Andy Potts added another jewel to his tremendous 2011 season with a race-record 3:45:58 finish against a star-studded men’s field while track and cross country star Melissa Rollison of Australia used a red-hot 1:16:28 half marathon to run away from the likes of Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae to win Vineman Ironman 70.3 by 6:14 Sunday.
Potts used a race-best 21:38 swim, sixth-best 2:08:44 bike and third-best 1:13:09 run to top runner-up Paul Matthews of Australia by 29 seconds and outpace third-place Joe Gambles of Australia by 2 minutes, 6 seconds. Matthews and Potts were still running together at the 12 mile mark and it appeared that it would come down to a sprint finish. Potts though found and extra gear late in the run and pulled away from the Aussie.
"Very happy with the race today. I feel like I'm moving in the right direction towards Vegas in September," said runner-up Matthews to slowtwitch. "Andy is an amazing athlete. He has been on the top of his game this year so it was good to still be with him so late in the run. I feel if I stay patient and keep working hard my turn will come to win a big race against and awesome field."
The win was just Potts’ latest in a near-perfect 2011 that includes triumphs at Ironman 70.3s in California, Florida, and victories at Capital of Texas, Escape From Alcatraz, and Philadelphia. The only blemish on his shining 2011 resume was a 2nd place finish behind Matt Reed at Life Time Fitness Minneapolis.
The big upset of the day was Melissa Rollison’s 6 minutes 14 seconds margin of victory over runner-up Leanda Cave, the 2002 ITU World Champion, and 8:49 margin over third-place Mirinda Carfrae, the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and 2010 Ironman World Champion.
Rollison gave up two minutes to top swimmers Cave, Meredith Kessler and Tenille Hoogland and then held her ground with a 3rd-best 2:23:38 bike. Rollison then showed her thoroughbred status as a runner with a sizzling 1:16:28 half-marathon that was bested by only 7 men and was 2:49 better than the current standard of excellence among women 70.3 runners, Mirinda Carfrae.
The 28-year-old Rollison was not a complete triathlon surprise, as she was coming off a recent win at Muncie 70.3 and also had a 2010 win at the Gold Coast half Ironman and a 2nd place finish at Laguna Phuket 70.3.
But the golden part of her resume is all running and includes personal bests of 4:31 in the mile, 15:55 in the 5000 meters and an Australian women’s record of 9:24.29 in the 3000 meter steeplechase. In running she has won a Commonwealth Games silver, Goodwill games gold, and two bronze medals as part of the Australian women’s team in the World Cross-Country Championships.
Now she can add Vineman 70.3 race record as her 4:09:00 finish toppled the previous mark of 4:15:51 set by Mirinda Carfrae last year.
"It feels amazing to be amongst those girls - Leanda, Mirinda... They are some of the best in the world, so I was stoked to win today," said Rollison to slowtwitch. "After my run last weekend, 1:19, I knew I could go faster but I thought maybe by a minute, maybe two. Not three. Very happy."
Ironman 70.3 Vineman
Santa Rosa, California
July 17, 2011
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Andy Potts (USA) 3:45:58
2. Paul Matthews (AUS) 3:46:27
3. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:47:04
4. Graham O’Grady (NZL) 3:48:56
5. Kyle Leto (USA) 3:50:05
6. Timothy O’Donnell (USA) 3:50:26
7. Chris Lieto (USA) 3:51:07
8. Matt Reed (USA) 3:52:30
9. Matt Lieto (USA) 3:52:31
10. Jesse Thomas (USA) 3:53:51
1. Melissa Rollison (AUS) 4:09:00
2. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:15:14
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 4:17:49
4. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:18:24
5. Rachel Challis (USA) 4:21:33
6. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 4:23:00
7. Rachel McBride (CAN) 4:23:38
8. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 4:26:08
9. Charisa Wernick (USA) 4:27:11
10. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:29:12