— By Brooke Brown
Despite strong winds, Andrew Starkyowicz and Sarah Piampiano powered on, taking control on the bike, and never looked back, both securing a win on Sunday at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
Gusty winds made this year’s NOLA 70.3 a challenging race from the get-go. The race began with a choppy swim. Athletes swam into the wind as they managed their way through the zig-zag course, making for a slow swim. Onto the bike, the out and back race segment was defeating for some as they rode 28 miles into head and cross winds. Fortunately, at the turn around, the wind was now at their back and competitors benefited from the tailwinds, on their way to T2. In a post-race interview, Starkyowicz shared that he averaged 40-42 miles per hour from the turn-around, completing 28 miles in around 52 minutes.
In the men’s field, Matt Chrabot (USA) imposed a lead out of the water (24:34) over Starkyowicz (USA) (25:03) by 29 seconds. This gap was quickly reduced, as Starkyowicz used his prowess on the bike to take lead. He posted the fastest bike split of the day 1:57:55. Andrew headed out on the run course with a commanding eight minute lead on the rest of the field. While Starkyowicz had the upper-hand in today’s race, Canada’s own Taylor Reid was gaining ground on his competitors. Posting the second fastest run split of the day (1:16:27), Taylor blazed past Matt Chrabot with only 800 metres left to capture second place.
TMC caught up with Reid post race about his day.
“After a hard couple of weeks leading into this race and a crash at Oceanside 70.3, it was a great to get back at it!” He adds, ” The race was good. I had an average swim coming out of the water in ninth and was able to ride my way into third place with the third fastest bike split on a very windy day. Then I chased down Matt Charbot. At mile six, I caught him and he sat on my shoulder for the rest of the race as we went into the wind. With around 800m to go, I had to throw in a huge sprint to break him.” Yesterday, Andy Potts was not present due to illness. An emotional Starkyowicz claims the win, and shares with crowd, in a post-race interview, that it has been two years since he has won a race.
The women’s professional race began with Lauren Bennett (USA) dominating the swim (25:49) over the rest, with Amanda Stevens more than a minute behind (27:06). Trailing almost eight minutes behind (33:24), Piampiano powered her way past all her competitors, posting the fasted bike spit of the day (2:17:04). Sarah set her eyes on the win and maintained her form, giving her the 2nd fastest run of the day to Caitlin Snow. Piampiano’s training partner, Sarah Cameto was second to cross the finish line, having a well-rounded day. This is Sarah’s third win in the Big and Easy with back to back wins in 2015-2016.
“It was such a tough day out there,” Piampiano told TMC post-race. “The winds made the conditions very challenging across swim bike and run. For me, I love conditions like that because I feel comfortable in the wind. Particularly on the bike I know the cross winds can be intimidating so I used my comfort levels there to my advantage. I knew it would be harder to make up ground on the way back with the tailwind, so I was so happy to see my efforts on the front half of the bike make up solid ground to the lead women.
I was very impressed with everyone who raced today. I think both pros and amateurs were intimidated by the conditions but people still showed up and got the work done.
This race is very special to me. It was my first ever 70.3 when I was an amateur, was my first ever 70.3 win as a pro and just a place where I feel like I have grown as an athlete. I love coming back here and racing with such an amazing community of people. The city just has embraced me and always made me feel so welcome.
Canada’s Brooke Brown had an unfortunate day with two flats on the bike, early in the race, at mile 10 and 15.
Marc LaRoche from Quebec, claimed silver in the 50-54 Men’s category.
Andrew Starkyowicz (USA) 3:46:52 25:03, 1:57:55, 1:20:39
Taylor Reid 3:52:19 (USA) 27:21, 2:05:31, 1:16:27
Matt Chrabot 3:53:07 (USA) 24:34, 2:06:34, 1:18:47
Sarah Piampiano (USA) 4:19:57 33:24, 2:17:04, 1:25:51
Sarah Cameto (USA) 4:26:48, 28:45, 2:22:14, 1:31:49
Laura Bennett (USA) 4:29:51 25:49, 2:29:19, 1:31:12
Brooke Brown (CAN) 5:05:51