Against what will likely be the strongest Ironman 70.3 field of the year until the World Championship at Clearwater, Michael Raelert and Mirinda Carfrae made big statements with dominating victories at the Rohto Ironman 70.3 California Saturday.
Raelert, who scored a shocking upset with a sizzling 1:09:05 closing half marathon to win the Ironman 70.3 World title in November, won this one on the bike. Posting a dominating, race-best 2:15:31 split on a hilly course hit by cross and headwinds, the 30-year-old Raelert built a big lead on the Oceanside course that enabled him to cruise home with a 1:17:15 run that still left him with a 2 minutes, 50 seconds winning margin over the runner-up, defending champion Matt Reed.
Irritated by comments that derided his Clearwater win was assisted by riding at the back of large packs, Raelert exulted in his big win. "I was a little bit angry because everybody was complaining after Clearwater, 'He's from ITU and he was drafting the whole time.' I am really happy now because wanted to win here and show everybody I can ride. I wanted to make my name on the bike as well as the run."
When he was done, Raelert had out-biked Austrian bike specialist Michael Weiss (who faded to 13th on the run) by three seconds, young bike phenom Andrew Yoder by 67 seconds, Reed by 3:52, Timothy O'Donnell by 5:05 and Rasmus Henning by 6:01.
At the end, Reed paid Raelert a high compliment: "I didn't think he would get such a big lead off the bike. I thought he was riding too hard and would blow up. But he proved today he was more fit than any of us. Now he's a complete triathlete - good swim, good bike and a great run."
Rasmus Henning, who used a 1:14:10 run split to capture third, said of Raelert: "He's been struggling for many years, but now it looks like he's found his place in the sport. That was an outstanding performance and even if I were at my peak I doubt I'd be able to match it."
With her win, Mirinda Carfrae continued her dominance of the Ironman 70.3 world. After posting a race-record 1:17:34 closing half marathon, which may be a woman's world best at the 70.3 distance anywhere (and in fact only trailed men's winner Michael Raelert's run by 19 seconds), Carfrae may also claim to be the best women's runner over 10k in triathlon.
When asked if she feared anyone in the field after arriving at T2 just 30 seconds back of Leanda Cave, Carfrae said without a trace of arrogance: "I'm a runner. That's my thing. And every race I expect to be the fastest runner. That's just the way I roll. Once I get to the front, I'm not racing anyone else. I'm ticking off the miles and I'm out to run my best half marathon."
Which she did, while maintaining the form of her near-perfect 2009 70.3 season, during which she suffered only one loss - to Catriona Morrison at St. Croix.
The water temps were a cold 59 degrees as 60 pros entered the waters of Oceanside Harbor, but the race day itself promised to be quite beautiful. Kyle Leto was first out of the water in 22:37 followed quickly by Ironman 70.3 World Champion Michael Raelert (22:38), ITU long course world champ Timothy O'Donnell and Richie Cunningham (22:47), defending Oceanside champion Matt Reed (22:49) two-time Hy-Vee champion Rasmus Henning (22:50), with young gun biker Andrew Yoder another 35 seconds back.
Raelert quickly jumped into the lead on the bike, followed by O’Donnell and Reed, but the big move was a bit further behind where Raelert’s Trek / K-Swiss teammate Yoder quickly made up that 1 minute swim gap to push into the lead about Mile 20. At the 30-mile point of the bike climbing the course's big hill, Yoder was up 52 seconds ahead of Raelert and over 2 minutes on Reed. Rasmus Henning who might have been feeling his Abu Dhabi Triathlon efforts, was sitting in 7th position, over 4:30 behind the young Pennsylvanian. In an even worse position was 2-time Ironman World Champion Timothy DeBoom who was lingering in 10th place more than 6 minutes outside of the lead.
But the hard early pace started to hurt Yoder who offered no resistance when Raelert rode by him 10 miles later. However, the rest of the field led by Reed was 3 minutes behind the leading duo. Raelert then pulled away and slowly built up a sizeable lead. By the time he got to T2, he had 2.5 minutes on Yoder, who struggled to a second-fastest 2:16:38 split and more than 4 minutes on Reed.
