IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne | Liveblog live blogging


IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne

    Injury has forced defending male champion Dirk Bockel out of this weekends IRONMAN Asia-Pacific, he chatted to us about how disappointing it was to miss his title defence.
    Champions Ready For Melbourne Battle
    Champions galore, led by three-time world champion Miranda Carfrae, will line up in a remarkable women’s field for Sunday’s IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne.
    It is arguably the strongest professional women’s field outside of the world championship in Hawaii for the first of the five global regional championships which carry a US$150,000 prize purse with the winners gaining direct qualification to Hawaii.
    The men’s field, while not boasting the same titled quality, is the most open for several years with some of Australia’s best up against a strong European contingent.
    Most focus goes on the women’s battle with US-based Queenslander Carfrae competing at home for the first time in three years, as she takes on defending Asia-Pacific champion Caroline Steffen, two-time IRONMAN 70.3 world champion Melissa Hauschildt, four-time IRONMAN winner Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) and former ITU stars Annabel Luxford (AUS) and Laura Bennett (USA).
    Carfrae, now based in the triathlon mecca of Boulder, Colorado, has been the dominant female on the planet over the last six years, including world championship victories in 2010, 2013 and 2014, runner-up in 2009 and 2011 and third in 2012.
    “I’m looking forward to racing again at home. Winning an Australian IRONMAN title is not something I’ve done yet, so I’d love to add one to my resume,” Carfrae said.
    Steffen, the Sunshine Coast-based Swiss triathlete, dominated this race last year to follow on from her win in Melbourne in 2012 when she beat Carfrae. However the world champion edged Steffen to second at Hawaii later that year.
    “I just think that course suits me so well. I love the rough swim, the fast ride on the Highway and the "point to point" Marathon. Back in my cycling days, I spend a lot of time in Black Rock (Melbourne) riding up and down the Beach Road with my PRO team. Coming back after all this year and run a marathon at the same road feels like coming home,” Steffen said.
    “Every pro likes to pick one race to call their own. I do that with IRONMAN Melbourne. I love the city, love the support I always get from all the spectators and I love the coffee you get in Melbourne. As a huge coffee lover that’s very important.”
    Hauschildt, for former Australian track star, has made an enormous impact in IRONMAN, claiming the 70.3 world title in 2011 and 2013 before moving to the full distance, and winning on debut at IRONMAN Australia last year.
    ”I'm starting to get really excited about racing Melbourne,” Hauschildt says. “It will only be my second full IRONMAN but it almost feels like my first. When I raced at Port Macquarie last year I only decided to do it three weeks out from the race and had just come off a small break. This time I hope to be ready,” she said.
    Luxford is a former ITU world championship podium finisher who made an emphatic move to IRONMAN with several victories and podiums in 70.3 including the 2013 Asia-Pacific title and makes her much-awaited move to IRONMAN.
    Bennett, married to Australian star Greg Bennett, is a two-time Olympian, finishing fourth at Beijing before moving to the IRONMAN distances in 2013. She has one IRONMAN 70.3 victory to her credit and finished runner-up at IRONMAN Boulder last year.
    The men’s contest will see a bunch of talented Australians do battle including Tim Berkel, Luke Bell, Peter Robertson and Brad Kahlefeldt.
    Berkel, a former winner at IRONMAN Western Australia, had a career-best eighth at Hawaii last year; Bell is a two-time IRONMAN winner in 2013 and is coming back from an injury-plagued last year; Robertson is a three-time Olympic-distance world champion while double Olympian Kahlefeldt, is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist with several 70.3 wins to his credit, makes his full IRONMAN debut.
    The major European charge will come from German top seed Nils Frommhold who was seventh in Hawaii and has IRONMAN wins in South Africa and Arizona, and Estonian Marco Albert who won IRONMAN New Zealand last year.
    “It's been a long time since I have won an Ironman in Australia and I'm very hunger for another title,” Berkel says. “I took a lot of confidence from Kona last year. I feel I can mix it with the best athletes in the sport on the world stage when things are going well,” Berkel said.
    Local boy Luke Bell has put the knee injury that curtailed the early part of his 2014 season behind him and is looking for a strong performance in front of a hometown crowd.
    “I have been able to nail all my sessions and stay healthy and uninjured which is half of the battle. Training wise I have been able to complete more than I have for a long time,” he said.
    There are more than 2500 participants from 45 countries coming to Melbourne for the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship on Sunday 22 March, comprising a 3.8km swim in Frankston, 180km two-lap bike on the Eastlink Freeway back to Frankston and 42.2km marathon run to the finish at St Kilda.
    The professional men start at 7.20am, the professional women three minutes later and the age group competitors from 7.40am with the winner expected by approximately 3.20pm.
    Robbo Back for IRONMAN test
    By Daniel Hoy
    After making his IRONMAN debut at last year’s IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship, Australia’s greatest ever short course triathlete, three time ITU World Champion and two time Olympian, Peter Robertson is back for another tilt at the title.
    In 2013 the lure of racing at the IRONMAN World Championship ended Robertson’s two year retirement.
    His 2014 season then became all about gaining enough qualifying points to make his debut in Kona.
    A tenth in his debut IRONMAN in Melbourne last year was followed by a third at IRONMAN Cairns just a few months later, both results laid a strong foundation for Robertson’s bid to qualify. He then attacked the 70.3 circuit with his usual vigour and built up enough points qualify.
    Then with Hawaii on the horizon Robertson suffered a broken collarbone in a bike accident, and was forced to withdraw.
    “It was such a gruelling effort just trying to qualify last year! It took me five races to get enough points; it wasn't an ideal preparation for giving Hawaii a good tilt anyway. I quickly refocused and it will be nice to get back out racing another IRONMAN in Melbourne,” he says.
    Truth be told it may prove to be a blessing in disguise, as the Robertson of this season is far more experienced at racing a distance, that until last year was completely foreign to him.
    His first season in IRONMAN taught him three things; the importance of being able to urinate as he runs, pacing, and the crucial nature of nutrition.
    “Coming from short course there really wasn't any such thing as pacing, you just go all out! With an IRONMAN you feel so good for so long and then all of a sudden it hits you and you feel terrible. Unfortunately so far those periods of feeling terrible in an IRONMAN for me have lasted a long time,” he says
    The disappointment of working so hard to qualify for Kona last year, only for a freak accident to take that opportunity away, has left Robertson hungrier than ever to make it to the big island.
    “I can potentially qualify for Hawaii from one race. I do like the fact that Melbourne is a point to point run,” he says.
    “Another advantage is being a Melbourne boy, I always get amazing support from the crowds there. I would prefer more hills on the bike, but I don't design race courses, I just race them,” he says.

