It’s renowned around the world as the “Race of Legends” because its list of champions includes a who’s who of triathlon history. This weekend, the 26th running of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT) will once again feature a strong international field with athletes looking to either add their name to the prestigious winner’s list, or add another title to their resumes.
The race began as a “made for television sporting event” to promote the Laguna Phuket Resort to the world and remains a bucket-list event for athletes from around the world.
For almost a decade after it was started the race was the unofficial season-ending event for the world’s best triathletes, who would come to Laguna Phuket in the hunt for some prize money, but also an excuse to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful tourist havens. Names like Paula Newby-Fraser, Michellie Jones, Mike Pigg, Karen Smyers, Simon Lessing, Craig Alexander, Jan Frodeno and Melissa Hauschildt are all former champions. Canadians have also featured as stars at the event – Carol Montgomery and Samantha McGlone were both multiple winners of the race.
The race features unique race distances – a 1.8 km swim that starts in the Adaman Sea, then finishes with a short swim across a lagoon to get to T1, followed by a challenging 50 km bike that includes a couple of climbs with 18 percent grades. That’s all followed by a 12 km relatively flat run through the resort, part of which goes through the golf course. Adding to the day’s difficulty are the heat and humidity.
None of which seems to dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 2,000 athletes who will take part in the various triathlon and running events offered during the weekend. On Sunday, there’s also a sprint race – a 500 m swim, an 18.5 km bike and 6 km run. On Saturday there are three running races – a 2 km Charity Kids Fun Run, along with 5 and 10 km races.
Highlighting the men’s field is Germany’s Michael Raelert, a two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion, took three consecutive LPT titles between 2015 and 2017. He won’t have an easy time getting another win, though, with the likes of Australia’s Luke McKenzie, Switzerland’s Ruedi Wild (a two-time LPT champ – 2012 and 2013), Germany’s Per van Vlerken, who finished third here last year, and the only man to have won this race four times, Italy’s Massimo Cigana.
The women’s race features Switzerland’s Imogen Simmonds, who spends a lot of time training around Laguna Phuket with her coach Jurgen Zach. Simmonds is having a banner year, having finished second at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt in July, then taking third at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice. Once again she’ll be facing some tough competition, including Great Britain’s Emma Pallent, a former world duathlon champion who has had a banner fall that includes wins at Ironman 70.3 Cascais and Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote. Then there’s former champion Yvonne van Vlerken (Netherlands), who has retired from long-distance racing after taking Challenge Almere in September, but appears keen to continue to compete at shorter races. Ironman champion Beth McKenzie (USA) will also be in the field and will be one to watch if she can come off the bike in touch with the leaders.
All of which means we’re in for an exciting weekend of racing. Stay tuned for more from beautiful Laguna Phuket, Thailand.