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Reed emerged from the swim in 4th place, just 9 seconds back of Australia Olympian Ryan Fisher. Reed then took the race by the throat, blazing to a 2:29 lead on Fisher at T2 after a race-best 2:01:51 bike split. Mauricio Mendez of Mexico, the 21-year-old prodigy with an XTERRA World Championship and three 70.3 wins to his credit, went to work on the run trying to rise from his 5th place 5:19 deficit at T2. Mendez was the best man on foot on a typically hot and humid day in Cebu, but his race-best 1:16:55 half marathon could not wrest the victory from Reed. After a conservative 1:21:24 run – far from his 1:16 split to win this race in 2015 – Reed finished in 3:54:07 with a 2:38 margin of victory over Mendez and 6:13 over 3rd-place Fisher, who ran a heat-bedeviled 1:23:07 survival slog to make the podium.
Timothy Van Berkel of Australia finished 4th, 8:24 behind the winner and Brent McMahon of Canada took 5th, 2:45 behind Van Berkel. New Zealand legend Cameron Brown was delayed by a puncture on the bike leg – his second career puncture on the Cebu course. Brown soldiered on to finish 14th.
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Watkinson led the women’s swim wave with a 30:29 split that gave her a 2 seconds margin over Kerry Morris of Australia, 6 seconds on Kerry Kilgroe of the U.S., 10 seconds on Jacqueline Thistleton of Australia, 11 seconds on Alise Selsmark of Australia, 12 seconds on Kirra Seidel of Australia, and 12 seconds over Monica Juhart of Australia. Anna Eberhardt of Hungary had her work cut out for her after a 40:39 swim.
Early on the bike, Watkinson could not shake her pursuers as she was closely followed by Morris and Thistleton, with Seidel 1:18 back and Selsmark 4 minutes down at 29 kilometers. Further back were Dimity-Lee Duke (+5:13), Kim Kilgroe (+5:20) and Monica Juhart (+6:07).
Finally, Watkinson called upon her pro bike experience to eke out a lead arriving at T2. After her women's-best 2:09:55 bike split, Watkinson led Morris (2:20:54 bike split) by 1:04, Thistleton (2:24:02 bike split) by 4:11 and Seidel (2:24:08) by 4:27. Thistleton, who placed 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Busselton, showed courage by picking herself up after a crash and staying in the hunt.
Once on the run, Watkinson pressed hard to remove all doubt. By 11 kilometers she had a 6:18 lead on Thistleton, 6:45 on Morris and 8:24 on Seidel.
After a women's-best 1:34:22 run, Watkinson finished in 4:29:17 with a 6:36 margin of victory over Thistleton (1:36:42 run) and 6:54 over 3rd place Morris (1:43:04 run).
Watkinson’s win comes off a 5th at 2017 Liuzhou, a win at the 2017 Port of Tauranga Half Ironman, a 3rd at 2016 Taupo 70.3, and a win at the 2016 Laguna Phuket Triathlon.