s attention now turns to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on Oct. 11.

“My focus is now on Kona in four weeks and I came here today to see if my form was ready,” Steffen said.

Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast
Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia – Sept. 14, 2014
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run

Men
1. Courtney Atkinson (AUS) 3:45:35
2. Dan Wilson (AUS) 3:45:35
3. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 3:47:47
4. Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) 3:51:22
5. Luke Bell (AUS) 3:53:25

Women
1. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:12:05
2. Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:16:20
3. Gina Crawford (NZL) 4:19:28
4. Rebecca Preston (AUS) 4:28:47
5. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:28:58