Five of last year’s podium place-getters will return for one of Australia’s most popular events, at one of the sport’s historic venues for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong on Sunday 19 February.
Situated in the state of Victoria, Geelong is a city southwest of Melbourne. The bay-fronted IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong event involves a swim as a single out-and-back 1.9km course in Corio Bay. The 90km bike is over two laps, riding through the Eastern Park circuit and Portarlington before heading east with climbs over Leopold Hill to a turn at Curlewis Golf Club and back to Geelong waterfront for the first of two laps. The 21.1km run is over two laps along the waterfront.
Melbourne-based Annabel Luxford, runner-up last year, is looking to take up where she left off in 2016, chasing a third straight IRONMAN 70.3 victory after late-season wins at Ballarat and Western Sydney. While Radka Kahlefeldt (third in 2016), in-form Sarah Crowley (4th) and Kate Pedley (5th) return along with the imperious Swiss star Caroline Steffen, most interest may centre of Chile’s double Olympian Barbara Riveros.
The ITU star, who has been a regular front-runner over the Olympic distance for almost a decade, is taking on her first IRONMAN 70.3 outside her home country, after three straight wins in Pucon.
Luxford enjoyed four wins over the IRONMAN 70.3 distance in 2016 along with second in Geelong and sixth at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on the Sunshine Coast – while managing to squeeze in time for her other life in the corporate business world.
Kahlefeldt, nee Vodickova, had two IRONMAN 70.3 wins last year in Hefei and Putrajaya plus four podiums and ninth at the Sunshine Coast 70.3 Worlds, while Crowley started the year with a fine podium at Dubai after three wins in 2016 in Bahrain, Chungju and Taiwan.
Steffen, sixth in Dubai, managed three wins and three podiums in 2016 although she was disappointed with the fifth placing in her pinnacle event, the IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds at her home-base on the Sunshine Coast, eight minutes back from the winner.
Another one to watch might be Brisbane’s Ellie Salthouse, the former ITU athlete who has been reinvigorated in her return to the sport after linking with Boulder-based coach Siri Lindley. The 24 year old, who has based most of her racing life in the US, was runner-up at Dubai recently but enjoyed victories over the IRONMAN 70.3 distance last year in Miami and Boulder plus podiums in Cozumel and Coeur d’Alene.
Jake Montgomery returns to defend his men’s title which will mean so much more after a 2016 season that began with such hope with the win at Geelong but ended in disaster when he was hospitalised after he was hit by a car on his final training spin on the bike the night before the 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba.
Frenchman Cyril Viennot, runner-up last year, returns on the back of a win in Vietnam and a top-20 at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii and top 10 in IRONMAN New Zealand.
Brisbane’s Josh Amberger, third in 2016, had two wins and three podiums in China, Canada, USA, Malaysia and Australia last year.
There’s a pack of Australians with winning pedigrees to join the hunt including Sam Appleton, third in Bahrain recently, a brave fifth at Mooloolaba Worlds and win at Oceanside; Tim van Berkel, with a win in the Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns and a bunch of podiums, while Peter Kerr and Dan Wilson enjoyed breakthrough wins over the distance at Taiwan and Western Sydney.
Others to watch include Seychelles athlete Nic Baldwin, third at IRONMAN Wales; and Kiwis Jason Hall, in his pro debut after winning the 18-24 years age group at the World Championships, and Mark Bowstead, with a win in the USA to his credit.