Above photo of age group finisher Aaron Gallo by Sammy Tillery

The recap

The Vineman 70.3 course is not usually one for repeated domination, but American Meredith Kessler continued her 2014 habit of snagging hat tricks (she’s done so now at Ironman New Zealand, Ironman 70.3 Vineman and Ironman 70.3 St. George if you count her 2012 win at its last run as a full Ironman). It’s safe to say this San Francisco-based triathlete is in prime contention for a podium spot come October. And the men’s winner, Australia’s Tim Reed, finished off a great run as well with his second 70.3 title in three weeks.

The men’s race started off extremely close, with Paul Mathews, Tim Don, Matty Reed, Tim Reed, Luke Bell and Callum Millward all exiting the water neck-and-neck and quickly head off down the wine country roads. Further back, Americans Jordan Rapp and Jesse Thomas looked determined to make up their more than minute deficits. Don would serve a four-minute penalty that most likely dashed his champion chances, and Tim Reed exited T2 with a more than two-minute lead, which would be more than enough to get him across the line first in 3:47:43.

Kessler and Olympian Laura Bennett exited the water in the women’s race first, after which Kessler quickly rode away from the rest of the competition. XTERRA star Mel McQuaid and Australia’s Mel Hauschildt were only a few minutes back of Kessler heading out of T2, but Kessler continued to push the pace, crossing the line first in 4:11:43.

Top 5 Pro Men

1 Tim Reed AUS 3:47:43
2 Tim Don GBR 3:50:55
3 Callum Millward NZL 3:51:44
4 Paul Matthews AUS 3:53:18
5 Matty Reed NZL 3:54:58

Top 5 Pro Women

1 Meredith Kessler USA 4:11:43
2 Mel Hauschildt AUS 4:14:13
3 Rachel McBride CAN 4:17:23
4 Melanie McQuaid CAN 4:21:02
5 Emma Kate Lidbury GBR 4:21:49

 These top five results originally appeared here: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/news/articles/2014/07/ironman-703-vineman-recap.aspx#ixzz37UYak2ve

For full results, click HERE.


The Course

The Vineman 70.3 course is not an incredibly hilly course, in fact, it favors those who reserve some of their energy for the run, which is notoriously sweltering, especially by the time many of the age-group waves make it onto the roads. The swim, which takes place in the Russian River, is one of the faster in the Ironman 70.3 circuit, mostly because it is both incredibly shallow (there are some portions where you can actually stand up!) and includes an often very favorable current (Note: the low water levels and drought conditions removed much of the current for this year’s race). Star swimmers like Olympian Laura Bennett (who swam a 24:46) can expect to make it through the 1.2-mile course in under 25 minutes, while the average age-grouper might come out closer to the mid 30s.

The bike course is country road riding at its best: rolling (roughly 2,000-feet of climbing in 56 miles), winding one and two-lane roads that favor the cyclist with superb handling skills and a formidable power output across varying terrain. The biggest test on the bike course comes very late, at mile 45. Chalk hill, a .8 mile climb averaging 8.5-percent, which finishes off four miles of a gentler climb up Chalk Hill Road for a total of 5 miles. American pro Jordan Rapp (full disclosure: Rapp is a regular LAVA contributor), who overcame a less-than-stellar swim to ride his way up five places to sixth by the time he headed into T2, made it through the entire segment in just under 13 minutes. To see an analysis of Rapp’s Vineman 70.3 bike split (including transitions) click HERE.

The Vineman 70.3 run takes athletes out to the La Crema winery along paved roads with minimal shade. This year’s event didn’t offer up the extreme heat the Napa Valley can dish out, but it still reached the mid-80s for most of the day. HERE is a look at how age-group athlete Istvan Makk of Concord, Calif., who finished 8th in the 55-59 AG, fared on the out-and-back loop of the Vineman course. Holding an 8:06 min./mile pace along 13.1 miles, Makk completed the half marathon in 1:46, crossing the finish line in 5:11:47.