Kiwi Bevan Docherty ran down Lance Armstrong with a lot of grit to take Ironman 70.3 Panama in 3:50:13. Canadian Angela Naeth recorded the fastest bike split in the women's race and pulled away during the run for the win.
The 70.3 Panama received quite a bit of hype prior to the race when word got out that 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was going to be in the event. Plus entries from fast ITU Pros Bevan Docherty, Ivan Vasilyev and Bertrand Billard promised to make this early season race very interesting.
Matty Reed who also has quite a bit of short course experience and speed took charge of the 1.2 mile point-to-point swim and managed to be first out of the water in 18:49. Reed had Vasilyev and Docherty right on his heels, and Rasmus Henning was next. Lance Armstrong managed a 19:22 swim that allowed him to be 10th out of the water, with Chris Lieto in 12th position, another 16 seconds back.
It didn't take very long for Bertrand Billard to move into the lead and the French Pro who had won 5i50 Klagenfurt in 2011 and finished second at 70.3 Mallorca, managed to pull away from all the chasers. By the 20k mark Billard was up 1:40 on a group that contained Henning, Reed, Vasilyev, Armstrong, Lieto, Richie Cunningham and Bert Jammaer. Armstrong and Lieto eventually pulled away from the others in the group. They were soon after joined by Argentinean Pro Oscar Galindez, who had steadily moved through the field. At one point the gap to Billard was over 2 minutes, but that did not last. During the second half of the bike the chasing 3 pulled back Billard, but that hard day of chasing eventually cost Galindez and he fell off the pace. Lieto and Armstrong caught Billard with a few miles to go in the bike segment, despite the valiant effort of the French Pro to hold them off. Lieto was first back into transition, 6 seconds up on Armstrong and 9 on Billard. But according to Ironmanlive, the fastest bike split belonged to Galindez.
Once on the run, Lieto pulled away, but Armstrong seemed reasonably comfortable and ran in second position about 12 seconds behind the Danville, CA resident. Billard though paid for his brave effort on the bike and soon fell off the pace with Galindez moving into third. 3 miles into the run Armstrong passed Lieto and slowly pulled away. Docherty soon moved into second position but Armstrong was defiant up front and held on to a 1:15 lead halfway through the run. Docherty pulled to within 55 seconds with 4 miles to go and Richie Cunningham was now running in third position. Docherty soon had Armstrong in his sight and caught the Texan with about a mile to go. Armstrong tried to hold on but the Kiwi was too strong and pulled away. Docherty crossed the line first in 3:50:13 and Armstrong crossed the line in second place 42 seconds later. Cunningham took the final podium spot and Henning grabbed fourth.
"I’m so fresh to this distance, and wasn’t really too sure how to pace myself, especially in heat like this, so to time it well and take to lead with a few K’s to go, I think I got it right," said Docherty to slowtwitch. "It’s back to speed work now for the Olympics, but I will return to long distance in 2013 to maintain my unbeaten record of the 1/2 distance."
Leanda Cave led the women's field after the swim but Kelly Williamson, Nina Kraft, Dede Griesbauer, Radka Vodickova, Tenille Hoogland and Michelle Versterby were not far behind.
Cave then went to work on the bike and pulled away from all the others. Well, only those who had been close to her that is. Angela Naeth was flying through the field with the fastest female bike split and had Cave in sight as the bike segment ended, Cave reached the bike-run transition first, but Naeth was right with her. Next into transition were Time Deckers and Maggie Shapiro, but they were 2:44 behind the leader. Nina Kraft reportedly had dropped out with bike problems.
Naeth pulled away from Cave and halfway through the run had built up a 2:50 lead. Shapiro was running in third only a few seconds behind the long time leader. Naeth took the win in 4:15:31 and Kelly Williamson finished in second place with the day's best run.
"It was a great race. I just felt stronger and stronger throughout so I kept telling myself 'be strong, be strong', " said women's champion Angela Naeth, and when asked about the string of runner-up spots in 2011, she added, "Actually that was on my mind the whole time. 'I am not getting second this time, I wanna start this year out with a bang,' and that is what I did."
Ironman 70.3 Panama
Panama City, Panama / February 12, 2012
1.2m swim / 56m bike / 13.1m run
1. Bevan Docherty (NZL) 3:50:13
2. Lance Armstrong (USA) 3:50:55
3. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 3:52:59
4. Rasmus Henning (DEN) 3:53:38
5. Romain Guillaume (FRA) 3:54:44
6. Jesse Thomas (USA) 3:55:30
7. Chris Lieto (USA) 3:56:21
8. Ivan Vasilyev (RUS) 3:58:32
9. Oscar Galindez (ARG) 4:00:53
10. Bert Jammaer (BEL) 4:01:24
1. Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:15:31
2. Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:19:11
3. Margaret Shapiro (USA) 4:19:34
4. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:21:42
5. Tine Deckers (BEL) 4:25:29
6. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 4:29:00
7. Natascha Badmann (SUI) 4:29:17
8. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 4:30:20
9. Bree Wee (USA) 4:31:09
10. Dede Griesbauer (USA) 4:33:03