A proven pair withstood the heat to claim the inaugural honours on the stunning Bintan Island in Indonesia.
by Ian Hepenstall
Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt and New Zealand’s Gina Crawford were crowned as the champions of the inaugural Swiss-Belhotel IRONMAN 70.3 Bintan, beating strong fields and a blistering hot morning in Indonesia.
Two-time Olympian ITU star Kahlefeldt used his short-course swimming prowess to benefit as he exited the 1.9km swim with New Zealander Mike Phillips some 45 seconds ahead of the closest followers, Australians Lachlan Kerin and Fraser Cartmell.
Big names Timo Bracht (GER) and Fredrik Croneborg (SWE) found themselves 80 seconds behind going out onto the bike course.
The 90km course featured no big hills but the island of Bintan is known for its leg-sapping rolling roads and with the temperatures already above 30 degrees (Celsius) at 7am, the tour of the northwestern portion of the island was a tough battleground. Phuket-based Croneborg enjoyed the conditions most, flying through the field with a bike split of 2:08:30 that moved him from eighth after the swim to first going into T2. A group of Kahlefeldt, Bracht, Kerin and Phillips followed some 40 seconds later.
It was all to play for as the men embarked on the 21km run leg, which featured three laps of a scenic but exposed 7km circuit around a lake.
Perhaps Croneborg paid for his big effort on the bike as by the time the pros had completed the first lap both Kahlefeldt and Phillips had not only caught the bike leader but dropped him. Kahlefeldt ran strongly to open a two-minute lead over Phillips, with Croneborg a further minute back while Bracht too had fallen off the pace.
As his competitors wilted in the heat, the Kona-bound Kahlefeldt showed no signs of weakening and stormed round the lake for two more laps to take a dominating victory in 3:55:13.
Runner-up Phillips crossed almost five minutes back while Croneborg held on for the final place on the podium.
In the women’s race Crawford had a more comfortable path to the top step of the podium.
A strong swim saw her hit the beach together with Laurel Wassner (USA) with fellow American Caitlin Snow and Katey Gibb of Australia next out of the water some 90 seconds back.
Crawford, a winner in Bintan last year at the full distance MetaMan, soon dropped Wassner on the bike course and flew round the 90km with the fastest female bike split to increase her lead going into the run. Gibbs and Snow were next into T2 about three minutes behind Crawford.
While Crawford looked strong on the run, after the first lap of the lake Gibb had eaten into the Kiwi’s lead and with the sun high in the sky, anything could happen.
But it was Gibb who faded on the second lap leaving Snow to put the pressure on Crawford. The IRONMAN legend was up to the task of defending her lead, digging deep to take a popular win in 4:25:02.
Runner-up Snow’s fastest female run saw her break the tape 1:47 behind Crawford, with Gibbs in third a few minutes later.