    Cycling Star Turns to IRONMAN

    British athlete Emma Pooley has a rich pedigree in cycling. She won the road time trial world championship in Melbourne in 2010, a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics and two silver medals in the road race and time trial at the commonwealth Games last year. She won all of the major stage tours several times in a superb career. Last year she scaled down to focus on completing her PhD in geotechnical engineer and move to multi sport. Emma won the Lausanne Marathon in 2:44.29, and the famed Zofingen long distance duathlon in a race record, along with fifth place at IRONMAN Zurich.
    She is now stepping up to tackle a stellar field in the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne on Sunday.
    Daniel Hoy talked to Pooley about her plans.

    IM: What was behind your decision to move to IRONMAN?
    Emma Pooley: I have always loved running - I took up cycling due to a running injury - and I liked the atmosphere and ethos of triathlon when I competed as an age-group athlete in 2003-2005. I wanted a new challenge and to carry on competing, I didn't feel like I was finished as an athlete, and multisport racing is what I really longed to do. I didn't think I'd get the opportunity, but thanks to a few results I got in triathlon "on the side" when I was still a cyclist, I was very lucky to gain the backing of two key sponsors - Team Tempo Sport -, and NGI, and they have enabled me to make the switch to Ironman.

    IM: What are your aims in the race?
    EP: Obviously I'd like to do well in Melbourne, but so does everyone else on the start line. It's not a race course that particularly plays to my strengths, because hilly and technical bike courses generally favour me, but it's a good challenge to race on courses that don't suit you! I want to race in Melbourne as a learning experience, I'm not expecting to be a player in the race, not in a field like that! It will be a real honour to line up with those other athletes.

