The island of Taiwan is situated about 110 miles off the southeastern coast of mainland China, due north of the Philippines. Though this is the first time a 140.6 triathlon has been held in Taiwan, there is a good bit of Ironman history here since the WTC Ironman 70.3 has been held here for the past 5 years.
That Half Ironman race, always in early November, takes place in the same general area as this year’s 140.6, though with different swim, bike, and run courses. So though the Kenting Region on the southern Taiwanese coast hosts both races, they are completely different beasts.
This inaugural full distance race will involve a 2-lap ocean swim, followed by a rolling bike course that is basically a large counterclockwise loop with three smaller 13.7 mile loops added in during the last half of the ride, potentially leading to some major bike congestion issues. The run is a simple out and back, but that simple out and back is looped three times making it a bit more spectator friendly but mentally tough for the athletes as they run past the finish line multiple times during their marathon.
As could be expected, the pro list is not crowded for this inaugural race, with just 17 men and 13 women. Likewise with just under 1,000 age group registrations in place leading up to race day the field is small; but overall not bad for an unproven event.
Among the race favorites on the men’s side are Cameron Brown of New Zealand, Fredrik Croneborg of Sweden, and Karol Dzalaj of Slovakia; with lone USA representative Patrick Evoe. Likewise on the women’s side we see top contenders Kim Schwabenbauer of the USA, Camilla Lindholm of Sweden, and Dimity-Lee Duke of Australia. Other female American pros lining up for this race are Dede Griesbauer and Samantha Morrison.
As the day dawns, the wide beach teems with excitement from the 30 pros who are here because this is what they do for a living and the 900+ age groupers who are here because this is what they do for fun.
The male pros go off just before 6AM, followed just a minute later by the women. They in turn are followed by the waves of age groupers, self seeded in rolling waves, going off in 3 second groupings.
As often happens in tropical events, with the warmer water temperatures, the pros are not allowed to wear wetsuits, but the age groupers are. This makes for a very competitive pro swim and a much safer swim for everyone else.
As mentioned earlier, the swim is a two loop affair, going counterclockwise in the compact body of water, appropriately named Little Bay.
Half way through the swim, the first men make the turn with Rod DeKanel (FRA) leading Cameron Brown and Fredrik Croneborg. The top women come through led by speedy swimmer Dede Griesbauer with Samantha Morrison and Eva Potuckova (CZE) following.
By the time the leaders come through again to wrap up their 2.4 miles the leader is still DeKanel in 50:35 followed by Croneborg and Brown 2 seconds back. It should be noted here that Cameron Brown comes to this race with the recent notoriety of being the oldest male winner of an elite Ironman race when he won Ironman New Zealand just over a month ago at the age of 42; and by his swim performance here he is obviously primed to keep that title moving forward. *
The women come out of the water with Morrison now at the front at 51:08 leading fellow USA pro Griesbauer by 5 seconds, with Potuckova another 8 seconds back. Likewise it should be noted here that Samantha Morrison is making her debut as a pro here, having proven her capabilities by winning her age group twice at Kona. Equally impressive is the fact that Griesbauer, at age 44, is 20 years older than Morrison, but hanging out in the front with her.
The top three men (Brown, Croneborg, and DeKanel) mix it up in T1 and in the early stages of the bike, but they remain in the top three spots for a bit; that is until Patrick Jaberg (SUI) comes into contention. Then Domenico Passuello (ITA) approaches and overtakes the leaders. Passuello was the overall champion at Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya just a week ago; but riding strong today.
The first half of the bike is a long loop of 61 miles that brings lots of climbing and technical descents. But then the course settles into a 13.7 mile loop for 3 cycles before heading to T2.
It is at this start of the trio of loops that Passuello leads by 8 minutes with Croneborg, Jaberg, and Brown trailing, and DeKane having fallen off the back and now an additional 9 minutes behind.
In the women’s contest Griesbauer holds a strong lead consistently from T1, and by the 61 mile point she leads Morrison and Duke by a good 11 minutes.
Passuello is first man off the bike with a 4:32:16 split, 5:27:35 into his race. He is followed up by Jaberg, Brown, and Croneborg some 9 minutes back.
As expected, Griesbauer is first woman into T2 with a 5:05:18 split, 6:00:06 into her race. She is followed up by Duke some 18 minutes back, and a surprise showing by Keiko Tanaka (JPN) grouped with Schwabenbauer another minute back.
As the pros sweat through three grueling 13.7 mile loops the men’s race contracts with Croneborg surging to bring his 9 minute deficit to race leader Passuello down to just 3 minutes. In the meantime Patrick Evoe passes Cameron Brown, moving into third position.
In the women’s race, Griesbauer continues her astounding lead, outpacing all others.
At the finishing tape, Italy’s Domenico Passuello manages to hold off Sweden’s Fredrik Croneborg with a final 8:25:55 to the Swede’s 8:28:38. Patrick Evoe of the USA brings in the bronze at 8:40:58 beating out hopeful Cameron Brown by a bit over 3 minutes.
Passuello, a former pro cyclist for Team Quick Step, now claims his first 140.6 victory, again only a week after winning Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya, a most impressive feat for this rising star.
For the women on this hot afternoon, Dede Griesbauer brings home the gold with a remarkable time of 9:20:23. Dimity-Lee Duke takes bronze with a 9:31:30, and Kim Schwabenbauer comes in 3rd with a 9:38:34.
Also of note, and not to take away anything from the podium finishers, but to give credit for winning at a whole different level of longevity were two persistent competitors, age groupers John Wragg of Canada who completed his 185th Ironman and Luis Alvarez of Mexico who completed his 119th Ironman at this race!
Top Five Men:
1 Passuello, Domenico ITA – Swim 0:52:26, Bike 4:32:16, Run 2:55:53, Total 8:25:55
2 Croneborg, Fredrik SWE – Swim 0:50:36, Bike 4:42:57, Run 2:49:48, Total 8:28:38
3 Evoe, Patrick USA – Swim 0:55:42, Bike 4:42:27, Run 2:57:06, Total 8:40:58
4 Brown, Cameron NZL – Swim 0:50:57, Bike 4:42:30, Run 3:04:22, Total 8:43:14
5 Jaberg, Patrick SUI – Swim 0:52:21, Bike 4:40:53, Run 3:05:48, Total 8:44:47
Top Five Women:
1 Griesbauer, Dede USA – Swim 0:51:10, Bike 5:05:18, Run 3:17:17, Total 9:20:23
2 Duke, Dimity-Lee AUS – Swim 0:58:07, Bike 5:16:14, Run 3:10:16, Total 9:31:30
3 Schwabenbauer, Kim USA – Swim 1:00:08, Bike 5:15:41, Run 3:15:53, Total 9:38:34
4 Li, Shiao-Yu TPE – Swim 1:07:09, Bike 5:22:36, Run 3:14:57, Total 9:50:51
5 Tanaka, Keiko JPN – Swim 0:54:39, Bike 5:21:01, Run 3:34:04, Total 9:55:40
*Note that in an earlier version of this report it was stated that Cameron Brown was the oldest winner of an Ironman. An alert reader pointed out that Brown is the oldest male winner, with the overall oldest title going to either Nina Kraft or Natascha Badmann. After a little research we indeed found that Kraft won IM Louisville in 2014 at age 45 and 8 months and Badmann won IM South Africa in 2012 at age 45 and 4 months. Thanks to Thorsten Radde (@ThRadde) for catching this, and helping us stay honest. -RC