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Photos provided by Laguna Phuket Triathlon.
After a night punctuated by rain, thunder and lightning, race morning dawned clear and the stage was set for sweltering hot and humid conditions in the 21st edition of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Phuket, Thailand. A field of more than 1200 individual athletes from 47 countries, plus 65 relay teams competed in the iconic event. The bike course, known for its quad-busting hill climbs, had to be altered slightly from prior years, as areas of road construction and damage from recent storms had all but obliterated certain sections of road. The amended course, which maintained the entire stretch of hills, was actually 50km (as opposed to the usual 55km), however organizers estimated that bike split times would be comparable to the race’s usual distance, given the highly technical nature of the new portion of the course, which contained numerous twisty sharp turns and a few additional small hills.
The men’s professional race marked two significant firsts in the history of the storied event–the first dual champions and the first four-time winner. Massimo Cigana (ITA), known equally for his stylish dress as for his success in Thailand, proudly claimed an unprecedented fourth victory (he also won in 2008, 2010 and 2011), an honor he shared with countryman Alberto Casadei (ITA). The two arrived to the finish chute together and, rather than sprint it out in a duel to the line they hoisted an Italian flag in unison to the delight of the crowds, running to the finish along with Kandi the baby elephant to finish in 2:33:57. In the women’s race, rookie pro Parys Edwards (GBR) earned her own important first–her number one professional win. Edwards crossed the line ahead of veteran pro Belinda Granger (AUS), who marked her 12th and final professional appearance in Phuket.