Steffen, Berkel Shine at Sunshine Coast 70.3

The Sunshine Coast was less than sunny last night, but the skies cleared just in time for the pro men and women to hit the (still choppy) water in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia. Strong pro fields were lining up (check out the race preview), but not without question marks – so close to Kona, who was fatigued and who was super fit? Featuring an ocean swim, a flat, fast bike course, and a 2-lap run around Mooloolaba’s Esplanade, the Sunshine Coast promised one last 70.3 for those looking for a warm-up to Kona. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to race in a place called Mooloolaba?

Men’s Race

Everyone knows Aussies can swim, and Josh Amberger jumped to an early lead, 15 seconds ahead of Casey Munro after just a few hundred meters. With significant chop, it was expected that high cadence swimmers (hat tip to Annabel Luxford and Amberger) would have an advantage. In back of Amberger, Munro and Clayton Fettell led a chase group that kept Tim Van Berkel and Luke McKenzie in contention. Amberger led the pro men out of the water and into T1 in 22:18, followed by Todd Skipworth, Munro, Fettell, Terenzo Bozzone, and Sam Betten. McKenzie and Van Berkel had a full minute to make up by the time they hit the bike.

Amberger’s strong swim-bike kept him at the front through the first turnaround – and up 1:50 by 35k – with Clayton Fettell still at the front of the chase pack, which included all the heavy hitters. Flying into lap 2, Bozzone, Berkel, McKenzie, Munro and Fettell had gained some time back on Amberger, now trailing by 1:20. Amberger held onto his lead and headed out onto the run still in 1st, but had to have been running scared with the likes of Bozzone and Berkel on his heels (reportedly, Amberger has also been battling a leg injury).

Heading out on the run, the scary-fast chase group of men had closed the gap to Amberger to 15 seconds by the first hill, and Bozzone, Berkel and McKenzie were the first to pass him. Van Berkel took over the lead, with Bozzone moving into 2nd and McKenzie in 3rd after lap 1. Amberger remained in 4th, followed by Munro in 5th and Fettell 6th. Van Berkel only got faster, extending his lead to 35 seconds by 21km. Then, two crucial things happened:

Van Berkel was clearly running away with the race, up by 1:10 (look out, Kona), but it looked like McKenzie and Bozzone might be sprinting for 2nd. In the end, Berkel broke the tape in 3:44:28, and the sprint finish we were hoping for was not so sprinty – McKenzie edged Bozzone by 30 seconds for 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Casey Munro had a solid day to cross the line in 4th following Amberger’s withdrawal, while Todd Skipworth came back from a 5 minute bike deficit to claim 5th.

 

Swim

Bike

Run

Finish

$$$

Points

Tim Van Berkel

24:05

2:04:45

1:13:11

3:44:28

$5,000

750

Luke McKenzie

23:57

2:04:38

1:15:35

3:46:45

$2,750

640

Terenzo Bozzone

23:01

2:05:46

1:16:04

3:47:13

$1,750

540

Casey Munro

22:49

2:05:55

1:20:24

3:51:57

$1,250

435

Todd Skipworth

22:45

2:10:22

1:17:16

3:53:04

$1,000

345

Jamie Huggett

24:06

2:12:13

1:15:25

3:54:28

$750

280

 

Women’s Race

Although Radka Vodickova led the women out and maintained command of the swim, Annabel Luxford followed within 30 seconds with defending champ Caroline Steffen on her tail. The three leading ladies made short work of T1, with Vodickova exiting with a narrow lead – still 30 seconds up on Steffen and Luxford at the top of the first hill. A huge gap of nearly 3 minutes already separated the top 3 from the first chase pack, led by Rebekah Keat. Luxford and then Steffen passed Vodickova and remained in close contact, with Steffen eventually taking over the top spot. By lap 3, it was clearly a Steffen-Luxford showdown, and the pair remained neck and neck as they hit T2. Vodickova would have a much lonelier run, having fallen 2:47 back.

In an unfortunately recurring theme, the lack of sufficient spacing between the pro women and AG men made things rocky for the chase pack of female pros. Keat broke away from the chase pack to ride solo in 4th – albeit still 2 minutes back – but was re-caught coming back into town for lap 2, and Sarah Crowley and Britta Martin followed her in off the bike.

Steffen and Luxford were shoulder to shoulder for a while before Steffen managed to shake her competition – by 8km, a 25 second lead put her solidly in 1st, and she continued her march away from Luxford all the way to the finish line. Vodickova was now a full 4:10 back, with Crowley just a minute behind in 4th. Steffen claimed her repeat victory in an impressive 4:09:26, followed by Luxford in 2nd and Vodickova hanging onto 3rd. Of note, Beth Gerdes put together a strong bike-run to cross the line in 6th place and posted the fastest run split of the day, while Keat fell to a 10th place finish.

 

Swim

Bike

Run

Finish

$$$

Points

Caroline Steffen

25:36

2:22:15

1:18:43

4:09:26

$5,000

750

Annabel Luxford

25:30

2:22:25

1:21:19

4:12:02

$2,750

640

Radka Vodickova

25:02

2:25:31

1:21:56

4:15:10

$1,750

540

Sarah Crowley

28:25

2:23:11

1:22:23

4:16:51

$1,250

435

Kirralee Seidel

25:48

2:25:24

1:23:22

4:17:51

$1,000

345

Beth Gerdes

30:17

2:22:42

1:18:36

4:18:07

$750

280

About the Author

Adrienne Taren
Adrienne is a MD/PhD in Neuroscience researching stress, your brain & the neuroscience of mindfulness training. She is also a fairly decent triathlete/runner/writer and an average ultra-distance swimmer, if there is such a thing. Visit her blog: http://www.adriennetaren.com/. Follow @SeeSpondyRun