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While the term Shangri-La is often used to describe paradise-like settings, the 2,600 athletes who competed in the 70.3 Philippines this morning raced through actual Shangri-La. Much of the course, which takes place on the island of Cebu, goes across the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort. Unfortunately for some, paradise in the Philippines makes for tough, hot racing conditions.
The race, in its sixth year, reportedly sold out in just a few hours with thousands of local amateurs and a handful of professionals from nearby Australia and New Zealand. On a slow day, Caroline Steffen (SUI) was able to claim her third-straight title in commanding fashion, while Canadian Olympian Bent McMahon moved up from his fifth place finish here last year, following recent wins at Honu 70.3 and Boise 70.3.
After a slow swim against the current, Brent McMahon (CAN), Michael Murphy (AUS) and Casey Munro (AUS) exited the water in 23:45, just three seconds behind Sam Betten (AUS). Cameron Brown (NZL), whose bike only arrived late Friday night, followed two minutes later in 25:47, with Eric Watson (AUS) next to him.
On a hot bike course, McMahon came to the front relatively quickly, with Betten, Murphy, and Munro right behind. Murphy eventually withdrew after getting a flat. The remaining three stayed within sight of each other, riding nearly identical splits. McMahon was first into T2 after a 2:14:21 bike leg. Munro rode an identical time on the bike to enter transition third, behind Betten, whose 2:14:17 was technically the fastest of the race. Brown followed six minutes back, after spending 2:17:40 on the bike course.
McMahon’s former ITU speed quickly opened up a gap on the run, ultimately running a 1:17:59 (eight minutes faster than the next fastest run) to win in 3:59:05. The heat started to hurt some of the men, with Betten and Munro walking aid stations as the sun beat down. Betten ran the second-best of the day (1:26:03), though, to cross the line second in 4:07:30. Brown used a 1:28:22 run to move up along the course and close on Munro, who was struggling. But, Munro held on with a 1:31:42 to take third in 4:13:18, while Brown ran 1:28:22 to finish fourth (4:15:44).
Steffen exited the water so far ahead, after a 25:35 swim, that she came into T1 with Cameron Brown and some of the other men. Belinda Granger (AUS) followed two minutes later in 27:41, with Michellie Wu (AUS) 13 seconds behind in 27:54. Rebecca Hoschke (AUS) came out three minutes later.
Steffen continued to see more men than women on her bike ride, opening up her lead. After a race-best 2:29:10 bike, Steffen enter T2 nearly seven minutes ahead of Granger and in seventh overall (counting the men). Hoschke passed Wu early on to move into third and used a 2:31:40 bike—the second best of the day—to finish the ride just seven seconds back from Granger, who held onto second into T2 with a 2:34:28 bike split.
As Steffen continued her domination, Hoschke continued to move up, passing Granger early on the run. Granger fought off the hard-charging challengers behind her, including Dimity-Lee Duke (AUS). Steffen ultimately ran the second-fastest of the day (1:33:43) to finish in 4:32:34, six ahead of the second woman and in seventh place overall. Hoschke ran a race-best 1:32:06 on the hot, slow course to cross second in 4:38:34. Granger fell back to third (4:48:32) after a 1:42:13 run, holding off Duke, who ran a 1:35:57 to finish fourth a minute later.
Ironman 70.3 Philippines
Cebu, Philippines – Aug. 3, 2014
1.2-mile Swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:59:05
2. Sam Betten (AUS) 4:07:30
3. Cameron Brown (NZL) 4:15:44
4. Matt Burton (AUS) 4:22:19
5. August Benedicto (PHL) 4:34:55
1. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:32:34
2. Rebecca Hoschke (AUS) 4:38:34
3. Belinda Granger (AUS) 4:48:32
4. Dimity-Lee Duke (AUS) 4:49:54
5. Michelle Wu (AUS) 4:59:37