    IM: What are your long term goals?
    EP: It’s hard to set concrete goals because I haven't done many races yet. Obviously I'd like to qualify for Kona at some point and race there, but I doubt that's realistic in my first year as a pro triathlete. I've planned to race for two years in long-course triathlon and duathlon and then reassess whether I've got any potential. It feels like I have an awful lot to learn! I guess as an athlete at whatever level, you just want to feel you've done your utmost and reached your full potential, you can't ask more than that! My other goal though is to *enjoy* the sport - it might sound either obvious or redundant, but I do love training and racing and I want to enjoy the journey (no, that doesn't mean taking it easy!).

    IM: Who have you looked to for inspiration?
    EP: It is wonderful to have such amazing role models (male and female!) in triathlon in the UK - Chrissie especially, I was utterly in awe of her and getting to know her a little has only increased my admiration. The UK does seem to have more than its fair share of top female Ironman athletes - I have no idea why, except that maybe - hopefully - having great role models in the media inspires others. Sporting heroes do inspire children and adults alike! Also, perhaps the weather in the UK makes people tough ;-)

    IM: What do you know about the course?
    EP: About the course... I've heard that the swim can be very rough, that the bike is fast and flat, and the run is beautiful. That’s good to hear, I always look forward to the run!
    Some except s from the women’s pro panel at the press conference today:
    Defending champion Caroline Steffen
    Of course I am ready. I love the Melbourne race. There’s always a great field here. I really look forward to that. There’s no secret. I am a swim-biker and some of the other girls beside me are more the runners. I will try to get a lead as much as possible off the bike. It looks like it will be a choppy hard swim which is perfect for me. The run is a point to point so we won’t see eachother. I hope I get some splits – well I hope the one in front gets some splits – I know the girls behind get splits but if I am in front I hope I get some as well. It is so stressful out in front.
    Three-time IRONMAN World champion Mirinda Carfrae
    It’s really great to be back. I had a chance to train in the Sunny Coast and come here to race in Melbourne again. Every time I look back on my Kona resume I have to pinch myself because it couldn’t have gone any better. But this girl on my right (Steffen) has been top five in every one of those races.
    I want to reiterate how strong the women’s field is here this weekend.
    (On question about the point to point marathon run in Melbourne):
    I like the idea you are going somewhere. There’s nothing worse than running past the finish line and going out on another loop. That said I do like to see my competition but in this raced I won’t get to see any of the girls ahead of me. The fact it is point to point is unique and great to experience different courses around the world – although I still prefer to see my opposition though.
    (On her running strength):
    It’s always good to run past people whether they are other women or age group men. Honestly I am out there to have a decent performance on the weekend. I don’t know if I have a super fast run in me at this time of year. I like to save that for Kona. It’s my 12th IRONMAN now – and that fitness from the last four or five years is still in me but it is a guess to how much of that fitness will be carried over to the weekend.
    Two-time IRONMAN 70.3 world champion, Melissa Hauschildt
    All these people up here are Ironman specialists so I feel a little out of place.
    (On training at altitude in Victoria in the lead-up)
    I race best in the heat – I am not use to the cold. I wanted to prepare myself. Falls Creek is a great training place at altitude, dry and cool and a good environment. Training has gone well but the weekend is still a total unknown to me.
    I try not to look too much at my competition. At Ironman you have to focus on your won race. Rinny has showed so many times that if you focus on your own race you can just be patient and wait for people to fall over.
    Nutrition is the main thing I am worried about. I did Port Macquarie out of the blue. I spent more time in the toilet than running there. I have practiced my nutrition in training this time so hopefully I get it right.

    The pro panel (from left) Caroline Steffen, Mirinda Carfrae, Melissa Hauschildt, Nik Frommhold, Tim Berkel and Luke Bell.

    The story so far.... From on the ground here at #IMMelbourne, loads going on; behind the scenes photo shoots, Expo is open, Melbourne race kit is available, the Toyota FJ is here #ToyotaIMTracker, the Pros are signing in (Marko Albert), Official Press Conference, #ASICSGoRunIt markers are down, and a big shout and Happy 30th Birthday to Xterra's pro athlete Per Bittner! See everyone tonight Athlete Welcome Function 5-6.3pm at The Palais Theatre.

    The Storey so far... #IMMelbourne

    Check out our video preview of tomorrow's race
    Welcome to coverage of the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship here in Melbourne. We are still over an hour away from race start which of course is down at Frankston - around 40kms south of our base here at the finish in St Kilda. check out what our leading pro men had to say about their chances.

