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In some tough race conditions, Maxim Kriat of the Ukraine and Catriona Morrison of Great Britain, who won in 2009 and 2010, took the victories in Christiansted, St. Croix, today. The hot and humid weather, plus strong headwinds during the end of the bike course, made for some tough conditions today.
The 1.2-mile swim course wasn’t as choppy as it’s been the last two days, and Aussie Luke Bell was first out of the water in 26:13, which won him the $500 swim premium. About 20 seconds behind him was a pack that included France’s Romain Guillaume, Richie Cunningham (who’s finished in the top three at St. Croix six times), Kriat (who won two Ironman 70.3 races last year), and Italian Alessandro Degasperi.
At the eight-mile point on the bike, when the racers came back into town, Bell had grown his lead to more than a minute ahead of the other men, and Bell was also the first to reach the top of “The Beast” (the climb at mile 21 of the bike course that goes up 600 feet in 0.7 miles at an average 14 percent grade). Being the first to the top of the bike also won Bell a $250 premium. Behind him about 1:45 was Kriat, followed by Guillaume, Cunningham and Degasperi.
Bell maintained his lead through T2, with Kriat about 1:30 behind him, Cunningham 1:40 behind and Degasperi about 2 minutes behind. By the turnaround point on the run, Kriat had made up a lot of ground, crossing the timing mat only a few seconds after Bell (passing the turnaround first won Bell the $150 premium).
On the second lap, Kriat passed Bell with about two miles to go. “Just after the turn, we pretty much ran side by side,” said Bell. “It’s those 3 or 4 seconds a mile that he pulled away, and it was just that little bit, but there was nothing left in the tank to pick it up and win it.” Behind them Cunningham and Guillaume were running shoulder to shoulder. Patrick Evoe, who was about 5 minutes behind at the turnaround point, picked up the pace on the second half of the run. Kriat maintained his lead to the finish with a time of 4:11:43. Bell was close behind, with Cunningham rounding out the podium.
After the race Bell commented on the difficulty of the course. “It’s funny because I’ve always argued with Crowie which is tougher,” said Bell. “I think it’s one of those common arguments whether Wildflower or St. Croix is the tougher race—it’s been going on for years. I’ve always generally gone to Wildflower just because it’s easier coming from Australia, but I think I’ve jumped sides of the fence. I agree with Crowie—this course is relentless. There’s not one flat spot on the bike, and there’s a headwind, and the run is quite hilly, so hands down, this wins.”
In a stacked pro women’s field, Morrison was able to surge to the front on the bike and maintain her lead over other strong runners, such as reigning Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae. First out of the water was Team TBB’s Amy Marsh in 27:58, who also won the $500 premium. Morrison followed less than a minute behind, along with Kate Major and Carfrae.
By mile 8 of the bike, Marsh had kept her lead, but Morrison, Carfrae and Major were closing in. By mile 21 (The Beast), Morrison had surged to the front, with Canadian Angela Naeth, known as one of the strongest cyclists in the pro ranks, in second place. Morrison entered T2 first, with Naeth in second 3 minutes down and Carfrae about 5 minutes down. Although Carfrae holds the run course record of 1:22:29, her record is only about a minute faster than Morrison’s fastest run on this course. Naeth set a new bike course record of 2:33:47, beating Julie Dibens’ bike record of 2:33:53.
By T2, the women’s top finishers had essentially been determined. Morrison had a strong run, despite the hills, heat and humidity, maintaining her lead to the finish. Naeth kept her second-place position, and Carfrae rounded out the podium. “I just love this place, and it makes it all the more special when you can come back and win again,” Morrison said.
Runner-up Naeth was excited about her performance today, especially breaking the bike course record. “I was debating between Wildflower and St. Croix, and I’ve heard so many good things about St. Croix and how epic the bike course is,” Naeth said. “It’s a race you have to do.”
Ironman 70.3 St. Croix
May 1, 2011—Christiansted, St. Croix
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Maxim Kriat (UKR) 4:11:43
2. Luke Bell (AUS) 4:11:59
3. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 4:15:50
4. Patrick Evoe (USA) 4:15:51
5. Alessandro Degasperi (ITA) 4:16:24
1. Catriona Morrison (GBR) 4:29:28
2. Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:32:07
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 4:36:01
4. Lesley Paterson (SCO) 4:39:09
5. Kate Major (AUS) 4:41:33