Max Neumann of Australia and Amelia Watkinson of New Zealand took top honors at Ironman Cairns, the 2020 Ironman Asia Pacific Championship.
While the water temperature was a degree warmer than the usual cutoff for use of wetsuits by pros, race officials allowed the suits to protect against an infestation of jellyfish.
Neumann combined a second-best 45:43 swim, 5th-fastest 4:33:24 bike split and race-best 2:50:06 marathon to finish in 8:13:09 with a 2:49 margin of victory over Tim Van Berkel and 5:30 over third-place Josh Amberger in a 1-2-3 Aussie podium.
Neumann overcame four athletes and an 11-minute deficit after the bike leg with a race-best 2:50:06 marathon that bested runner-up Van Berkel’s run split marathon by 3:20.
Neumann had focused on this race throughout the pandemic lockdown and that preparation paid off as he fought off a deep, quality field including 2017 Asia Pacific Champion Josh Amberger and top 10 Kona finisher Tim Van Berkel on a sweltering day.
Neumann said he felt strong through the end of the race. “It feels special of course,” her told Ironman media. “I spent five months preparing for this one race, I didn’t come here to come fifth.”
Neumann, who came to Ironman racing after years contesting the Olympic distance wars, said he was ready to push through the dark spots.
“I felt pretty good all day, except for a couple of patches on the bike when I ran out of water and I felt my mouth start to go dry. As soon as I got some more water on board I felt better.”
Neumann said he accepted the new challenges of the Iron distance. “You’ve just got to get used to this type of racing, it’s a completely different ballgame,” he told Ironman media. “You don’t really go that hard, it’s more like an aerobic pace and I think my body likes that and hopefully I have a good future in this kind of racing.”
Watkinson put together a women’s-fastest 53:16 swim, second quickest 5:01:48 bike split and 4th-best 3:22:03 run to finish in 9:20:39 with a 1:27 margin of victory over Sarah Crowley of Australia and 3:18 over third place Renee Kiley of Australia.
Watkinson ended the bike leg with a 4 seconds lead on Crowley, as the two began a fierce duel on the run. With just 5 kilometers to go on the marathon, Watkinson passed Crowley and lengthened her margin to 1:27 at the line.
Watkinson’s win comes two weeks after her winning duel over Sarah Crowley at the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 and Neumann’s victory follows his second-place finish to Aaron Royle at Sunshine Coast.
Josh Amberger led the swim with a 45:42 split that gave him a 1-second lead on Neumann, 3 seconds on Alex Polizzi, 2:02 over Simon Hearn, 2:05 over Tim Van Berkel, 2:10 over 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Champ Tim Reed and 3:55 over Scott Bayvel.
After a fourth-best 4:31:58 bike split, Amberger led a tightly bunched pack of five with a 1:34 margin on Neumann, 1:35 on Van Berkel, 1:42 on Bayvel and 1:43 on Reed.
Neumann overtook Amberger halfway through the 42km run, before pushing on to take the win. On the run, Neumann turned on the jets with a race-best 2:50:06 marathon that was 3:20 faster than Van Berkel and 7:41 on Amberger which gave Neumann a 2:49 margin of victory over Van Berkel and 5:30 over Amberger.
Watkinson led the women’s swim with a 53:16 split that gave her a 3 seconds lead on Crowley, 50 seconds on Renee Kiley, 3:58 on Meredith Hill, 8:02 on Beth McKenzie of the U.S. and 14:04 on Kylie Simpson.
Crowley worked hard to open a gap on her opponents. However, she acquired a drafting penalty in the first 7km and served it midway through the 180k bike leg and it wiped out her lead.
Despite the penalty, Crowley quickly reclaiming her lead on the run, while Watkinson and Kiley continued to chase. After a fierce duel on the run, Watkinson made a final pass on Crowley at 37 kilometers. Finishing with a 4th-best 3:22:03 run split, Watkinson stretched her lead over Crowley (3:23:23 run) to 1:27 at the line.
After a 3:24:06 run, Kiley took third place, 3:18 behind the winner. Boosted by a by-far women’s best 2:57:07 marathon, Kylie Simpson advanced to 4th place, 6:43 behind the winner.
Ironman Cairns Asia Pacific Championship
September 27, 2020
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Max Neumann (AUS) S 45:43 T1 1:39 B 4:33:24 T2 2:18 R 2:50:06 TOT 8:13:09
2. Tim Van Berkel (AUS) S 47:47 T1 1:55 B 4:31:05 T2 1:47 R 2:53:26 TOT 8:15:58
3. Josh Amberger (AUS) S 45:42 T1 1:32 B 4:31:58 T2 1:41 R 2:57:47 TOT 8:18:39
4. Timothy Reed (AUS) S 47:52 T1 1:57 B 4:31:06 T2 2:00 R 3:08:47 TOT 8:31:41
5. Scott Bayvel (AUS) S 49:37 T1 1:46 B 4:29:31 T2 2:50 R 3:08:53 TOT 8:32:34
6. Simon Hearn (AUS) S 47:44 T1 1:26 B 4:46:26 T2 2:55 R 3:12:52 TOT 8:51:20
7. Alexander Polizzi (AUS) S 45:45 T1 1:40 B 4:36:50 T2 2:57 R 3:28:49 TOT 8:55:59
8. Brodie Gardner (AUS) S 55:03 T1 1:37 B 4:49:19 T2 2:23 R 3:13:17 TOT 9:01:37
9. Damien Collins (AUS) S 57:56 T1 2:18 B 4:56:29 T2 3:22 R 3:12:41 TOT 9:12:43
1. Amelia Watkinson (NZL) S 53:16 T1 1:46 B 5:01:48 T2 1:48 R 3:22:03 TOT 9:20:39
2. Sarah Crowley (AUS) S 53:19 T1 2:02 B 5:01:52 T2 1:29 R 3:23:23 TOT 9:22:06
3. Renee Kiley (AUS) S 54:06 T1 1:55 B 5:00:58 T2 2:54 R 3:24:06 TOT 9:23:57
4. Kylie Simpson (AUS) S 1:07:20 T1 2:47 B 5:17:39 T2 2:32 R 2:57:07 TOT 9:27:22
5. Meredith Hill (AUS) S 565:54 T1 2:06 B 5:12:38 T2 3:19 R 3:21:12 TOT 9:36:07
6. Beth McKenzie (USA) S 1:01:18 T1 1:48 B 5:21:14 T2 2:18 R 3:20:12 TOT 9:46:49
7. Shannon Sutton (AUS) S 1:09:36 T1 5:22 B 6:18:00 T2 3:48 R 4:29:03 TOT 12:05:47