Race Analysis: Ironman Cozumel, 70.3 Western Sydney, Phuket Tri-Fest

Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney

It may be a holiday in the United States but there are still plenty of races taking place in other parts of the world this weekend. The spring/summer season is just starting to get underway in Australia and a strong field is lining up in Penrith for the Western Sydney 70.3. Tim Van Berkel is dangerous, especially coming off a disappointing showing in Kona. He will be challenged by athletes like Mark Bowstead, Luke Bell and Jake Montgomery. On the women’s side Caroline Steffen will look to continue her winning ways after her victory at Mandurah 70.3. Steffen and Annabel Luxford usually have good battles (see Sunny Coast 70.3) and New Zealander Gina Crawford is coming off a few strong races after a DNF at Kona.


Mark Bowstead

Your competition features Tim Van Berkel, who had a disappointing race in Kona, do you think he is going to be on the redemption train for this race?

For sure anyone with a kona build in them is dangerous, especially a guy of Tim’s pedigree! Tim I’m sure would have been very disappointed but has taken a break and is hungry to show what he can do. 

It looks like the entire course is flat, even the swim, which takes place in the Old Regatta center for the 2000 Olympics. How do you think this will impact the race? Will things stay closer together on the bike leading to a drag race around Penrith Lake on the run?

It does look very flat but that also means there is no let up and you have to be on the power the whole time which i think can favour a strong cyclist, I actually love flat fast courses at 70km you see who’s done the specific flat TT training. Also considering the time of year and its not a hugely deep field I’d say it will be fairly split up, well at leat I hope. 

I saw on Facebook that you are preparing for your first Ironman at Taupo in March. Have the big miles entered your training plan yet?

The plan is to do IMNZ in March and I am super excited for that. Big miles are something I have never had a problem with and done a lot of in the past but currently in this block between coming off a break and these next 2 races (west Syd & Taupo) I would say I have not done any ‘Ironman’ days but I have done a number of 2h runs and 4-5h bikes while still ramping up some intensity for these 70.3’s. This biggest thing I have done in this phase looking forward to IM is hit the gym hard 3x a week working on my Max 1RM strength.

Taupo 70.3 is a big goal on your race schedule and that takes place in two weeks. Is Western Sydney a good opportunity to get rid of any cobwebs and check what needs to be refined leading into the December 12 race?

I rang my coach about 4 weeks before Western Sydney and said I think I need to add a race in prior to Taupo for a couple reasons; 1- to get a good hit out and go through the motions again, 2 because I love to race, but also because I already felt the form was coming up quickly. Taupo Is a big goal and I want to win on that course again. But World 70.3 Is THE goal and I want early points so I can have a lighter middle of the year in 2016.

Ironman Cozumel

Ironman Cozumel boasts strong fields for both the men and women. Defending champion Michael Weiss will be pushed by IM Texas Champion Matt Hanson, 5th Place Kona finisher Tyler Butterfield, Justin Daerr and Trevor Wurtele. If Hanson runs like he did in the Texas heat he will be tough to beat. Plus, he has the added motivation of redeeming himself after a DNF in Kona. Similarly, two athletes on the women’s side are looking for redemption—Heather Wurtele and Leanda Cave. Cave raced well in Texas and a repeat of that type of performance could net her the victory this weekend. Wurtele had a mechanical failure on her bike in Kona and is ready to show her improved ability to race in the heat. Corinne Abraham will look to break up the party and if Camilla Pedersen is recovered mentally and physically from Kona she could be in the mix.

Photo: Patsy Healy/Real Racine

Photo: Patsy Healy/Real Racine

Heather Wurtele

You have probably had the longest period of heat acclimatization with Kona prep, a short visit home to the cold, then to the Bahamas and now an extended stay in Cozumel. Are you officially a big fan of warm weather training and racing now?

