Richie Cunningham's swift swim and run trumped defending champion Massimo Cigana's race-best bike, while Belinda Granger's sizzling bike topped Mirinda Carfrae's run as the two Aussie veterans took top honors at the 15th Laguna Phuket Triathlon Sunday.
Despite civilian unrest which prompted Thai officials to temporarily shut down international travel at Bangkok's airport, approximately 600 triathletes showed up for the 15th edition of the traditional season-ending middle-distance triathlon at one of Asia's premier resorts.
Cunningham, coming off a tough third place finish at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida, emerged from the 1.8km swim in the Andaman Sea in 23:18, 2 minutes and 13 seconds ahead of defending champion Cigana. The Italian retaliated with a race-best 1:19:55 bike, which gave him a 12 second advantage entering T2. But after a 7 seconds-swifter transition, Cunningham locked up the win and $3,500 top prize with a 40:43 time for the 12km run, 16 seconds faster than Cigana. At the end of his 2:28:13 finish, third-best for the distance in the race's history, Cunningham was accompanied by a revered Thai elephant.
Despite his heroics, Cunningham didn't have time to showboat with the pachyderm, as Cigana crossed the line just 11 seconds back in 2:28:30. Aussie 70.3 star Chris Legh, whose race-best 40:15 run was unable to make up for time lost with a third-best 1:23:30 bike, took third place in 2:31:11.
Granger and 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Carfrae exited the swim in precisely the same time – 25:32. But any thoughts of a race long duel disappeared on the hilly 55km bike through tropical vegetation. Granger applied her sizzling Ironman bike skills to a race-best 1:31:17 split, which put 3 minutes 46 seconds on Carfrae. On the run, Carfrae could only take back 25 seconds with a race-best 47:23 split, leaving the win and the $3,500 check to the 37-year-old veteran capping off in style a season crowned by three Ironman-distance wins. As for Carfrae, the shorter course loss to the Ironman specialist echoed the disappointment the 27-year-old defending champion felt a month ago at her 15th place finish at the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Florida.
15th Laguna Phuket Triathlon
Laguna Phuket, Thailand
December 7, 2008
S 1.8k/ B 55k/ R 12k
1. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 2:28:19
2. Massimo Cigana (ITA) 2:28:30
3. Chris Legh (AUS) 2:31:13
4. Tim Marr (USA) 2:35:59
5. Felix Schumann (GER) 2:36:43
6. Kevin Clark (GBR) 2:39:37 M30-34
7. Chen Chan Wei (TPE) 2:41:23 M18-24
8. Frederik Croneborg (SWE) 2:43:28 M25-29
9. Colin Hill (GBR) 2:43:44 M35-39
10. Mark Jansen (AUS) 2:45:14 M35-39
1. Belinda Granger (AUS) 2:47:13
2. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 2:50:52
3. Alexandra Louison (FRA) 2:52:39
4. Trudy Fawcett (GBR) 2:58:28 F35-39
5. Irma Ventura (ITA) 3:04:30
6. Brigitte Niederberger (SUI) 3:04:30 F 30-34
7. Mignon Vatlach (GER) 3:06:37
8. Sherry Coons (AUS) 3:09:31 F40-44
9. Millicent Thweatt (USA) 3:11:08 F45-49
10. Laura Walsh (CAN) 3:11:47 F40-44