Several top professionals from around the world took the chance of racing a tough field at a very early-season 70.3 Asia Championship with hopes that they would walk away with valuable KPR points. The points and a prize purse of NZ$90,000 (about $75,000 U.S.) are among the highest offered at this distance. In the end it was Australians Christian Kemp and Annabel Luxford who walked away with the victories.
American Cameron Dye led the efforts out of the 1.2-mile harbor swim. He was followed closely by a group of nine that included pre-race favorites Bevan Docherty (NZL) and Fraser Cartmell (SCO).
It was James Hodge (AUS) who pushed the pace early on in the bike. He worked to build a lead with a chase group that included Docherty, Dye and Joe Gambles (AUS) pursuing him. Hodge entered T2 with the lead, but lost the top spot to Great Britain’s Paul Ambrose before the pair started the run. Kemp posted solid swim (24:20) and bike (2:10:46) splits to put himself among the top men at the beginning of the half marathon.
Kemp took the top spot early in the run, but was overtaken by a fighting Hodge. The effort proved to be too much for Hodge and he once again lost his lead. This time it was to the trio of Kemp, Clark Ellice (NZL) and Docherty. Ellice was eventually dropped from the group, leaving Docherty and Kemp to battle it out. Kemp took a chance and broke away from Docherty, and it paid off. He held the lead to the finish line, earning the victory in 3:56:03. Docherty cruised in for second position just 34 seconds back. Ellice rounded out the podium in third.
Luxford found the top spot early on, exiting the swim first with the United States’ Meredith Kessler and Liz Blatchford (GBR) not far behind. Two pre-race favorites, Caroline Steffen (SUI) and Melissa Hauschildt (AUS), came out of the water with their work cut out for them.
Misty conditions plagued the race throughout the day and Hauschildt crashed while taking a turn on the bike. Although she lost some time to the leaders, she was able to continue her race. Luxford quickly took advantage of her fast swim and worked to drop the others. Her 2:22:14 bike split was the fastest of the women, giving her the top spot to start the run. Would the ITU veteran be able to hold strong on the run after such strong efforts on the swim and bike? Luxford followed up her field-best swim and bike splits with the best half-marathon time of the pro women. Her 1:29:47 run split was more than enough to give her the 4:19:19 victory. Steffen matched her 2012 Kona performance, finishing in the runner-up spot. Kessler ran her way up to third.
Ironman 70.3 Auckland/70.3 Asia Pacific Championship
Auckland, New Zealand – Jan. 20, 2013
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Christian Kemp (AUS) 3:56:03
2. Bevan Docherty (NZL) 3:56:37
3. Clark Ellice (NZL) 3:58:24
4. Paul Ambrose (GBR) 3:59:27
5. James Hodges (AUS) 3:59:58
1. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:19:19
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:25:16
3. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:29:25
4. Sarah Crowley (AUS) 4:32:05
5. Anna Ross (NZL) 4:34:26