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Australia’s Josh Amberger and Annabel Luxford produced faultless performances to win at the first edition of Challenge Shepparton, Australia, today in tough conditions.
Read the recap from Challenge Family below:
Amberger got the early break on the field with a minute plus lead after the swim from a group of seven that contained all of the big names including Leon Griffin, Brad Kahlefeldt, Ruedi Wild and Tim Van Berkel.
“I went from the gun today, I knew I was the strongest swimmer in the field so I wanted to capitalize on that,” said Amberger.
Despite the rain-soaked roads Amberger held nothing back laying down the hammer and pushing his lead out at every check-point from Griffin over five minutes behind after 75km. Kahlefeldt was holding down fourth with Wild still in touch but giving Amberger a 6:30 head start. Berkel was the first casualty in the cold conditions, withdrawing after the first lap of the bike.
“I made some adjustments to my bike during the week and I saw the benefits of that today it was probably my best ride of the year,” said Amberger.
At the changeover, Amberger had banked a massive 9 minute lead that proved a winning one in the end. Kahlefeldt produced a great run to reduce the margin to 3 minutes, but had to settle for second today. Switzerland’s Ruedi Wild rounded out the podium.
“It feels amazing to come back here and win, I was second here last year. To come out with a race like that is just unbelievable,” said Amberger.
“I knew I was riding strong, the conditions were really tough out there today, everyone is struggling but I think those are the conditions where I thrive,” continued Amberger. “I wanted to come back here and see what I was made of and see what the other guys had.”
Radka Vodickova and Luxford emerged from the swim together; the pair remained within legal distance for the entire bike leg occasionally swapping the lead.
“I didn’t really push the bike, Radka and I were pretty cold, to be honest we just wanted to get it done,” said Luxford.
Granger was nicely placed in third but had lost time to the leaders now 5 minutes behind, but digging deep in her last race in Australia. Wu was staying in touch holding down fourth.
At the end of the bike it was going to come down to a foot race between Luxford and Vodickova, who are both very credentialed runners, and they didn’t disappoint.
The battle behind for third was heating up and Wu was running down Granger who was desperate to grab a podium in her last outing. Luxford was the first to make a break with Vodickova unable to respond, giving Luxford the win by eight minutes in the end. Vodickova finished second, with Wu rounding out the top three. “It was a challenging day with the weather but the organizers put together a fantastic course,” said Luxford.
“I went out at my own pace got comfortable and couldn’t control what Radka did today could only worry about what I could do and it paid off,” Luxford continued.
It wasn’t the fairy tale finish Granger had hoped for but the sentimental favorite delivered the best she had and one she will long remember.
“She (Wu) went by me so quick I could go with her, I’ve beaten her a few times this year but she got me back on the one that counted. The first two laps it was pretty tight but on the third when I knew I couldn’t get third I just enjoyed it,” said Granger.
When asked how the emotions played with her today she was focused from the start because of the difficult conditions and knowing she had a job to do but acknowledges it will be different later today.
“I’m fine with it but I know when I’m driving back this afternoon in the car and with your own thoughts it will hit me but I’ve got a party to go to tonight so that’ll snap me out of it,” said Granger.
Shepparton, Victoria, Australia – Nov. 16, 2014
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Josh Amberger (AUS) 3:45:16
2. Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) 3:48:36
3. Ruedi Wild (SUI) 3:51:49
4. Nicholas Kastelein (AUS) 3:53:45
5. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:58:46
1. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:18:04
2. Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:26:32
3. Michelle Wu (AUS) 4:32:35
4. Belinda Granger (AUS) 4:33:58
5. Julie Grant (NZ) 4:37:31