    Nils Frommold
    Sixth place in Hawaii was great but it came with several ups and downs. I was sixth after the bike then went down to 11th or 12th and then I had to fight back up to sixth place. It is nice to finish up there and a good day for me.
    It has been a tricky time for me to prepare because it is cold in Germany and I had to go to warmer areas to train. I trained a lot with the Raelert brothers (and Jan Raphael) in Thailand in January and then to the Canary Islands in March. I could not use Geelong to prepare because of the Formula 1 race it was too expensive with hotels.

    Tim Berkel
    Seventh place in Hawaii was a dream come true for me. I dreamt of going to this race and doing well. I put it off for a long time until I felt I was ready to tackle it and last year I was ready. Like Nils it was a roller coaster for me. I was up to fourth going into the Energy Lab and feeling awesome and confident I could run into a podium but coming out of the Energy Lab I just fell apart and started cramping. I am really looking forward to getting back there and improving on my seventh place.
    I have really prepared well for this. I have had a solid six weeks. It has been a while for an Ironman win for me and I really want to do it here in the Asia-Pacific Championship.
    I have had a good preparation – no sickness, no injury and haven’t missed any training. I am fit, raring to go and ready to give it a crack on Sunday.

    Luke Bell
    I am getting an old man so I forget what it was like to run down the chute in the top 10 in Hawaii.
    This time I get to race on my home course although I don’t see it as a benefit. Every time I have gone out for a run at the end of my street. No-one likes the 30km mark of the marathon – and where do you think the 30km mark is on the run? Well it is right by my street. When you go past it and look to the right, my house is about 150m away and I see it as tough.
    Or you go another 100m and you are in the Sandy Pub – which is also inviting 30kms into the run.
    I am fit and injury-free. Last year I could not do much run training at all but this time it has all gone pretty well.
    I look and see what Cam Brown did a couple of weeks ago in New Zealand at nearly 43 and that give me heart that us old guys can still do it.
    The professional men begin at 7.20am local time (in 30 minutes) with professional women three minutes later and the age groups from 7.40am. We have full coverage for you today - live streaming coverage hosted by Cameron Brown and IRONMAN World Champion in Greg Welch anchoring from St Kilda. There will be expert comment from Olympic gold medallist Emma Snowsill down at the swim and bike transition in Frankston. And they have special guests coming into the show throughout the day.
    We have a great group of spotters out on the course as well with Toby Coote and Amanda Balding giving regular updates and we have Australian IRONMAN legend Jason Shortis also giving us information on how the leading professionals are tracking.
    And we are launching a trial with the fantastic new GPS tracking tool which is another great addition to your watching experience.
    Our spotter is on the water at Frankston - and Toby reports we are still waiting for sun rise for the swim. There's no wind but a small chop and it is relatively how tide so that means quite a run in to get to deeper water for the beach start.
    The leading men are making the final left hand turn alongside the pier at Frankston and they are heading to shore - there's still a lead group of 5-6 who have a 50m lead over the chasers.
    The men are over the first sand bar - back dolphin diving - and heading to shore.
    Out of the water it is Marko Albert in 45:18 from Todd Skipworth, Nils Frommold, Brad Kahlefeldt and Luke Bell in the lead group.
    They are followed by Christian Kramer at 1:28 followed by Jan Raphael, Tim Berkel, Peter Robertson, Callum Millward.
    Annabel Luxford is now out of the water in the lead of the women's race.
    It looks like Laura Bennett is in trouble -0 walking out of the water. She has a leg injury so may be her day is done already?
    Luxford takes 1:11 lead out of the water from Caroline Steffen and Bree Wee, with a further 20 seconds to Bennett.
    The fast runners are out of the swim - Mirinda Carfrae and Mel Hauschildt with Kym Coogan at 3:17 down on Luxford.
    Marko ALBERT EST 0:45:18
    Todd SKIPWORTH AUS +00:00:01
    Nils FROMMHOLD GER +00:00:08
    Brad KAHLEFELDT AUS +00:00:09
    Luke BELL AUS +00:00:12
    Christian KRAMER GER +00:01:28
    Jan RAPHAEL GER +00:01:30
    Jan VAN BERKEL AUS +00:01:34
    Peter ROBERTSON AUS +00:01:36
    Callum MILLWARD NZL +00:01:38
    Casey MUNRO AUS +00:01:39
    Timothy VAN BERKEL AUS +00:02:47
    Lachlan KERIN AUS +00:04:18
    Jeffrey SYMONDS CAN +00:04:21
    Per BITTNER AUT +00:04:22
    Annabel LUXFORD AUS 0:51:20
    Caroline STEFFEN AUS +00:01:22
    Bree WEE USA +00:01:22
    Laura BENNETT USA +00:01:41
    Kym COOGAN AUS +00:03:17
    Mirinda CARFRAE USA +00:03:23
    Mel HAUSCHILDT AUS +00:03:23
    Ashley CLIFFORD USA +00:03:27

    Todd Skipworth on the bike.

