After several weekends of stacked racing in the 70.3 and 140.6 distances, New Orleans 70.3 was the lone race this weekend. A P500 event with a $30,000 prize purse, most top gunners had already blown their wad at the plethora of other, better pointed and better paying races in the weeks prior. While 500 points can seem like a lot, Ironman scoring is like pinball. You can score a million points but still kind of suck.
Race favorite and last years champion Andy Potts pulled out late, which is also how he got his last child. This left last years first loser Matt Chrabot as one of the race favorites. Other contenders include TJ Tollakson,Maverick Athlete
Jake Rhyner, Thomas Gerlach (fresh off a solid 14th place showing at Texas 70.3), and Paolo Sousa coached athlete Taylor Reid…though we won’t hold that against him. Another podium threat was bike shark Andrew Starykowicz.
Speaking of sharks, this brings me to my next point which I know weighs heavily on every athlete’s mind: the constant and ever present threat of shark attacks.
While New Orleans 70.3 swim is in a protected harbor a few miles inland from the Gulf, sharks need no reason to travel from the Gulf of Mexico, past Cat Island, around Lake Borgne, through the Rigolets straight via Chef Menteur Pass, across Lake Pontchartrain, and then into Southshore Harbor Marina, because they are an APEX predator. Scientifically speaking this means they can do whatever they want. I asked several pros to rank the threat of shark attacks on a scale of 1-10:
(I had not considered the threat of the alligator, another apex predator, which led me to another thought, who would win in a fight: an alligator or a shark?)
So there you have it. An answer to the age old question of who would win in a fight: an alligator or a shark.
The women’s field featured returning 2x champion Sarah Piampiano, quick runner Cait Snow, Active.com trigger happy,will-she-or-won’t-she-show-up, non-practicing doctor Dr. Amanda Stevens, superfish Laura Bennett, Maverick Multisport athlete Sarah Cameto and someone named Amelia McCracken who made this featured lineup for obvious reasons.
First out of the water in the wetsuit legal swim was Matt Charbot, followed 26 seconds later by Starykowicz and a small group including Brazilian Fernando Toldi, Ruski ITU fellas Jaroslav Kovavic and Ivan Tutukin, with Iowan TJ Tollakson clinging on to the tail of that group. A few minutes back from that group emerged Rhyner and Canadian Reid.
On the out and back bike course, athletes rode into a 20 mph headwind which would benefit the stronger riders in Starykowicz and Tollakson. Starykowicz would quickly and not unexpectedly make his way to the front of the race and was the first to the turnaround, finding himself about 3:16 up on Charbot and Tollakson, with Reid riding quickly but still 3 minutes further back of Matt and TJ.
Starykowicz took advantage of the tailwinds and put his 60 tooth chainring (probably) to work and blasted the return leg in an obscene 52:43, or 31.8 miles per hour, coming off the bike with his second sub 2 hour bike split in a week. 2nd onto the run course was Chrabot, over 8 minutes down from Starykowicz, with Reid moving up on the return leg and coming off the bike in 3rd. Tollakson never came in off the bike after he had a flat tire at mile 46.
Starykowicz went off hard on the run with his inimitable run form which some
have said looks like “a robot gorilla about to shit its pants,” and maintained his position to finish first in 3:46:52
. Reid was hard charging though and caught up with Chrabot 6 miles into the run, going on to finish 2nd in 3:52:19
with a 3rd best on the day 1:16:27
half marathon. Chrabot rounded out the podium with a new appreciation of apex predator Andrew Starykowicz.
1) 3:46:52 Andrew Starykowicz
2) 3:52:19 Taylor Reid
3) 3:53:07 Matt Chrabot
4) 3:56:05 Ivan Tutukin
5) 3:56:55 Raul Tejada
6) 3:57:30 Fabio Carvalho
7) 3:59:22 Jaroslav Kovacic
8) 4:00:03 Denis Sketako
9) 4:00:24 Thomas Gerlach
10) 4:04:21 Fernando Toldi
A wind that would prove to be a factor all day shook up the swim and a nasty chop prevented any real groups from forming as Laura Bennett came out of the water first, 1:17 ahead of non-practicing doctor Dr. Amanda Stevens, who herself was about 90 seconds up on Sarah Cameto, with Amanda Wendorff and Cait Snow coming out of the water almost 5 minutes back of Bennett. Defending champion Piampiano, who came back from two flat tires last year to win, had her work cut out for her, emerging more than 6 and a half minutes down from Bennett who was already several miles up the road as Piampiano was stripping off her wetsuit and removing her swim cap, revealing her trademarked fiery red hair (sorry Doug MacLean).
Once on the bike, Piampiano put her bike prowess to work, moving her way up the field while Cameto herself had already moved up to the front of the race making up 3 minutes on Bennett and becoming the first woman to the turnaround. Piampiano was already only 71 seconds back from the lead at mile 28, erasing her large swim deficit and setting herself up for a repeat victory if she could nail a strong run.
Piampiano continued her strong riding, eventually taking the lead and coming out of T2 first, 45 seconds ahead of Cameto. Once on the run it became clear that Piampiano was going to run away with her 3rd victory at New Orleans, which she sealed with a 2nd best on the day 1:25:51 following her race best 2:17:04 bike. Sarah Cameto would hold tough to finish in 2nd place with Laura Bennett finishing 3rd.
1) 4:19:57 Sarah Piampiano
2) 4:26:48 Sarah Cameto
3) 4:29:51 Laura Bennett
4) 4:30:21 Caitlin Snow
5) 4:33:23 Amanda Stevens
6) 4:34:15 Amanda Wendorff
7) 4:38:37 Bailey Hinz
8) 4:44:37 Erin Spitler
9) 4:46:12 Maggie Rusch
10) 4:50:28 Palmira Alvarez
photo credit: Gators of the Swamp via photopin (license)