Complete performances across all three disciplines saw Sam Appleton (AUS) and Lotte Wilms (NED) taking clear wins on Sunday at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong.
There’s rarely a shortage of quality swimming in a field full of Australian athletes, and Geelong was going to follow that stereotype.
To the surprise of nobody, Josh Amberger (21:32) lead the way through the opening 1.9km, with World Triathlon regular, Luke Willian, and twice former winner of the race, Sam Appleton, right on his feet as they made their way through to T1.
Defending champion, Steve McKenna was in good shape though, less than 30 seconds down on some of the best swimmers in the sport, with Caleb Noble between him and the leading trio. That same deficit was nearer to 1:45 twelve months ago, suggesting a great start for a man who got into triathlon after an injury playing Aussie Rules Football. With his favourite run leg ahead, a great start.
Appleton and Amberger broke clear of Willian on two wheels, but had each other as company for the full 90km, and they rolled into T2 in close order. Appleton headed Amberger by just 15 seconds, with Josh reducing that to just 13 as they started the run.
McKenna and Willian were the next duo to arrive, but now around 3:45 down, they would have to do some serious running in order to challenge for the win today.
10km of running later and Appleton was away and clear, having extended his advantage over Amberger to 1:42. McKenna was making ground on both, but still almost three and a half minutes behind the leader, perhaps catching Amberger for second place was the most realistic goal at that point.
With 3km to go, Appleton seemingly had the win in the bag, but the battle for second and third was heating up. Amberger was still holding position two minutes down, but McKenna now had Josh in sight, just 20 seconds further back.
Appleton continued with his all-round performance, living up to his PTO ranking and taking a third IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong title via a 1:13:06 run split.
McKenna (1:11:18) did manage to overall Amberger for second over the closing kilometres, with Josh holding strong to complete the podium.
Netherlands athlete Lotte Wilms has mixed it towards the front of the swim in many a World Cup short course event, and that speed and experience showed. Defending champion Ellie Salthouse is no slouch in the water, but was more than a minute down on the Dutch athlete at T1, as she looked to continue the success that she had all through the 2021 season.
Second last year, Amelia Watkinson was sixth out of the swim, almost three minutes behind the speedy Wilms, but with her strengths still to follow, still well within contention for top honours.
Onto the bike, and Wilms and Watkinson were matched almost to the second over the 90km. Lotte started the run two and half minutes up on Watkinson.
Uncharacteristically, Salthouse seemed to be gradually losing time all the way through the ride and by the time she dismounted ahead of T2, she was almost 10 minutes down on the leader. That, almost certainly, put any chances of a title defence out of the window. Losing time on the run too, she was soon out of the podium positions too. Definitely not her day.
Afterwards she said on her Facebook page: “Geelong, you got the better of me this year! Happy with my swim but unfortunately something didn’t feel quite right during the ride & I decided not to push through it on the run. Early season niggles are not worth risking the Championship season races.”
Winner at IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast last year, Lotte Wilms continued her gun-to-tape performance, even extending her lead over Watkinson. Running 1:22:39 (versus the 1:23:46 of Watkinson), her winning margin at the finish was more than three and a half minutes.
Grace Thek gained back more than four minutes on the two leaders on the run (1:19:32), to complete the podium, matching her third place finish last year.
IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong 2022 results
Sunday February 20, 2021
- 1. Sam Appleton (AUS) – 3:41:16
- 2. Steven McKenna (AUS) – 3:43:11
- 3. Josh Amberger (AUS) – 3:43:43
- 4. Nicolas Free (AUS) – 3:46:44
- 5. Tim van Berkel (AUS) – 3:47:28
- 1. Lotte Wilms (NED) – 4:07:41
- 2. Amelia Watkinson (NZL) – 4:11:17
- 3. Grace Thek (AUS) – 4:15:45
- 4. Stephanie Demestichas (AUS) – 4:22:43
- 5. Ai Ueda (JPN) – 4:23:11