Luke McKenzie broke away from two-time previous champion Bryan Rhodes in the second half of the marathon and Belinda Granger crushed Nicole Leder and the rest of a decent early season women's field with a 4:48:08 bike that was as hot as the steamy weather to sweep the wins at Ironman Malaysia.
McKenzie and Rhodes and Renaldo Colucci stuck together through a 49:30 swim and most of a 4:31:10 bike before dropping the young Brazilian and setting up a cat and mouse duel on the run. Kiwi Rhodes, who has won this race twice before on some of the hottest days in triathlon history, shadowed McKenzie a minute behind for the first half marathon, waiting to pounce. "I kept wondering if he had it to reel me in the last half," McKenzie told IronmanLive. McKenzie, who won wire-to-wire at Japan last year for his first Ironman victory, gathered himself to finish the run in a race-best 3:03:32 to put six minutes on Rhodes to take the win in 8:26:48.
"The way I race is from the front and some days it works and some it doesn't," said McKenzie, who obviously found the golden mean this day. "I found I have to be patient through the swim and the bike and take care of myself through the first 21km of the run."
"It was a great duel," said Rhodes, who still holds the race record and took second. Brian Fuller surrendered four minutes on the swim, two more on the bike and gained back two minutes from Rhodes on the run to take third in 8:38:06, Hiroyuki Nishiuchi, a two-time Olympian, secured fourth, 10 minutes back of Fuller, with a second-best 3:07:33 run after a sub-par 4:47:15 bike. Petr Vabrousek, ran into 5th with a 3:11:56 marathon.
After fading badly on the bike, Colucci withdrew.
Granger blasted to the lead with a 53:56 swim, then rode just behind a pack of leading men, including husband Justin Granger, to scorch the bike. Her 4:48:08 bike added 28 minutes to her three minute lead over Nicole Leder after the swim. Granger then cruised to a 3:36 run, easily affording a 19-minute deficit to Leder's women's best 3:17:56 run.
At the finish, Granger's 9:21:10 overall time bested Leder by 15 minutes 40 seconds.
Granger spoke to IronmanLive about Leder, who has broken the three hour marathon barrier several times. "She's one of the best Ironman marathon runners in the world," having lost a 22-minute lead off the bike to her at Malaysia before. "This race isn't about being the best swimmer, biker or runner," said Granger, "It's about who is the toughest."
Leder, who has won several Ironman-distance events, cited the heat. "I had to drop back on the bike," she told IronmanLive.com. "At the airport I felt like I was on a barbecue. On the run I got into a rhythm, had three good laps, then the last lap I was just suffering."
Maki Nishiuchi combined a women's-best 53:12 swim with a third-best 5:08:28 bike and a third-best 3:52:44 run to take third in 9:57:13.
Granger's former Team TBB teammate Donna Phelan swam 55:12, biked a women' second-best 5:05:40 and suffered through a 3:59:12 run to finish fourth in 10:03:18
Ironman Hawaii fourth-place finisher Erika Csomor, the swift Hungarian who does her best in cold weather, held second halfway through the bike until she joined her Brett Sutton-coached Team TBB squad mate Colucci in the ranks of the DNFs.
2009 Lotto Ironman Langkawi Malaysia
Top 10 men:
1. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:26:48
2. Bryan Rhodes (NZL) 8:32:52
3. Brian Fuller (AUS) 8:38:06
4. Hiroyuki Nishiuchi (JAP) 8:48:23
5. Petr Vabrousek (CZE) 8:50:48
6. Timothy Beardall (AUS) 8:50:54
7. Patrick Evoe (USA) 8:52:18
8. Elmar Schuberth (AUT) 8:55:24
9. Gernot Seidl (AUT) 8:56:35
10. Mathieu O'Halloran (CAN) 9:02:15
Top 10 women:
1. Belinda Granger (AUS) 9:21:10
2. Nicole Leder (GER) 9:36:40
3. Maki Nishiuchi (JAP) 9:57:13
4. Donna Phelan (USA) 10:03:18
5. Christine Waitz (GER) 10:05:32
6. Ute Streiter (AUT) 10:12:51
7. Yasuko Miyazaki (JAP) 10:17:05
8. Megumi Shigaki (JAP) 10:22:27
9. Irene Kinnegim (NED) 10:29:04
10. Erin O'Hara (NZL) 10:41:25