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Weekend Wrap #1: Huge weekend of long-distance racing in Australia

Two major long-distance races in Australia make for a busy weekend of racing down under

Photo by: Clash Endurance/ Eric Wynn

While many of us in North America are still dealing with some cold weather, the folks in Australia and New Zealand are enjoying their summer months in style. This weekend featured two major long-distance events in Australia – the Hell of the West triathlon (2 km swim, 80 km bike and a 20 km run) and Ironman 70.3 Geelong.

Gentle and Neumann continue their rise to the top

Neumann takes fourth at the Ironman World Championship, also breaking the old course record with his 7:44:44.

Ashleigh Gentle has been at the top of the standings since the advent of the Professional Triathletes Organisation’s new ranking system, and she proved exactly why with a huge win at the iconic Hell of the West Triathlon in Australia. The race is one of the classic events in the country – it’s been going since 1989.

Gentle was just a few seconds behind rival Ellie Salthouse out of the water, but once she hit land it was all over. Gentle’s lead was almost three minutes, and she added another minute to that by the end of the race. Kylie Simpson made it an all-Aussie podium by taking third behind Salthouse.

Max Neumann might have been a surprise to many in North American when he took fourth in Kona last year, but he’s no stranger to the top of the podium in his home country. He trailed Josh Amberger out of the water, but, like Gentle, once he was on the bike it was all over. Neumann hit T2 well clear and took an easy win by over eight minutes over fellow Aussies Kieran Storch and Amberger.

Phillips and Thek win 70.3 Geelong

Just three weeks after winning Ironman New Zealand, Kiwi Mike Phillips took Ironman 70.3 Geelong, just 38 seconds ahead of Australia’s Steve McKenna, with Nicholas Free rounding out the podium. Phillips dominated the bike and held on for the win.

“I’m pretty buggered, that was a pretty wobbly last 10km there, probably didn’t help biking that hard but I’m stoked to win,” said Phillips. “I got a bit of an average start in the swim but I was surrounded by the guys I knew I’d come out with so I wasn’t too worried and I thought my only chance was to take the opportunity on the bike, I thought a few might follow me but I had clear air straight away so I just got to work to get as much of a lead as I could.”

“I was pretty stoked to hear five minutes when I got off the bike, you do the maths in your head and work out how much slower you can run than them, it was definitely touch and go at the end,” Phillips continued. “I’m pretty ruined now though, I said I’d have a break after this race, I’m pretty happy to shut it down for a few weeks now. It was awesome out there, it’s a challenging bike course, nice swim and the run is quite challenging as well, it’s not your stock standard run course, it’s nice up and down the waterfront.”

After finishing second or third at Ironman 70.3 Geelong for five years, Australia’s Grace Thek finally got the win. She was almost 2:30 up on Radka Kahlefeldt, with Lotte Wilms rounding out the podium.

“Feeling pretty great, it was a long time coming, five podiums, finally got that top step this year to make my sixth race here in Geelong and I’m absolutely thrilled to take the win against a classy field of women,” said Thek. “It means a lot, I consider Geelong my hometown race. I’m from Melbourne born and raised and today was particularly special because I had my whole family here, my grandparents even came to watch for the first time, that was really exciting, I had my aunties here, my coach and so much support out on course from fellow Melbourne triathletes and that triathlon community.”

“I had a really solid swim, unfortunately I missed the feet of Radka but I think I had about a 25 second deficit out of the water, my bike’s probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in so I managed to bridge that gap which is quite unusual for me so I was thrilled,” said Thek. “I ended up taking the lead about halfway through the second lap, powering through and really enjoying the bike leg which is fantastic and then got out onto the run with Lotte and Radka. I knew I had to work hard to get the win and I’m absolutely thrilled.

“It was more of a gradual go at my own pace and I managed to gain some seconds and I couldn’t ease off at all because you never know what happens and Radka is a strong runner so I wasn’t sure if she would get a second wind,” she said. “They kept me honest all day and I’m just happy with my performance.”

Grace Thek takes close women’s race at Challenge Wanaka

Thek is planning on racing at next weekend’s Ironman 70.3 Oceanside event, too.