The Great Dane and the Flying Kiwi
Bracing themselves for Busselton’s infamous conditions, the pros took to the course with Great Dane Jimmy Johnsen and German cum Kiwi Britta Martin emerging victorious.
It was a chilly start to race morning, but no one was buying what the weather was selling in the early hours of the day. Ironman Western Australia is known for it’s hot and tough weather conditions, and it was only a matter of time before athletes would witness the real Busselton effect.
The professionals started their race from the beach, sprinting into the stunning waters of Geographe Bay. At the far end of the almost two kilometre long jetty, the chop picked up slightly, but generally speaking the swim at Busselton
THE MEN’S RACE:
Reigning champion Timo Bracht was hard to look past when it came to deciding favourites pre-race. But it was his unassuming teammate Horst Reichel who made waves early in the piece, exiting the water with a clear lead on his chasers in 48:50. Victorian Josh Rix followed nearly three minutes behind with Daniel Niederreiter, Matty White, Jimmy Johnsen and Bracht seconds behind, forming the chase pack early in the race.
The 2005 winner and bike course record holder (4:18:07 in 2006) Mitch Anderson exited the water surrounded by the likes of Adam Gordon, Jason Shortis, Petr Vabrousek, Simon Billeau and co, with Simon Cochrane slightly ahead. Anderson made his move early on the bike showing his riding prowess and led the second chase group, eventually breaking away and catching the lead chase pack of Rix, Johnsen, White and Billeau who were two minutes behind Reichel. Bracht unfortunately was having a nightmare of a time on the bike, suffering a flat and yelling for the mechanic, consequently dropping off the pace. He continued on for sometime with the flat without finding the mechanic, and eventually turned to a spectator for help and a spare wheel, ultimately resulting in a disqualification for outside assistance.
The chase pack was making small inroads on Reichel’s lead, but the German was still riding strong. However, by approximately 100km the lead men had caught Reichel, and by the time they headed out for their last lap (120km), it was Rix who had only just edged ahead of Anderson, and the two had broken away from the pack.
With 40km to go, Anderson laid it all down and made the pass on Rix. Within a matter of minutes he had powered away and put 30 seconds into Rix. Rix had laid it on the line to try and keep with Anderson, but started to slow once he took off, and was eventually caught by the chasers. In the dying stages of the bike as Anderson continued to put time into the others, Billeau edged ahead, followed by original race leader, Reichel.
Into T2 Anderson’s 4:30:40 bike split had increased the gap to four minutes over Billeau, with Reichel a further nine seconds behind. A pack of four including Karol Dzalaj, Rix, White
and Johnsen came into T2 within seconds of each other over 90 seconds behind. There was some impressive riding from some of the slower swimmers to make gains on the leaders, including youngster and local West Australian, Johan Borg who was racing his second Ironman as a professional, and Candian Ben Cotter who ended up with the third fastest bike split of the professional men. Both of them joined Jason Shortis and Petr Vabrousek, whose combined Ironman finishes are around the 200 mark, in coming off the bike in a total of 5:36 and change. With some very impressive runners in the field, Anderson’s lead was short lived
SUPERFISH: Unassuming Horst Reichel had a huge lead out of the water, exiting in 48:50
Reichel moved ahead of Anderson on the first lap, but out of the gates like a thoroughbred was Matty White. Hungry for the win in Busselton after a few seconds in the past, White was on a mission, and quickly made it to the front of the field by the end of the first lap. He maintained his pace in the first couple of laps, while Anderson, Billeau, Rix and Dzalaj slowed and others moved into position. Reichel kept White within reach, and Johnsen moved into third place, approximately 90 seconds behind White’s lead. Further back in the field, Ironman veteran Shortis was displaying his animal marathon as he moved through the field, making others look like they were standing still. Borg was also laying down some impressive running, trying to maintain the same pace as Shortis.
“This worked till about halfway through the marathon, until I started to suffer a bit and Shorto got away from me,” Borg explained.
Heading into the back half of the marathon, Johnsen worked his magic. Stepping on the gas the ‘Great Dane’ launched ahead, reeling in Reichel first before focussing his sights on the leader, White. White started to fade while Johnsen looked like he was just cranking it up. He made the pass on White with approximately 10km to go.
“He went past me a little too hard. He made me look bad, it was ridiculous. He just sprinted past me. But the way I was feeling, you could have walked past me at that point. Mentally it hurt,” White said.
Soon after Reichel rallied as well and moved in on White.
“I got a second air in the last lap and I could force my speed a little bit. I saw Matty and I pushed hard and I was catching him in the last eight kilometres… I thought maybe I could catch him (Jimmy) but he was so strong on the run. I was cramping, so I was very happy just to finish,” Reichel explained post race.
