Australians Sam Appleton and Annabel Luxford took the titles at Ironman 70.3 Geelong.
Appleton and fellow Aussie Josh Amberger battled tooth and nail through the swim and the bike legs before Appleton carved out a slim lead on the run to finish in 3:49:41 with a 48 seconds margin of victory over Amberger and 2:08 over 3rd place Dan Wilson, who closed fast with a men’s-quickest 1:13:21 run.
"It's great to start the year with a win and also nice to come back home and do well," Appleton told Ironman media.
Appleton thus started 2017 much the way he contested 2016, when he won 70.3s at Buenos Aires and Austin, took three more 70.3 podiums, and took a 5th place at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Luxford led wire-to-wire with a women’s-best 25:40 swim and a by-far women’s-best 2:24:18 bike split that gave her a 9:11 lead at T2. Luxford cruised home with a women’s 6th-best 1:27:35 run that brought her to the line in 4:21:20 with a 5:10 lead on Barbara Riveros of Chile, who cut 6 minutes off her deficit to Luxford with a women’s-fastest 1:21:39 half marathon. Sarah Crowley finished in 4:27:33, edging fellow Aussie Ellie Salthouse for 3rd place by 40 seconds.
"I felt strong on the bike today although a little unsure on the run,” Luxford told Ironman media. “It is nice to get that win here at home and in Melbourne.”
Luxford also resumed where she left off in 2016, in which she won 70.3s in Western Australia, Western Sydney and Ballarat, as well as took 6th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds. Luxford improved on her second place finish at this race last year to winner Melissa Hauschildt.
Amberger led the swim in 22:39 which gave him a 12 seconds margin over last year’s Geelong winner Jake Montgomery, 14 seconds over Dan Wilson, 15 seconds over Clayton Fettell, and 18 seconds over Appleton. The start was especially encouraging for Montgomery, whose 2016 season ended when he was hospitalized after a car hit him on a training ride before the Ironman 70.3 Worlds.
After 12 kilometers of the bike leg, Amberger, Montgomery and Appleton opened a 33 seconds lead on chasers Wilson, Fettell and Casey Munro. By 27k, the three leaders increased the gap to 1:37. After 72k, Appleton and Amberger shed Montgomery who fell 35 seconds arrears while the chase pack trailed by 3:45.
After race-best 2:07:24 and 2:07:30 splits, Amberger and Appleton hit T2 with a 2:27 lead on Montgomery, and 4:53 to 5:04 margins on a pack of 7 led by Wilson, Fettell, and Tim Van Berkel.
By 3.5k into the run, Appleton opened a 21 seconds gap on Amberger, which he increased to 48 seconds by 17k. Easing up slightly, Appleton finished with a 4th-best 1:15:59 run which brought him to the line in 3:49:41 with a 48 seconds margin on Amberger, who ran 1:16:52.
Luxford led the pro women's swim wave in 25:39, which gave her a 2 seconds lead on Salthouse, 6 seconds on Riveros, 1:15 on Laura Wood, 1:38 on Jacqueline Thistleton, 1:39 on Kirralee Seidel, 1:40 on Katey Gibb, and 2:22 on Sarah Crowley.
By 27k of the bike leg, Luxford rocketed to a 2:49 lead on Salthouse, 3:12 on Riveros and 3:40 on Crowley. After a dominating 2:24:18 bike split, Luxford had a 9:11 lead on Salthouse, 9:16 on Crowley and 11:16 on Riveros.
With a massive lead in the bank, Luxford cruised home with a 6th-best run to finish with a comfortable lead on fast-closing Barbara Riveros.
Ironman 70.3 Geelong
February 19, 2017
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Sam Appleton (AUS) 3:49:41
2. Josh Amberger (AUS) 3:50:29
3. Dan Wilson (AUS) 3:51:49
4. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 3:53:04
5. Jake Montgomery (AUS) 3:53:46
6. Todd Skipworth (AUS) 3:54:51
7. Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 3:56:28
8. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 3:57:17
9. Philipp Koutny (SUI) 3:57:43
10. Matt Burton (AUS) 3:59:24
1. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:21:20
2. Barbara Riveros (CHL) 4:26:30
3. Sarah Crowley (AUS) 4:27:34
4. Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 4:28:14
5. Kirralee Seidel (AUS) 4:31:14
6. Katey Gibb (AUS) 4:32:37
7. Jacqueline Thistleton (AUS) 4:34:21
8. Kerry Mulholland (AUS) 4:36:15 * F25-29
9. Jessica Mitchell (AUS) 4:39:49
10. Monica Juhart (AUS) 4:48:19