Both Luke McKenzie (AUS) and Liz Blatchford (AUS) won Ironman Cairns in 2013 and then went on to place on the podium at that year’s Ironman World Championship. Looking to duplicate the success of that season, McKenzie and Blatchford again returned to the tropical location in search of victories, their share of the $100,000 prize purse and important Kona Pro Ranking points. McKenzie dominated the men’s field, securing his first Ironman win since this same race two years ago and showing that he is on track to again compete for the title in Kona. Blatchford overcame an early penalty and turned in the fastest swim, bike and run splits in the women’s field to earn her third-straight victory in Cairns and again put her name on the list of Kona contenders. (Read the Ironman 70.3 Cairns recap here.)
Super swimmer Dylan McNeice (NZL) kicked off the men’s race with a 46:56 swim, earning a strong lead over McKenzie (2:18 back), Australia’s Simon Cochrane (4:00 back), South Africa’s James Cunnama (4:11 back), Australia’s Luke Whitmore (4:28 back) and New Zealand’s Cameron Brown (4:38 back).
McNeice held onto his lead as long as he could, but McKenzie showed his strength on the bike early and found the top spot quickly. At the 50-mile mark McKenzie’s lead stood at 5:54 over McNeice, 6:02 over Cunnama and 7:02 over Brown. With a couple of the strongest runners in the sport sitting in third and fourth, McKenzie continued to push the pace and extend his advantage before the start of the marathon. Ultimately McKenzie’s effort got him an 11-minute lead over Australia’s Simon Billeau—who rode his way through the field after coming out of the water five minutes back— and a 13-minute lead over Brown. Cunnama had fallen off the pace significantly and ended up dropping out not far into the run.
Through the midway point of the run, McKenzie had slightly extended his lead over Brown to 11:36, with the others falling further off the pace. McKenzie capped off his day with a solid 2:57:37 marathon to claim the 8:18:01 victory and have plenty of time to celebrate in the finish chute. Brown’s 2:52:54 marathon was the fastest of the day, giving him second in 8:26:22. McNeice cruised in for the final podium spot at 8:36:55.
Blatchford kicked off her day in a dominant way, posting a time of 51:54 in the 2.4-mile swim. Next out of the water were New Zealand’s Gina Crawford (3:44 back), Australia’s Kym Coogan (4:52 back), Australia’s Sarah Crowley (6:10 back) and New Zealand’s Michelle Bremer (6:19 back).
Blatchford, a former ITU racer, looked poised to spend the entire race out front as she started to extend her lead on the 112-mile bike course. She was hit with a four-minute penalty early on the bike, essentially erasing any advantage she had built on the swim and early miles of the bike. Blatchford did momentarily give up her lead to the strong-riding Bremer, but that positioning didn’t last long as Blatchford quickly reclaimed her top spot and again started to ride away. Further back on the course, American contender Beth Gerdes had a frustrating start to her day with two flats early on the ride. She was unable to fix the second one and was forced to withdraw from the race.
Even with the penalty, Blatchford turned in the fastest bike split of the women (5:07:37) to earn a 6:41 lead over Crawford and an 11:43 lead over Bremer to start the marathon. She managed to stay steady throughout the entire 26.2-mile run, posting a 3:10:30 split to take the victory in 9:11:49. Crawford was in the mix all day, finishing in second at 9:20:56. Bremer rounded out the top three at 9:35:32.
Cairns, Queensland, Australia – June 14, 2015
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile marathon
1. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:18:01
2. Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:26:22
3. Dylan McNeice (NZL) 8:36:55
4. Levi Maxwell (AUS) 8:36:57
5. Simon Billeau (AUS) 8:42:05
1. Liz Blatchford (AUS) 9:11:48
2. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:20:55
3. Michelle Bremer (NZL) 9:35:32
4. Sarah Crowley (AUS) 9:38:42
5. Kym Coogan (AUS) 9:46:41