Auckland’s Rebecca Clarke came agonisingly close to victory but had to settle for second after a gutsy performance in the 35th anniversary National Storage IRONMAN Australia.
Jack Moody, also hailing from Auckland, finished third in 8:35:40, just less than a minute ahead of Christchurch’s Ben Phillips in fourth.
The women’s race was an epic battle between 2021 Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand runner-up Clarke and Australia’s Sarah Crowley, a two-time third place finisher at the IRONMAN World Championships.
Clarke was the first female out of the water, holding onto her lead for the first 40km of the bike before Crowley took the lead.
The top two swapped positions throughout the next 140km of riding, eventually coming back into transition just seconds apart.
Clarke began the run in the lead, but it didn’t take Crowley long to hit the front and from there she refused to relinquish her lead despite being pushed hard for the entire 42.2km with Clarke never more than two minutes behind.
“Really stoked, apart from having a little extra swim, I started turning at the wrong point and got turned back so swam a little bit extra, but really stoked with my bike and my run, a marathon PB and ticket to Kona so I couldn't ask for more, always take a podium and second to a class athlete as well in Crowley,” said Clarke.
“Race plan, get out of the water first, I knew I was probably the strongest swimmer on paper, and I thought maybe Crowley was going to be too strong on the bike and I didn't know if I had the legs to go with her, so I was just going to see what happened, make sure I was ticking near my power targets which I was. There were times where you pushed a bit more, you've got to push up Matthews Flinders drive and then on the run I just knew I could have my best run today if I was smart and fuelled.
“I just thought let’s just go, my running is going really well in training and so I just backed my run and I went out and thought ooh, this is a bit weird to be in the lead, I think I led for about 3kms until she came past and I stuck with her for a little bit but needed to run my own pace and hoped maybe, it's a long way that's what I kept telling myself that we were battling at 4km into a marathon, I was like you've got 38kms to run so you could blow your legs out at 21kms easily so I just kept my distance and said just be patient and anything can happen, but she was just stronger on the day,” she said.
Clarke, IRONMAN runner-up once again, finished in a time of 09:07:11 but this time around also secured herself a position at the 2022 Supersapiens IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in October, unlike at last year’s IRONMAN New Zealand where only the winner qualified.
“I'm emotional about that. It's been a goal of mine since I started long course and at times, I thought maybe last year and in a way it didn't happen, so this is the year we're confident it's going to go ahead and I think it's going to be a huge one after not happening for two years. It just means a lot as a professional to do that and just a dream come true,” she said.
In the men’s race, Phillips was third out of the water, one place behind eventual winner Tim van Berkel and just over four minutes behind leader Josh Amberger. Moody was further back in seventh.
Phillips maintained third on the 180km bike while Moody moved up to fifth.
Both Moody and Phillips put together strong performances throughout the race, but it was Moody’s run that made the difference between the third and fourth place as he reeled in Phillips over the 42.2km and overtook the Cantabrian with about 800 metres to go.
“I’m over the moon, so stoked to come across the ditch for the first time in a few years and to get on the podium is unreal. I've been busy at home for the last couple of years training and it feels like it really paid off today so really happy,” said Moody.
“It means everything, it means I'm stepping in the right direction. This was my second professional IRONMAN today and it definitely wasn't as smooth as last year, plenty of hiccups and a constant learning curve all day and just mentally trying to stay tough out there when things aren't going your way, but overall really happy.
Moody was delighted with a podium finish despite not executing his race exactly how he’d have liked.
“I had a really good swim, so I managed to just hang in at the back of the bunch and kind of felt like I was cruising all day in the swim which was kind of nice not being a super strong generally speaking in New Zealand, so to come out just in the back group with Van Berkel and the boys was really satisfying. Then a bit of a slow transition but I managed to ride my own race on the bike, really battled on the back end of the second lap and then got on the run, it wasn't smooth sailing in that it's generally my strength but coming to the last lap I realised the gap was getting smaller and smaller to third and at about 3km to go I counted a few cones ahead and thought that's only a 30 second gap so I had to open up the taps and see what I could do and I got Ben with about 800m to go, so pretty over the moon at that one,” he said.
Australia’s Tim Van Berkel and Sarah Crowley claimed the men’s and women’s titles at the 35th anniversary National Storage IRONMAN Australia in Port Macquarie, Van Berkel crossing the line in 8:15:14 to take victory, while Crowley won in 9:06:04.
NATIONAL STORAGE IRONMAN AUSTRALIA – FINAL RESULTS
1. Tim van Berkel, AUS, 8:15:14
2. Josh Amberger, AUS, 8:26:14
3. Jack Moody, NZL, 8:35:40
4. Ben Phillips, NZL, 8:36:36
5. Tim Reed, AUS, 8:40:20
6. Fraser Walsh, AUS, 8:46:44
7. Joel Wooldridge, AUS, 8:55:05
8. Harry Young, AUS, 9:00:34
1. Sarah Crowley, AUS, 9:06:04
2. Rebecca Clarke, NZL, 9:07:11
3. Courtney Gilfillan, AUS, 10:13:20
For more information on National Storage IRONMAN Australia visit: https://www.ironman.com/im-australia