    Annabel LUXFORD AUS 0:51:20
    Caroline STEFFEN AUS +00:01:22
    Bree WEE USA +00:01:22
    Laura BENNETT USA +00:01:41
    Kym COOGAN AUS +00:03:17
    Mirinda CARFRAE USA +00:03:23
    Mel HAUSCHILDT AUS +00:03:23
    Ashley CLIFFORD USA +00:03:27
    Yvonne VAN VLERKEN AUT +00:08:30
    Asa LUNDSTROM SWE +00:08:59
    Beth GERDES USA +00:09:01
    Mareen HUFE GER +00:09:02
    Natasha VAN DER MERWE USA +00:09:05
    Jessica MITCHELL AUS +00:09:06
    Stephanie JONES USA +00:09:09
    At the 12km mark on the bike there is a group of four in the lead with Albert, Kahlefeldt, Skipworth, Luke Bell and Nils Frommold. At 50 seconds is Christian Kramer. At 1.30 is Jan Raphael, Jan van Berkel, Casey Munro and Peter Robertson and Tim Berkely flying at 1.50.
    It looks like Laura Bennett is out of the race. That injury has flared up and she has withdrawn.
    Nils Frommhold has pushed into the lead and opened a 15 second lead in the front. And Tim Berkel has caught the third pack now.
    Confirming that Marko Albert has broken the swim record 45:18 was four seconds inside the mark set by Benjamin Sanson last year.
    Luke Bell has bridged up to Frommhold in the lead.
    15km mark in the women - Annabel Luxford lead by 1m30s from Caroline Steffen, with Bree We at 2:50, Mel Hauschildt at 3:20 and Mirinda Carfrae at 4:45 but our spotter Amanda Balding says she looks the smoothest of all.
    Further back in eighth and 8m down is Yvonne van Vlerken - she and Carfrae are the only riders on the same pace as Luxford.
    Still now sign of third man around - so Bell and Frommhold are really stretching things.
    The next group is around at 90kms at 4:09 - Albert, Kahlefeldt, Skipworth, Kramer. At 4:57 is Bittner, Robertson and Munro.
    Through at 5:05 is Tim van Berkel, Raphael, Jan van Berkel, Millward and Symonds.
    Our spotter Toby Coote says the wind is starting to freshen and will be a factor on the second half of the bike.
    Word from our spotter Amanda Balding is that Mel Hauschildt is not looking as smooth and starting to rock more on her bike - now back at 3:15 behind our leaders Caroline Steffen and Annabel Luxford through 75kms.
    Yvonne van Vlerken continues to move forward to be 6:05 back in fourth - the strongest looking of the lead riders. Bree Wee is fifth at 7.30 back.
    Mirinda Carfrae is through in sixth at 9:05.
    The women are nearing the turn at Frankston at the 90kms mark.
    Caroline Steffen is around at 90kms ahead of Annabel Luxford who is hanging in tough in her first IRONMAN.
    Annabel Luxford has a rich heritage in the sport. She is a former junior world champion at the Olympic distance, a podium finisher at the world championships in 2005, a multi winner at the IRONMAN 70.3 mark including the Asia-Pacific title in 2013 and third place in the world championship in the same year. Add to that she is an insightful character - take the time to read her blogs on her website. Over the last year, fearing she was falling out of love with the sport, she also went back to a career mixed with training. It all seems to be working so far in her IRONMAN debut.
Who's Blogging
  • Amy.Williams
  • Jennifer Sharpe
  • Kevin MackinnonKevin Mackinnon
  • Shawn SkeneShawn Skene
  • Ian HepenstallIan Hepenstall
  • ian.hepenstall
  • Stephen.Kane
  • Daniel.hoy