Australia’s Courtney Atkinson and Kiwi Samantha Warriner took their first Ironman 70.3 Cairns titles today, overcoming some tropical conditions and severe headwinds along the way. The field included current Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs, as well as several athletes like Atkinson and two-time Olympian Brad Kahlfeldt making the switch to non-drafting long course racing.   

Warriner, who gave birth less than a year ago, looked strong and determined from the outset, flying out of the water more than 30 seconds ahead of Australia’s Andrea Oracki and a minute ahead of Japan’s Kiyomi Niwata. Still farther back by another minute-and-a-half exited defending champion Sarah Crowley.

Once on the bike, Warriner wasted no time, gaining another four-plus minutes on her chasers by the 23 km mark just before making the turn onto Captain Cook Highway. Oracki fell out of second quickly, while Crowley moved up the ranks to second, with Niwata and Raynolds not far behind. By the halfway mark, Warriner had increased her lead to six minutes, while Raynolds had slipped ahead of Niwata for second place. 

Warriner cleared T2 with just under a nine-minute lead on Raynolds, with Niwata two minutes back. Behind them, Crowley had slipped back to seventh, while Australian Ange Castle was making up large ground on the way back into town. Despite losing some steam in the final half of the run, Warriner still held on for the win, crossing the line in 4:39:19. Niwata, another former ITU athlete out on the course today, ran an impressive 1:28:11 on her way to second place, while Castle’s 1:32:12 was enough to reel in the final podium spot.

Warriner, an Ironman and ITU champion, was ecstatic with her finish. “This is my fifth race in five weeks. I love racing in Australia,” she said at the finish line. “To come back nine months after having a baby is just brilliant. I am so happy today.”

 Much like Warriner, the men’s winner Courtney Atkinson led from start to finish. The Aussie’s ITU-bred swimming skills were on full display, as he exited the water in 23:17 with New Zealand’s Graham O’Grady and Aussie Sam Betten, and just a few seconds in front of Kahlefeldt. Jacobs, a normally front-of-the-pack swimmer, explained that he “took it easy on the swim,” exiting in eighth place in a large pack including Aussies Sam Appleton and Casey Munro.

 Atkinson, O’Grady and Betten continued to hold firm at the front on the bike, and by the 23-km mark they had been joined by Munro. A little more than a minute behind them sat Appleton, Kahlfeldt, Jacobs and Aussie Tim Reed.

 Atkinson exited T2 first with O’Grady and Tim Reed not far behind. Jacobs exited T2 in sixth place, with Kahlfeldt and Appleton a little more than a minute back. Once out on the run, Atkinson continued to look strong while O’Grady quickly lost steam. Jacobs slowly picked off Munro, Betten and O’Grady, eventually settling into fourth place by the final 10K.

The most impressive run of the day was Kahlfeldt’s 1:14, which catapulted him into second place within the first 10K of the run. In the end, the two ITU boys would show their new place as non-drafting athletes to watch, with Atkinson crossing the line for the win in 3:56:34. Rounding out the podium was Reed, who was able to hold off Jacobs, who finished fourth with a time of 4:00:05. “I think overall we had good conditions today,” said Jacobs. “There was some headwind on the bike and the run, but I think it might be a different story for those doing the Ironman distance today.” Jacobs said it was nice to see some of his fellow Aussies coming over from the ITU. “I think they really proved going one-two out there today that they have a fantastic pedigree and it will be great to see what they can continue to do.” 

Kahlfeldt gave credit to Atkinson at the finish line for pushing the pace. “It was a fantastic race. [Atkinson] pushed the bike really hard,” he said. “This distance is very different to what I am used to. I am enjoying long course racing so I think I might stick around for the next one or two years to see what I can do.”     

Ironman 70.3 Cairns

June 9, 2013

Cairns, Queensland

1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run 

 Men’s Results

  1. Courtney Atkinson (AUS) 3:56:34
  2. Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) 3:57:26
  3. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:59:54
  4. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 4:00:05
  5. Sam Appleton (AUS) 4:03:33 

Women’s Results

  1. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 4:39:19
  2. Kiyomi Niwata (JPN) 4:40:25
  3. Ange Castle (AUS) 4:45:41
  4. Matilda Raynolds (AUS) 4:46:32
  5. Rebecca Hoschke (AUS) 4:49:56