Busselton woke up with a typical chill in the air. What wasn’t so typical was the choppy swim that athletes had to navigate. Germany’s Horst Reichel was first out of the water and started the bike with a two-minute lead from a chasing pack that included Josh Rix (AUS), Daniel Niederreiter (AUT), Jimmy Johnsen (AUS) and defending champion Timo Bracht (GER).
At just 20 km into the bike, defending champion Bracht suffered a flat tire and further mechanical issues saw him fall out of contention. Reichel was riding a hard race and holding the lead until the chase group, led by bike course record holder Mitch Anderson (AUS) and including Matt White (AUS), Rix, Simon Billeau (FRA) and Slovakia’s Karol Dzalaj, swallowed him up at 100 km.
The group stayed together and then, at 140 km, Anderson made a break and rode his way into transition with a four-minute cushion. It wasn’t to be enough and Reichel passed Anderson at 3 km. Then, a short while later, White and Johnsen moved past the German.
Fast-forward to 15 km and a light footed White made a pass on Reichel to become the new race leader. By 28 km Johnsen, who raced Ironman Cozumel two weeks ago, had moved up to second and was gaining fast on the now slowing White. Johnsen made his final move into the lead at 30 km and never looked back, crossing the line in 8:29:06. Reichel then caught a second wind after looking out of contention to reclaim second (8:34:49), leaving White to grab third in 8:38:05.
In the women’s race Britta Martin confessed that she knew she would be at the back in the swim and, she was right – Martin lost seven minutes to Australia’s Rebekah Keat in the water. Martin also said she didn’t favor the bike and preferred hills. But she did say she was looking forward to the run and boy did she mean it.
Keat led out of the swim, but dropped off the lead when she had to stop to secure her bike helmet in the first 10 km. She moved back up the field, but race leader, Dutchwoman Mirjam Weerd of the Netherlands, was not about to be caught.
At 110 km it all changed at the top when American Bree Wee caught Weerd. By 150 km Wee had carved out a one-minute lead that she continued to extend into transition. Wee admits running is not her forte and she fought a tough battle to hold off Keat, who came off the bike looking very comfortable. Keat took the race lead at 20 km.
Wee started moving backwards after it appeared she had started limping and it looked to be in the bag for Keat. But there was movement going on behind her. Starting sixth off the bike, Martin was about to ruin Keat’s day.
The fastest woman on the course, 3 km from the finish she moved past Keat and stormed home in 9:13:00. Unable to respond, Keat finished 1:39 behind her. Rounding out the podium Rebecca Hoschke (AUS), another late mover who overtook Wee in the final kilometer and clocked a 9:19:48.