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Almost 1,000 miles southwest of Bangkok on Thailand’s cost, Laguna Phuket is home to one of the more bizarre Ironman-branded races. It hosts a unique double-race series where athletes complete an Olympic-distance race the weekend prior to the 70.3.
There is nothing normal about the Laguna Phuket 70.3 race. Not only do the triathletes have to dismount, cross a bridge, and remount with less than 10 miles to go in the bike leg, but they also have to jump out of the ocean two-thirds of the way through the swim and head into a lagoon for the last 600m.
And, if that’s not enough, the weather is practically guaranteed to be hot, humid, tropical and potentially pouring rain. Today did not disappointment.
Last week, Chris McCormack (AUS) lost to Olympian Ruedi Wild (SWI) at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, which marks the first half of what is considered the Laguna Double. But this weekend McCormack came out on top at the Laguna Phuket 70.3. And he did it with enough of a lead that Lucky, the race mascot elephant, could join him at the finish line.
In the warm swim, which features that unique transition from saltwater to lagoon, the men were in one giant pack as Alberto Casadei (ITA) exited first in 24:48, with three others hot on his heels — Sam Hsieh (TPE) in 25:02, Wild in 25:06, and Simon Agoston (THA) in 25:07. Super biker Chris Lieto (USA) and McCormack followed in 25:25 and 25:30, respectively, with a large group in the mix.
Once on the bike it quickly became a four person race. Casadei took the lead early, but Lieto, McCormack and Wild wouldn’t let him pull away. While the four easily separated themselves from the rest of the field, no one rider was able to dominate and the lead went back and forth. After the dismount and remount on the footbridge, Lieto finally pulled away on the last big climb with about 10 miles to go. After a race-best 2:17:47 bike, Lieto entered T2 with a 50 second lead. Wild (2:18:57), McCormack (2:18:37) and Casadei (2:19:00) followed in close pursuit.
As the professional men headed out on the run course, the clouds opened up and the rain started pouring. But, Lieto wasn’t able to hold onto his lead. By the halfway, McCormack had pulled ahead with Wild on his heels. Though there were reports on the course of Wild pulling closer to the Australian, McCormack was able to take the win with a nearly three minute lead after the fastest pro run of the day in 1:17:40. Amateur Tim Meyer reportedly ran a 1:16:57 for the third fastest time overall. Wild ran a 1:20:15 for second. Casadei kept his third place, nearly six minutes ahead of fourth, with a 1:21:10 run. With Lieto fading, Fredrik Croneborg (SWE) ran himself into fourth with a 1:22:17 run. And, Agoston made up for a lackluster bike with a 1:23:54 run to take the fifth spot.
With Leanda Cave (GBR) withdrawing the morning of the race, the women’s field was down to just four pros. What the field lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality.
Defending Laguna Phuket 70.3 champ (and 2011 70.3 world champion) Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) didn’t just win the women’s race in commanding fashion, she also had the ninth fastest time of the day – men included.
Out of the water it was super-swimmer Radka Vodickova (CZE) first in 26:55. Belinda Granger (AUS), who was making her 10th appearance at Laguna Phuket, was next in 28:20, followed a minute later by Dr. Tamsin Lewis (GBR) in 29:10. Hauschildt’s swim is by far her weakest leg and she was nearly two-and-a-half minutes behind Vodickova after a 29:50 swim.
Once on the bike, no one could keep up with Hauschildt. By the halfway mark she had ridden to a commanding lead and never looked back. Her 2:27:27 bike was the fastest of the day by almost seven minutes and brought her into transition just shortly after the first men. Vodickova made a valiant effort on the bike, riding a 2:34:20 to maintain second over Granger (2:35:25).
With that large a lead, Hauschildt could have let up. Instead she made it her mission to ‘chick’ as many racers as possible, running a 1:23:23 to finish in an impressive 4:23:30. Lucky the elephant accompanied her down the chute. Vodickova ran a 1:27:32 to be both 12 minutes behind Hauschildt and 10 minutes ahead of Granger, who ran a 1:34:52 to hold off a charging Lewis. Lewis came in fourth after a 1:31:14 run.
1. Chris McCormack — 4:04:40
2. Ruedi Wild — 4:07:17
3. Tim Meyer — 4:07:32
4. Alberto Casadei — 4:08:06
5. Fredrik Croneborg — 4:14:16
1. Melissa Hauschildt — 04:23:30
2. Radka Vodickova — 4:31:46
3. Belinda Granger — 4:41:53
4. Dr. Tamsin Lewis — 4:42:53
5. Liz Fancutt — 5:01:44