While Raelert's bike was truly impressive on a day marked by cross and headwinds, it remains 2 minutes slower than Matt Reed's race record bike split in better conditions last year.
Raelert who ran an amazing 1:09:05 half marathon in Clearwater to win the 70.3 World Championship title. looked equally fresh and smooth as he was flying out of T2. Yoder was next out on the run but the pain was clear on the face of the youngster, who dropped out halfway through the half marathon. Reed was now in pursuit of the lone leader Raelert.
"I am not as fit as I'd like yet, and I was smashed off the bike," said Reed. "So I could not run the way I had to."
Still, Reed outran Raelert 1:15:49 to 1:17:15. Both men were far off the standard set by the 2009 model Reed, who ran 1:11:15 to out duel Andy Potts for the win. The fastest run of the day belonged to Canadian Jeff Symonds, who used a 1:13:46 split to eventually take 7th place.
Near the end of the run, Henning started to warm up after a shivering cold, off-form first hour on the bike. But Reed held tough and the German was just too strong for both with his well-balanced swim, bike and run and capped his great day in Oceanside with a performance that proved his Clearwater win wasn’t a fluke.
Leanda Cave led the female pro field out of the water and was followed closely by Pip Taylor, with Kelly Williamson and Malaika Homo a bit further back. A group that contained Mirinda Carfrae, Samantha McGlone, Sam Warriner and Michellie Jones was next.
It was Cave who set the pace on the bike and Taylor managed to hang on to the flying Brit early on, but by the 30-mile marker Cave had a lead of 1:20 over Taylor and about 2 minutes on Jones, Carfrae, McGlone and Warriner. Carfrae and McGlone were slowly eating into the lead of Cave and when the lead women got back to Oceanside Harbor the gap between them wasn’t very big anymore.
Carfrae then just ran away from the other competitors and cruised to the title at the 2010 Rohto Ironman 70.3 California in 4:20:29. Her run time of 1:17:34 was not only a new run course record but was also only bested by 6 of the professional men.
Far more surprising than Carfrae's win was Scotland-born, San Diego resident Lesley Paterson's second place, 4:02 behind Carfrae's 4:20:29 finish and 2 minutes 12 seconds ahead of the third place finisher, 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Samantha McGlone.
Like Carfrae, Paterson did it on the run, posting a second-best and very impressive 1:18:28 half marathon which boosted her from 7th at T2 past Kelly Williamson, Kate Major, Leanda Cave and Samantha McGlone. Paterson was not a complete surprise, since she finished second to Ironman 70.3 World Champion Julie Dibens at the 2009 Xterra World Championship in Maui and posted a 5th-place finish at Ironman 70.3 UK last year in her first attempt at the distance.
A cross country runner with a 16:30 5k PR, the 29-year-old Paterson is a true Renaissance woman - her main gig is as a writer-producer for films and her production company holds the film rights for the classic novel All Quiet on the Western Front.
"I just love all of them," she said of her affection for XTerra and Ironman 70.3. "Seventy-point three gives you speed and endurance, and Xterra gives you grit and guts."
Related image gallery
The 2010 Rohto Ironman 70.3 California gallery
Rohto Ironman 70.3 California
Oceanside, CA / March 27, 2010
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
Top 10 men
1. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:58:27
2. Matt Reed (USA) 4:01:17
3. Rasmus Henning (DEN) 4:02:07
4. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 4:03:02
5. Timothy O’Donnell (USA) 4:03:21
6. Jeff Symonds (CAN) 4:05:41
7. Ben Hoffman (USA) 4:07:15
8. Kyle Leto (USA) 4:07:16
9. Michael Lovato (USA) 4:08:28
10. Timothy DeBoom (USA) 4:10:16
1. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 4:20:29
2. Lesley Paterson (GBR) 4:24:31
3. Samantha McGlone (CAN) 4:26:43
4. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:29:56
5. Kate Major (AUS) 4:30:15
6. Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:30:35
7. Michellie Jones (AUS) 4:31:49
8. Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:33:41
9. Sam Warriner (NZL) 4:36:19
10. Rhae Shaw (USA) 4:37:45 * AG W35-39