Bevan Docherty has beaten sporting royalty today in winning the half ironman event in Panama, pushing 7 times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong into second in the process.
The two time Olympic medallist was racing as a part of his build up to a busy season of ITU racing, with the London Olympic Games of course the ultimate goal.
“That was a hard day at the office, the heat was the hardest thing, I think it was around 35 degrees and humid, Santa Cruz is nice but this was a bit of a shock to the system, especially the humidity.”
Docherty was racing at the end of a big base phase of training as he eyes the ITU circuit with all roads leading to London in August.
“I wanted a good solid workout and I certainly got that, it perhaps would have been better if I didn’t have to chase Lance down with 2km to go, but what was getting to me was the heat, so it would have been tough regardless. I’ll come out of this weekend a lot fitter and in a good position for the campaign ahead so it was a good decision to come to this race.
“It is now time to stop the base training and do some speed work. Things are on schedule. I had a few days off leading in to today, I eased off at the start of the week and then just getting here was a nightmare and the training isn’t the best in Panama so I had an easy week, that was the plan. But the base training has been going so well, I have put together three months of solid training. It was getting quite repetitive, so this race was there to mix things up a bit and not get stale.”
Docherty was pleased with his performance given the oppressive conditions and the strength of the field, including an impressive performance from Armstrong.
“I was third out of the water, I’ve only done one of these (half iron man distance race) before and that was 12 years ago, so I wasn’t too sure about pace. My plan was to have a good swim and then key off other athletes. In a way I’m quite surprised Lance didn’t put more time on us on the bike but he is new to the sport as well so was perhaps unsure of his pacing. He and Lieto got 3 and half minutes on the bike which wasn’t as much as I thought.
“Coming off the bike I knew I had a good chance, it was a matter of surviving the heat. But in saying that Lance ran better than I thought he would, I had to dig deep and was fortunate at the 5km mark to get a second wind and felt a bit better and closed quickly, then it was a matter of holding on in the conditions.”
Docherty was not surprised at Armstrong’s second place.
“There is a reason why he won 7 TDF titles, he is a talented athlete with a big engine so it is no surprise he came in and did so well. I had a great race as well and was able to show him us triathletes are pretty good athletes too and it won’t be a walk in the park coming into the sport. He will come back stronger though I’m sure.
“I will change my focus into long distance next year, hopefully I’ll come back and be competitive. I’m pretty happy I can do well in this sport and be able to make the transition from short course to long, it certainly is not easy but I don’t want a real job just yet so I will keep on going next year for sure.”
London though remains the big goal for Docherty.
“I am happy with where I am at with London in mind. This race gives me no indication of where I am at specific to short course racing but I wanted a good base phase, this shows I am strong and have done the work. Now it is time to get some speed into the legs and come back to ITU races.
“I am going to focus on the Olympics and not peak too many times during the year, the selection race in Sydney comes a little late so all of my work really is about London. I will race at Devonport at the Oceania Championships in 4 weeks, it is crucial for NZ to secure a third athlete on the start line in London and if we win it automatically qualifies us a spot. My plan is to help the Kiwis, work for the Kiwis and make sure it is a Kiwi first across the line.”
Docherty didn’t enter the debate as to why Armstrong apparently snubbed the Kiwi once across the line.
“I’m not sure what it was all about, I can only assume he was just disappointed to get beaten.”
Panama 70.3 Half Ironman
2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run
1 Bevan Docherty NZL 3:50:13
2 Lance Armstrong USA 3:50:44
3 Richie Cunningham AUS 3:52:59