Many triathletes head to Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston, TX to assess their early season form and use the race as alitmus test for Ironman Texas and other early season events. The humid and mild air doesn’t deter athletes. The race is a regular sell out and showcases a stellar professional field eager to dust the cobwebs off.
Texas 70.3 provides athletes with a point-to-point ocean swim that begins near the pier at Moody Gardens. Swimmers will head west toward the Colonel Paddlewheel boat and make a quick left-hand turn to emerge from the water.
Once mounted on their bikes, athletes will head toward Seawall Boulevard and head 28 miles south along the Texas Gulf Coast. Winds are typically strong and an evenly paced ride can be quite challenging on the pancake-flat out and back course. As athletes manipulate their way through the end of the bike they’ll dismount and start the 3-loop run. The spectator-friendly run course is flat, but with a couple of rises, it can make you pay for outriding your fitness. The loaded professional field will be competing for 500 points and a $30,000 prize purse.
Andy Potts, David Giardini, Balazs Csoke, Barrett Brandon and Eric Limkemann made up the front pack of swimmers with Potts edging Giardini out of the water in 24:05. One of the winningest triathletes of all time, Greg Bennett, led the next group of chasers that included last year’s champion, Richie Cunningham, 2 minutes down from Potts. Lionel “Colonel” Sanders of Ontario, Canada had over 4 minutes to make up as he entered his first transition.
Giardini looked to set the tone early and stormed to the front. Through 10 miles Giardini stretched his lead over chasers that included Potts and Limkemann by 75 seconds. At 43 miles the Italian’s lead grew to 2 minutes. A group formed behind that included Potts, Cody Beals, Bennett and a storming Sanders.
By mile 50, the Italian was 3 miles in front of his competitors and his lead stretched to 7 minutes. Aboard his Aeroweenie-approved Shiv, Giardini would end up dipping under the 2 hour mark by stomping out a sensational 1:59:14. Bennett would lead the hungry Potts, Sanders, Beals and company back to transition toward the three-loop run.
Giardini, who isn’t known for his running prowess, was losing time to his chasers from the moment he left T2. By the 4-mile mark, Giardini’s lead shrunk to 4:37 with Sanders, Potts and Beals chasing hard. The situation worsened for the Italian as Sanders made the pass near the 8-mile marker. Potts and Beals would follow closely just 17 seconds down, but Giardini’s gutsy bike effort seemed to be taking its toll as he continued to fade.
By mile 10 Sanders began to pull away and increased his lead on Potts to over 1 minute and over 2 minutes on Beals and Giardini. With just a mile to go, Sanders proved to those watching that he rode much smarter than he did in Oceanside. The Colonel’s lead continued to grow and he broke the finishing tape first with an impressive 72 minute half marathon for a 3:45:39 finish time. Potts and Beals ran impressively well given their performances last weekend in New Orleans. Giardini would hang onto fourth after unleashing a lethal swim-bike combo.
Run Course Controversy
A group of men including Ritchie Cunningham, Matt Russell, Chris Baird and Pedro Gomes were led off course by volunteers. Ben Hobbs, TRStriathlon.com publisher, was there when the men realized what happened. They collectively slowed to a stop and pulled out of the race, knowing that they would be disqualified. The group was upset and according to Ben Powell later had a heated discussion with officials.
|1. Lionel Sanders CAN||28:23||2:02:25||1:12:20||3:45:39||$6,000|
|2. Andy Potts USA||24:00||2:06:59||1:14:02||3:47:22||$3,000|
|3. Cody Beals CAN||26:22||2:04:30||1:15:02||3:48:21||$2,250|
|4. David Giardini ITA||24:00||1:59:14||1:25:46||3:51:29||$1,500|
|5. Barrett Brandon USA||24:06||2:09:37||1:19:04||3:55:19||$1,250|
|6. Greg Bennett AUS||25:48||2:05:03||1:23:15||3:56:41||$1,000|
Lauren Brandon set the tone from the start and towed a small group of swimmers before breaking away. She emerged from the water solo in 25:06. Less than a minute down were chasers Helle Frederiksen and Brianna Baird.
The next pack of swimmers was over a minute down and included former Texas 70.3 champions Kelly Williamson and Emma-Kate Lidbury. Uber-cyclists Angela Naeth & Sarah Piampiano had over 4 minutes to make up as they entered T1.
Lauren Brandon was first out of transition and rode her way to the sea wall first. As the professional women hit mile 10, the gaps tightened to 28 seconds with Frederiksen chasing the leader, Brandon, and Lidbury in third 2:20 off the lead. By mile 25, a charging Frederiksen overtook Brandon but she fought back valiantly.
At 38 miles Brandon and Frederiksen rode together as Lidbury hung tough in third. Through 45 miles, nothing changed at the front of the race, but Piampiano (who won New Orleans 70.3 a week ago) moved into fifth with Texan Lauren Barnett into fourth, 5 minutes down. Frederiksen would be first off the bike clocking a 2:19:49 but Brandon and Lidbury were less than a minute down.
By the 1-mile mark, Helle Frederiksen’s lead grew to nearly 2 minutes over Lidbury and Brandon. Through 4 miles the Danish superstar’s lead continued to grow as Lidbury chased 3:30 down, Brandon 4:44 down and Naeth at 5:30 down. At 7 miles, Frederiksen was in control and her lead ballooned to over 5 minutes on Lidbury as Naeth ran into third position.
Nine miles into the half marathon Naeth overtook Lidbury for second, but both were now over 6 minutes down to Frederiksen who was clearly running away from the field. With a mile to go Helle Frederiksen still had over 6 minutes on her closest competitor and she crossed the line first in 4:07.
The consistently well-represented Uplace-BMC athlete used an impressive 1:19:39 half marathon run to secure her title. Naeth would finish strong in second and Lidbury third. Kelly Williamson would run her way into fourth with the fastest run split on the day.
|1. Helle Frederiksen DNK||25:42||2:19:49||1:19:39||4:07:52||$6,000|
|2. Angela Naeth CAN||29:37||2:19:36||1:21:43||4:13:50||$3,000|
|3. Emma-Kate Lidbury GBR||27:11||2:19:24||1:28:31||4:17:58||$2,250|
|4. Kelly Williamson USA||27:14||2:29:35||1:19:08||4:18:39||$1,500|
|5. Sarah Piampiano USA||31:22||2:19:50||1:26:03||4:20:19||$1,250|
|6. Beth Shutt USA||31:18||2:19:33||1:27:04||4:21:03||$1,000|