Johnsen held onto the gap he created, nailing the fastest marathon split of the day in 2:54:42, and enjoying the finish line festivities in his greatest career win to date. He comfortably crossed the line in 8:29:06, over five and a half minutes ahead of Reichel, with White holding down third place just 25 seconds ahead of the storming Shortis who clocked up the second fastest marathon. Vabrousek ran into fifth, adding another impressive Ironman finish to his long list of races, with Borg finishing in sixth to be congratulated by Shortis.
“Shorto came up to me and congratulated me on my ride and run, which meant a lot coming from such an icon of the sport,” Borg gushed.
Johnsen’s finish was an emotional one, but he was confident pre-race despite others’ uncertainty as to whether he could back up after Ironman Conzumel just weeks before.
“I know my second half of my marathon is always good. So I just knew I had to get to 21km and then I could put on the pressure,” Johnsen said. “It’s about having the confidence that you can win. A win at the end of the season is really good, because we can maybe close of so me good sponsorship as well now,” Johnsen said.
THE WOMEN’S RACE:
It was 2004 winner Bek Keat who exited the water first in 53:38, just a snick ahead of Mirjam Weerd, Nicole Ward and Bree Wee. New Zealander Belinda Harper was only a further seven seconds behind, so the top five out of the water were extremely tight. The chase pack of Renee Lane and Megumi Shigaki were over four minutes behind, with race favourites Britta Martin and Bec Hoschke over eight minutes behind.
Weerd broke away early from Keat, Ward and Wee, with Keat having difficulties with her helmet. The three-lap bike course with several turning points on each lap allowed athletes to keep tabs on their competitors. At the halfway mark, Weerd was continuing to inch away from Wee, and Keat, after dropping off the pace slightly, remained over one minute behind the leaders. Back in the field, ex-pro cyclist Britta Martin was motoring. The German born athlete who now calls New Zealand home wasn’t making huge in roads on her eight minute gap from the swim, but riding solo, she was decreased the gap marginally. Bec Hoschke also put on a good performance on the bike. While she wasn’t gaining on the leaders, she certainly wasn’t letting them get away in a hurry. Harper and Lane were the casualties on the bike and had to pull out.
Towards the end of the second lap, Wee had made a move and bridged the small gap on Weerd, edging ahead, where she remained for the rest of the bike leg. Keat had dropped back to 2:30 behind, but in theory could outrun both of these women. Kona resident Wee had a slightly injured foot after her son jumped on it prior to her coming out to Australia, but she pushed ahead to increase her gap for the run leg. Scans after the race revealed she was actually racing with a broken foot. Snatching a time of 4:58:59 on the bike, Wee flew into transition over three minutes ahead of Weerd, with Keat 4:39 behind. Martin had made some progress over the three-lap course and while she was now nine minutes behind Wee, her closest rival for running prowess was Keat, and she was only 4:42 behind her, with Hoschke nearly four minutes behind Martin.
Early in the run, Wee looked surprisingly strong for someone with a broken foot. Keat caught Wee in the early stages of the second lap, and Wee was starting to struggle. Further back, the German born “flying Kiwi” Martin was gaining. With many age groupers on course now, athletes had to weave their way through some narrow sections. Martin had passed Weerd and Wee was hobbling, so it wasn’t long until Martin flew past her and was hunting down Keat. Hoschke was having the run of her life and was holding a pace slightly faster than Keat.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Bek Keat rode hard to stay in touch with the leaders and set herself up for the run; Bec Hoschke had the run of her life.
The pocket rocket, Martin, was just about to win her first Ironman branded race. She was overjoyed down the chute, skipping and high fiving fans to the finish line. She had just won her biggest race in a time of 9:13 and an impressive 3:06:10 marathon – tears were flowing. “I can’t describe right now how I feel. It was just awesome. It was great,” Martin gushed. “I had a horrible swim… But I just tried to stay patient and give everything on the run. I have to thank my coach. We prepared perfectly.” In other races, Martin has been injured going into races, but this time the body was ready to go. “My training was going really well before this race, and I finally sorted my head as well. I was feeling confident, but I just had no idea out there. I’ve never felt good at the end of the run, but this time I just felt like I could keep pushing,” she explained.
Keat was still running strong, and giving everything she had, practically collapsed across the finish line second in 9:14:39 and was taken straight to the medical tent.
Hoschke was still flying on course, and while she looked like she was hurting, she wasn’t letting up. She had stormed ahead of both Weerd and then Wee, and only had the finish line to go. She entered the finish chute, and the emotion on her face was on par with Martin’s. She ended up with the second fastest run split (3:09:26) and definitely wins the flying under the radar award. Smashing out another PB for her season, Hoschke was elated with her third place on the podium.
“I hit the run and I just went for it. I thought, ‘Well you feel good, just keep going, keep pushing and give it everything you’ve got.’ I just loved it out there.” Hoschke cooed.
Wee finished a strong fourth, with Weerd in fifth.