Joe Gambles scored a rare triathlon four-peat with a record setting time to hold off Tim Don and Jodie Swallow outraced Rachel Joyce at Ironman 70.3 Boulder.
After a swim that put him in a pack of 12 within 12 seconds of swim leader James Seear, Gambles blew apart the field with a race-best 2:03:03 bike split that gave the Tasmanian born Australian a 4-minute lead over a chase pack of seven excellent internationals that included 2006 ITU World Champion Tim Don, Richie Cunningham, Ben Hoffman, Callum Millward, Kevin Collington and Paul Matthews.
“I knew I’d have to go faster than I did last year to win – and while my swim and run were the same, I knew I would have to make up time on the bike,” said Gambles. “I’ve been working real hard with my new coach Neal Henderson to put some more top end on the bike and it paid off today.”
Tim Don, who came into this race with impressive results that included wins at Ironman 70.3s in Monterrey and Brasilia and Rev3 Knoxville as well as 3rd at St. George, was Gambles’ most dangerous pursuer as the two Boulder summer residents started the two-lap run around the Boulder Reservoir.
But Don had a personal emergency that left him underprepared to put the screws on. “Ten days ago I found out my 19-month-old daughter Matilda had a brain cyst,” said Don,” and she had brain surgery on Monday. I’m just thankful that we could take Matilda home on Friday and the doctor says at this point everything is good. So I haven’t done any training all this week and I’ve been sleeping on a chair in a hospital in Denver.”
Don saluted Gambles for his surge to the front: “Joe broke away at half a mile on the bike leg. He went from the gun. He is in fantastic shape and took the race by the scruff of the neck and he raced it hard.” But despite Gambles’ three straight Boulder 70.3 winning runs in the 1:14 range, the race was not yet over.
At the halfway mark of the run, with his head rolling with the effort, Don had chopped Gambles’ lead to 1:54, with Richie Cunningham, Callum Millward, Kevin Collington, James Seear and Paul Matthews still out of range at 3:31 to 3:53 down. If Don could maintain that torrid pace, it might have come down to a photo finish. But at that point, Don ran out of turbocharging and Gambles stopped leaking time and shut the door on his rivals.
Don showed the foot speed that is legendary on the ITU circuit, posting a 1:11:49 run that was 2:14 faster than Gambles’ half marathon split. But at the finish, Four-peat Joe’s race record 3:42:13 finish gave him a 1:52 margin of victory over Don and 4:41 over 3rd-place finisher Richie Cunningham.
“This was one of the hardest weeks of my life, so I am just really happy to be on the podium,” said Don.
“I was really nervous coming in, trying to defend for a 4th straight win," said Gambles. "This means a lot – that I am headed in the right direction for Challenge Roth and a rematch at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Mt. Tremblant.”
Of the four top contenders for the women’s title at Boulder 70.3, Jodie Swallow had the best 2014 season so far with a win at Ironman 70.3 South Africa, a 3rd at Ironman South Africa and a 2nd at the hotly contested Ironman 70.3 St. George. After early season setbacks that included a DNF at Galveston 70.3, Kona runner-up Rachel Joyce seemed to be back on track after a 2nd place finish at Ironman 70.3 Kansas. After a strong finish to 2013, Rebekah Keat was slowly returning to form with a 6th at St. George 70.3.
Perhaps the most intriguing 2014 season was that of Ironman and Ironman 70.3 2012 World Champion Leanda Cave, making a determined comeback under new coach Cliff English after her injury-plagued 2013. After an unsuccessful run at a Commonwealth Games berth for Wales which included two Continental Cup Olympic distance wins, Cave placed 5th at Life Time Fitness South Beach and 3rd at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix.
While these women are focused on three majors – including Challenge Roth, Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Mt. Tremblant and the Ironman World Championship – Boulder provided a serious hit out that would give a significant progress report at the halfway point of the season.
Swallow, the 2010 Ironman 70-.3 World Champion, led the swim in 23:59, which gave her a 55-seconds advantage on Laura Bennett and Cave, 1:57 on Joyce and 2:45 on Keat. Swallow led the first half of the bike until Joyce, on her way to a women’s race-best 2:14:55 split, arrived.
“I was disappointed in my swim, which was pretty bad,” said Joyce. “And I was disappointed last week at Kansas 70.3 because I had too much energy left at the end of the bike. So I decided to treat this bike like an Olympic distance race and went out really hard. I knew I wanted to at least start the run with Jodie.”
“When Rachel caught me, I knew I wasn’t going to put any more time into her,” said Swallow. “The only thing to do was stick with her and make sure we put time on the rest of the girls – which we did.”
In fact, Swallow and Joyce arrived in T2 with a 4:42 lead on Jeanni Seymour of South Africa, 5:54 on Cave, 6:40 on Bennett and 7:31 on Keat.
After their dominating bike splits, the race arrowed to a two-woman duel which played out in surprising fashion.
“On the run, I like to set the pace and got an immediate gap,” said Swallow. That gap reached 30 seconds before Joyce started to reel her rival in and cut the margin to 5 seconds at the halfway point. Joyce said that after Swallow’s surge, she slowly erased the gap. “I am a Steady Eddie, I just keep pushing away,” said Joyce.
But just after 11 kilometers, Joyce made an error. “I missed picking up a gel and my energy levels plummeted a bit and I went into survival mode until I picked up a gel at the Coot Lake aid station (at mile 11). By that time Jodie made hay and got a good gap to the end.”
At the crucial point where Joyce was returned to her heels, Swallow also fought back. “I heard she was breathing harder than me, so I just pretended I was 15 again and went all elbows and [match race] tactics. I went as hard as I could and kept my cadence right. “
The winner enjoyed the shifting scenarios. “It was interesting because I never won a race like that before,” said Swallow. “Usually I am way off the front and just stay there. To come back on the run really gives me confidence going forward.”
Swallow finished in 4:07:37 – the second best women’s time in this race next to Melissa Hauschildt’s 2013 winning time of 4:04:36. Swallow’s 1:24:20 run was enough to hold off Joyce by 1:23 for the win. Cave’s hard-fought, 3rd-best 1:23:53 run brought her to the finish in 3rd-place, 4:03 back of Joyce. Keat ran a race-best 1:22:35 run split to come home 4th, just 20 seconds behind Cave. Laura Bennett’s 2nd-best 1:23:41 run advanced her to 5th place, 15 seconds behind Keat.
Ironman 70.3 Boulder
June 15, 2014
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:42:13
2. Tim Don (GBR) 3:44:05
3. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 3:46:54
4. Callum Millward (NZL) 3:47:23
5. Paul Matthews (AUS) 3:47:50
6. Ben Hoffman (USA) 3:47:57
7. James Seear (AUS) 3:51:38
8. Kevin Collington (USA) 3:52:23
9. Paul Ambrose (AUS) 3:55:30
10. Steve Mantell (USA) 3:58:10
1. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:07:37
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 4:09:00
3. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:13:03
4. Rebekah Keat (AUS) 4:13:23
5. Laura Bennett (USA) 4:13:38
6. Jeanni Seymour (RSA) 4:17:36
7. Mindy McLane (USA) 4:22:57
8. Lesley Smith (USA) 4:26:56
9. Whitney Garcia McCain (USA) 4:30:59
10. Nicole Callan (USA) 4:33:53