All of my time in Kona, followed by the intense racing in the Bahamas has definitely toughened me up when it comes to performing in the heat and humidity. I don’t really even think things like “Wow it’s SO hot!” any more, and I all the steps I need to take to stay properly hydrated and recovered have become a good routine, which is important. When it’s 30oC and there is 85% humidity, no matter how acclimated you are, making the right decisions to manage the heat is pretty important on race day. 
When we went home to BC briefly after Kona it was still 15oC and lovely outside, but I was freezing all the time! We are going be so warm-weather-soft when we get back! It will be a nice change to ski and play in the snow, though. 

The Island House race was probably quite a change from your typical IM build. Do you feel like the 3 day racing format mixed things up and you can capitalize on some of the “speed” workouts? Did it take long to recover from that 3 day stint, how did you body react?

I really enjoyed the three day racing format, and I discovered that I am actually pretty good at pushing myself to really hurt at the super high-intensity zone of sprint type racing, which was cool to discover. I mean I get super obsessed about hammering 4 min max intervals on the bike, and have done plenty of speed sessions in training, but it’s different to race like that over 3 days. It was fun to have to be more on top of general triathlon skills like transition, bike mounts, swim entrance/exits on the Enduro day, and I think that the mental break was a big benefit for me. Having a mechanical take me out of the race in Kona was a massive disappointment so it was nice to focus on something in addition to Ironman training. I think that any time you stress your body in different ways you grow and adapt, which is a good thing. It took a little more time to recover than I expected, but still less than from a 70.3 which I often do 3 weeks out from an Ironman so nothing to worry about there. That the Island House race was also heavy on the swimming end of things, while not good for my overall placing, was great for my training!

The field this coming weekend is pretty stacked. You must be excited to have another opportunity to put all that Kona prep to good use?

I am definitely keen to race. So much of my preparation all year was focused on Kona: on putting together a solid race in hot, humid conditions, with a world class field. It’s obviously not ‘World Champs competitive’ here, but the course conditions are definitely comparable, and there is a big pro field with several people that are threats to win, so that makes it exciting. 

You have been training on the Cozumel course. What are you thoughts? Hoping for some good winds to keep everything “honest” on the bike?

The things that make racing hard are really why we’re out there, but I’d definitely prefer “super windy” hard to “calm and extra hot” hard!  Most days training here I’ve seen it windy on the east side of the island, which means a solid head/side wind for a good chunk of the bike course, then a strong tail wind. Shifting wind conditions do go a long way to making a flat course like this more fair. I spend a lot of time riding behind my husband Trevor and it is amazing how much easier even a 12m gap can be vs. having your nose in the wind, solo all day!  All in all, I like the course. I think that it looks easier than it actually is, and the times reflect (in addition to some crazy swim current variation) that the climate is a big factor. 

Challenge Phuket

In Thailand, a strong field returns to the beaches of Phuket to battle in the heat and on the steep hills the bike course serves up for the competitors. Michael Raelert and Ruedi Wild went 1-2 in this past weekend’s modified Olympic distance race (Laguna Phuket Triathlon) and, if he is on form, Michael Raelert is a favorite to win over the half distance this weekend. Luke McKenzie, Tim O’Donnell and Bart Aernouts will be formidable opponents and will not go down easily, if at all. On the women’s side Jodie Swallow and Radka Vodickova will be challenged by Simone Braendli and Emma Pallant, last weekend’s 1-2 punch in the Laguna Phuket Triathlon. Beth Gerdes has shown her strength over the 70.3 distance so look out for her to be moving up during the run, which is her strength.

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Zach Miller
Zach Miller is a sports enthusiast and age group triathlete living in the The Woodlands, TX. He is the Host of The Triathlon Preview Show. Follow @trifantasy The Triathlon Preview Show: iTunes Podcast
Emily is a professional triathlete and swim coach living in Napa, CA. Emily swam for the University of Michigan and completed her first tri in 2004 at the Chicago Triathlon. She worked for seven years as a paralegal, followed by three years as an Assistant Swim Coach for the University of Illinois-Chicago. Presently, she lives and trains in Napa, California while working for the Napa Valley Swim Team and coaching several age group triathletes.