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Luke McKenzie and Liz Blatchford win Ironman Cairns

McKenzie earns his sixth title and Blatchford makes in impressive debut.

Queensland triathletes Luke McKenzie and Liz Blatchford scored career defining victories in the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns today.

Born in Britain, but raised in Perth, Blatchford enjoyed a successful move from the Olympic distance ranks to earn a hard-fought debut win while McKenzie scored by far the most credentialed of his six Ironman victories.

McKenzie has earned five previous Ironman wins around the globe, but his last came three years ago, and today he stamped his class on a top-notch field including two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, 10-time Ironman New Zealand champion Cameron Brown and a host of quality Australians.

Blatchford has earned plaudits with her successful introduction to the endurance ranks but today’s first venture into an Ironman was a step into the unknown.

“It was every world of hurt, it was also amazing I had so many ups and downs and I can’t believe I’ve won,” Blatchford said.

For McKenzie getting back on the top spot of the podium provided a little validation that he was again heading in the right direction.

“Three years ago I won my last Ironman and it’s been a fairly rocky road since, this win signals that I am still on the right path and I do have that ability in me and it gives me that confidence leading into the rest of the year and in the future,” he said.

Mens Race

McKenzie started his career with a bang winning five Ironman races from 2008 to 2010. His strength in those races, his bike, had slowly over the last three years become something of a weakness.

But all week long he had been talking about how happy he was to have his bike back at the level he expects.

And when McKenzie rides well he wins Ironman titles, which is what he did today at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns.

He tore the legs off the rest of the field with a superb 4:21:52 bike leg, and left just enough in the tank to hold on during the run and notch up his 6th Ironman title.

“I felt really bad in the swim, but got on the bike and felt amazing, after Clayton Fettell got his penalty I had to go solo, and coming of the bike with a lead of over ten minutes I thought I could win if I raced smart,” he said.

McKenzie paid tribute to his parents, who today saw him win an Ironman for the first time.

“It’s the first time my parents have ever seen me win an Ironman, I am so thankful to them, they have supported me throughout my career and I’m so happy they could be here to see me win today,” he said.

The day began the way many expected it would with super fish Clayton Fettell leading the men out of the water in a of swim of 47:53, in second and third just under two minutes behind were McKenzie and McCormack.

Early on in the bike McKenzie bridged the gap to Fettell and two rode together until Fettell was given a drafting penalty.

By the end of the bike McKenzie held a lead of 12:02 over Fettell, with Todd Israel a further 19:29 back. Chris McCormack, and Tim Berkel (who was also given a drafting penalty) were over 21 minutes back.

Onto the run and it was the third placed Israel who cracked first as Berkel and McCormack began their charge.

Fettell hit the wall in the first 12km of the marathon which allowed Berkel and McCormack to move into second and third respectively.

Of the two chasers it was Berkel who was making the biggest inroads into McKenzie’s lead, by the 30km mark the gap was down from just over 20mins, to just over 10mins.

But McKenzie’s lead proved to be enough and he ran within himself and managed to stay ahead of the fast finishing Berkel, who recorded an amazing 2:44 marathon to take out second place.

“Full credit to Luke today he smashed that bike, I just needed to run as fast as I could and I did. I was really happy with that performance,” Berkel said.

In third Chris McCormack showed just how tough he is, a third place finish was a herculean effort after the spent last Sunday in Cairns International Hospital.

Diagnosed with a virus that attacked his kidney, his doctors gave him the green light to race advising that by racing he couldn’t make the situation worse. They did however tell him he would be unlikely to make it to the finish.

Not only did he defy medical opinion and finish, he held on to a podium spot.

“You play the cards you’re dealt and full credit to the two boys in front of me they were in a different zip code to me today. There were so many moments that I wanted to quit, but I hung tough,” McCormack said.

“This place is unreal, I love coming here this an is an amazing race, it will become the biggest race in Australia. I’ll be back next year for sure.”

Womens Race

The women’s race has always going to be a battle of two, but no one expected the battle to be as hard fought as it was.

Up until the 32km mark of the run 5 time Ironman winner and Kiwi Gina Crawford and Ironman rookie Aussie/Brit Liz Blatchford spend the almost the entire day shoulder to shoulder.

In her first attempt at the distance Blatchford held a small lead out of the water, but it was a gap Crawford bridged quickly on the bike.

The two then proceeded to ride together throughout the remaining kilometers of the bike.

Neither would back down on the run with Crawford managing to build a lead of 250m on two occasions, but Blatchford refused to go away staying close enough to make a move for the lead.

After staying close to Crawford the pair ran shoulder to shoulder until the 32km mark when Blatchford made her move and went for the win.

“It was at about 8km to go and I decided to take a turn and the next thing I knew she wasn’t there anymore,”  she said.

From there Blatchford powered her way into a very exclusive club by winning her first attempt at an Ironman.

“The support is unbelievable, running down the highway I wasn’t sure I could finish, but as soon as I made it to town the crowd lifted me.”

Crawford held onto second with the USA’s Stephanie Jones in third.

“Full credit to Liz today, I did everything I could and I’m not too disappointed with second. I tried to focus on my own race but she was there all day. She raced a smart race today,” said Crawford.

The USA’s Stephanie Jones finished in third.

Top 5 Men

MCKENZIE, Luke Australia 00:49:47 04:21:52 03:01:32 08:17:43 1
BERKEL, Timothy Australia 00:52:25 04:40:57 02:44:24 08:22:16 2
MCCORMACK, Christopher Australia 00:49:55 04:43:38 02:54:52 08:32:50 3
SHORTIS, Jason Australia 00:58:31 04:38:36 02:55:47 08:38:21 4
FETTELL, Clayton Australia 00:47:53 04:35:36 03:13:16 08:41:42 5

Top 5 Women

BLATCHFORD, Liz United Kingdom 00:54:13 05:10:23 03:09:38 09:19:51 1
CRAWFORD, Gina New Zealand 00:55:43 05:08:26 03:13:09 09:23:14 2
JONES, Stephanie United States 01:06:41 05:04:09 03:15:17 09:31:46 3
ROSS, Anna New Zealand 01:02:25 05:08:56 03:29:06 09:46:28 4
WALSH, Beth United States 01:06:46 05:23:37 03:19:42 09:55:23 5